Week 3: Building Social and Financial Capital

One of the great benefits of living and working in one town for most of your adult life is that you have the opportunity to develop a strong social network. I do feel confident in this area, as I have worked hard to develop a reputation where people trust me and my work. I have had the opportunity through several volunteer experiences to make connections with people with significant fundraising and nonprofit experience, so I feel like I have a deep well of expertise that I can call upon. I’ve also worked closely with many business leaders in my roles with local universities, so the range of consultants (and potential volunteers) I can call upon is pretty wide.

One area I have not spent a lot of time yet is developing my network in the human services community currently working on the hunger needs of my city. I’ll definitely need their support and guidance, both to minimize the duplication of efforts and to maximize the impact of the work. It would also be important to ensure that those doing the work now don’t have any impression that I’m looking to compete or “steal business” from them. There is plenty of unmet need and never enough resources. My hope is that the food truck will be seen as additive and a partner in this work.

In terms of financial capital, I’m fortunate that I have a runway before this business can launch since I’m waiting for my father to retire. This time represents my window to get organized and save/raise the necessary funds to start operations. Initial startup expenses are mostly centralized in the truck itself. The goal is to purchase it with cash, to ensure expenses are very low. Since dad will be retired, labor costs are flexible. I do want him to be paid, but he insists that while things get going this is not important. Eventually, he’ll also need the help of a sous chef to minimize the burden of preparation. This will be a great learning opportunity for a culinary student completing a required internship for their degree program. Volunteers can also be helpful with this kind of work.

My intent is not for this to be a full-time endeavor for me or my dad, so the decision whether to leave full-time employment is not the same as it is for many new entrepreneurs. If the response to the food truck is good, it would be more likely that we’d have to hire a second chef before we’d need a large, full-time administrative team. If the idea took off, and we were able to launch in multiple cities that would be a very different kind of organization that would require a lot more attention. This is probably the scale that would be required for me to leave my full-time job to focus on the organization as my primary work.

6 thoughts on “Week 3: Building Social and Financial Capital

  1. That’s great that you already have significant time in the same area you plan to launch your entrepreneurial efforts. I’m sure that familiarity will help sharpen in your mind the vision of the product/service that potential customers are looking for.

    I’m not sure how relevant it is, but I’m reminded of a Domino’s pizza that opened up in my hometown a couple years back. It actually didn’t make it, but in hindsight there were some potential indications as to why it might not succeed. Since my hometown is so small, when people don’t want to cook, they typically go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant. There is also a relatively low internet-usage per capita as well in the area, so that “killer app” on the Domino’s website to order pizza isn’t the convenient novelty it might be somewhere more urban. Maybe that is all coincidence but perhaps it made the difference along the margins. From what I remember, the guy who set up that franchise was not from the area, so perhaps there was some detachment there from the customer base.

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  2. Jeremiah – this is great! Right out of the gates you got me thinking about the idea that volunteerism at its core can truly, intentionally, and invaluably promote social capital: “I do feel confident in this area, as I have worked hard to develop a reputation where people trust me and my work. I have had the opportunity through several volunteer experiences to make connections with people with significant fundraising and nonprofit experience, so I feel like I have a deep well of expertise that I can call upon. ”

    I am also struck that many of us in the program (as I have read numerous blogs on this topic of social vs financial capital) and all of us seem to be in a general consensus that we have access to a healthy level of social capital. While I do believe that we each have a variation in what constitutes “high social capital,” it is interesting that each of us feel relatively comfortable in the social capital space.

    Additionally – identifying the “gaps in your social capital” (e.g., the folks in Asheville focused on food insecurity etc.) is an important gap to start to bridge. I am really interested in how Manna Food Bank might be able to engage with you on this. Imagine getting some of the food they distribute, adding value to it (and flavor), and then using that through your food truck to help raise money and awareness about the food insecurity crisis that is rife across our region! Very cool idea!

    Thank you for your thoughtfulness and insight!

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  3. Jeremiah,
    I love the idea of the non-profit food truck. The explosion in the food truck business has allowed people to start a smaller operation without all the brick and mortar of a regular food service operation. It sounds like the social capital that you have will not only support the product, but may in turn be able to help with raising financial capital as well. I teach at a culinary college and students are always looking for internship opportunities. Your idea to use culinary schools will definitely help with that as well as long term employment once business requires additional staff. You mentioned “stealing business”, perhaps as you work on your plan you make time to sit down with current food truck owners and share the non-profit idea and see if they can give you some pointers in helping you to avoid any mistakes.
    Cece

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  4. Hi Jeremiah,

    It was really interesting reading about your business plans and the timing and strategies involved in them. I’ve thought about operating a food truck, myself, so learning what you have to say about this is even more interesting to me!

    One word about the assignment, however. In these blog post assignments, we are instructed to use and list our textbooks and other sources in the posts we write as a way to discuss and broaden our understanding of the weekly concepts. I very much enjoyed your post, and once these additional attributes are incorporated into future posts, I think you’ll be right on the money!

    All the best,
    Austin

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  5. Jeremiah,

    It sounds like you have good social capital that can help you launch your business. If you can partner with existing organization to help you start up, it sounds like you might not need so much financial capital to get going. I love your business idea and it sounds like it would have a great impact on the community.

    -Mackensie

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  6. Jeremaih,

    It sounds like you are in a good position to launch this business! With regards to building your personal and business contacts, I have found that organizations such as Toastmasters are invaluable. In addition to meeting other leaders in your specific geographic area, you get to polish up your public speaking skills.

    Chris

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