3 Ways Nom Nom Truck Failed as a Business
While we were running Nom Nom Truck, it looked like we were crushing it from the outside. We found ourselves featured in Forbes Magazine, NY Times, and we even made Inc.’s 30 under 30 list in 2011. Out of all the major publications you can think of, we were featured in quite a few of them at some point in time. We were even runners-up on the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” showing the high nationwide demand for fast-casual Vietnamese food. To top it all off, our lines were sometimes even filled with 100+ people, selling out during multiple shifts in a row. Behind the press and hype, however, we had a struggling business.
Despite what people thought, we had trouble surviving on a day-to-day basis. For 3+ years, we didn’t take any weekends off. I was also struggling with imposter syndrome during this difficult period. It looked like we were doing great on the outside; but on the inside, I felt like a fraud. I didn’t think I deserved the press and media we earned, or to be on a pedestal representing the “ideal business owner.” Towards the closing days of the business, there were times when I even had trouble getting out of bed. I was in a dark hole while Nom Nom Truck was failing, and I didn’t know if I could get out of it.
It looked like we were crushing it on “The Great Food Truck Race” (right); but on the inside, I felt like an imposter who was undeserving of the spotlight.
I have come a long way since those dark times. My husband and I have since built a profitable, sustainable business that impacts the world more so than Nom Nom Truck, and I actually get weekends off! Although I rarely get press for my new business, Praiseworthy, my confidence in myself and my business skills have greatly improved. And to be quite honest, it’s also been healthier for my ego.
For those of you who are facing the same challenges I once experienced, hang in there! I know how difficult it can be to relive and discuss past failures, especially as an entrepreneur. Not only has this blog post been tough to write, but people still email me about Nom Nom Truck on a regular basis, curious about its whereabouts. Imagine how that makes me feel. I hope the lessons I learned from my own mistakes with Nom Nom Truck can help you.
3 Mistakes That Led to the Downfall of Nom Nom Truck
1. Food trucks are a low-margin business, and we didn't properly plan for the stumbling-blocks that were ahead of us. They’re even lower than restaurants, and almost every other business model out there. Catering can be highly profitable—if done correctly. We learned this later on down the road. At the same time, however, certain circumstances make earning revenue a difficult task. For instance, public lunch shifts on the street were a hard thing to do. A flat tire would put our business in the red for a long period of weeks, which is extremely difficult to recover from. On top of that, limited space hindered us from serving more than 200 customers per shift, even if the demand was high.
2. We went for “the shiny object.” Building our public vending shifts was the main focus during our first two years in business. This included finding an office parking lot to operate from, and getting the permission to tweet our location out. For us, this was our shiny object: something that appeared desirable, but didn’t actually produce reliable profits. It wasn’t until the second year that we decided to focus on the “non-shiny” object instead—catering. This new strategy helped us build a much more profitable business model. Unfortunately, we were too late.
3. We didn’t appoint anyone to call the shots. This put the final nail in the coffin and was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur. My business partner and I were very close, and we didn’t think that having a 50/50 partnership was an issue. Things were peachy when the business was thriving, but the biggest mistake that caused us to close our business took a toll on our relationship: when we couldn’t come to a mutual agreement on the selling price for Nom Nom Truck. If there’s one thing you can learn from my failures, it’s this: when running a business, you MUST ensure that you have a financial decision maker in place to call the shots.
It’s now been more than four years since Nom Nom Truck closed.
As of today, I look upon my failures as blessings. It was a great learning experience, and I am now making the most of my mistakes.
I've also really missed making people happy through food, so in 2018 I've decided to launch Nom-Worthy Food, providing asian-inspired family recipes to the masses. You can follow nom-worthy food here on Instagram.