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AmyElliesMom's picture

I'm just tossing this around in my head right now, but I'm trying to think of a way to have my own business so I can make some money and not have to pay daycare.

Near where I live, there is an area called New Tampa. It's a classic suburb, but most of the families are two-parent, two-income families. Very middle-class to upper-middle class and above. But, I know that there are alot of families in that area with a shortage of time.

So, I was thinking of offering a grocery shopping service, possibly with some meal planning and pre-prep work available.

This is an area of at least 30,000, and yet there are only three grocery stores and nearly 60 restaurants on the main drag alone.

I think it might have a market there. The personal chef business in the area seem to be doing well.

And that brings me to the second part. I'm thinking I could also offer some limited prep work for the clients. Cut up the meat and veggies, peel the potatoes, get it all in the fridge/freezer with appropriate spices in a baggie for a few meals a week.

So, do you guys think this is viable at all (I have the time)? If so, what would you think would be a fair price? I'm thinking $25 for the shopping and I've no clue on the prep work.

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #43726, reply #1 of 43)

It's definitely not a bad idea. Have you checked to see what other similar services are being offered? I don't know quite how you could find out, except by scouring the classified ads and Yellow Pages. There are fresh produce delivery services all over the place - perhaps you could hook up with one of them. I sounds feasible - good luck!





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #3 of 43)

The only thing I've seen around here are personal chef's. I envision this as something halfway between doing it yourself and having a personal chef come in (these are the chefs that cook a week's worth of meals in your kitchen, once a week and then freeze them).

I've not seen a fresh produce delivery in our area at all. Mom works in advertising sales, so one of the things we do when we're out an about is read the sides of trucks, lol! We have ONE community farm, but it's strictly pick up your own produce.

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

dlish's picture

(post #43726, reply #29 of 43)

This may be hijacking, and I apologize. (Should I make a new post?)

A local wine pub does movie night on Mondays. My friend, who works there, is coordinating a "Big Night" night and has asked me to come make risotto for the evening. I have no idea what to charge. Suggestions are very welcome.

Background: I am not a trained professional, just a dedicated amateur. I have done a few catering jobs and hope to one day soon open a small retail bakery.

soccermom's picture

(post #43726, reply #2 of 43)

Hi Amy,


This could be a viable business because I know many people hate shopping. In that spirit, these are the questions I thought of:


Will you restrict which grocery store you'll go to? You don't want to travel to all three for a single client. If this takes off you should approach the store manager and see if you can get some sort of deal if you're purchasing a lot from the store each week. I'd try and price it by the month so you have the money upfront. Otherwise you may get clients popping in and out, which will be irritating and will make planning difficult. Will you shop only on one day for everyone? Or does it make more sense for your schedule to do one shop each morning, for example, at 10 am? Will you be able to cluster shoppers (our local grocery delivery service gives a small discount if I commit to a certain time period on a specific day so several customers in my area will receive groceries off the same truck. Their biggest obstacle was the perception that the service wouldn't pick fruit as carefully as the average picky person.)


I assume you'll be doubling/tripling up on orders so you go once and purchase all the items. If you have to drop off the food and put it away, will you need to be bonded or insured?


Do you have a big enough vehicle? Will you need a cooler if you need to go to more than one store? Do you have a pet you'll be bringing along? Customers may be concerned about that. Will Amy accompany you? If so, will she learn to dread the boring grocery store, or will she expect that free cookie five times a week? :)


How are you calculating your costs ($25 may be good for an hour's work, if that's what it will take, but you have to include your gas, maybe increased insurance costs because you're using it for business, breakage /bruising, which you'd have to cover.)


If people do take you up on the prep work will it be at their house or yours? If the former, do they have pets and will the pets concern you? What is your liability in their home? How long will it take? But if you prepare in your own home you'll have liability and probably licensing issues. I'd look into the latter before diving in. They're pretty strict around here.


You'll have to pay tax on the income. Does that mean you'll need to register a business name? Check insurance issues for your type of business.


I know you'll get lots of other suggestions. As a self-employed person, I'm rooting for you.


 


 

 

 

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #4 of 43)

Well, in the area I'm thinking of doing this, there are literally 3 grocery stores within 5 miles of each other, and I'd restrict myself to shopping at those stores.

And those are the ONLY 3 grocery stores that serve the area, so that shouldn't be a problem.

What I envision doing is doing shopping for one client at a time, going back to their house, putting the food away, dropping off the menu ideas and doing whatever very basic, simple prep might be involved. I could see freezing/wrapping meat and then stacking the meal components together in a freezer. I DO NOT envision doing any cooking at all. I will charge more for the prepping service.

The $25.00 is a straight fee for picking up groceries and putting them right into the fridge - no meat wrapping, no prep. I'll probably be making more like $10-$15 an hour, which is fine with me.

There should be no bonding issues at all, as this type of business is, as far as I've been able to gather, unregulated in the state of Florida. No licsensing needed at all. It would count as a home-based business, and they have pretty lax rules for them here. As long as I have no employees, and I won't, I can pretty much do what I need to. Same with insurance. No insurance required on home businesses that provide services beyond those which are regulated (handymen, construction, that sort of thing).

I'm thinking this falls into the "household services" category, which says that as long as you have no employees, you don't have to do anything - as far as I could tell.

And one of the reasons I've thought of this is that Ellie absolutely loves shopping. When we're home, she says "out out out", which means "let's go to the store". We'll go up to Publix and just walk around, b/c she likes it. And I think we may only get the cookie at our home Publix, lol! 5 cookies a week is too many!

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

MadMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #5 of 43)

Some things you do have to do.  The business may be unregulated in the state of Florida, but Uncle Sam will want his cut.  As a self-employed person, you will be responsible for both the employer and employee shares of social security and medicare taxes, plus you may have to pay unemployment taxes to either the state and/or the federal government.  Of course, you will have to report your income and pay taxes on any profit, computed on a Schedule C. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

TracyK's picture

(post #43726, reply #6 of 43)

I'd add liability insurance to the mix, too... I'm envisioning people blaming the grocery delivery lady for every tummy ache, claiming the milk must not have been put away quickly enough, etc.

Squirrels are just rats in cuter outfits.
       -- Carrie Bradshaw

MadMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #7 of 43)

I know the delivery idea was big around here for a while...the grocery stores were competing with TV ads, nice vans, supposedly access to the best and freshest stuff, and they all went belly-up, so there must be more to it than just grabbing the kid and heading for Publix. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

soccermom's picture

(post #43726, reply #9 of 43)

<there must be more to it than just grabbing the kid and heading for Publix. >


Actually I think Amy's may be a better idea. In Toronto we had a grocery service that struggled for several years and has now regrouped to try again. The problem was the huge amount of food--especially fresh produce, bread and dairy--that had to be kept on hand. The labour costs were high too, with a shopper, packer, cashier, and delivery person. And some people wouldn't be home at delivery time, especially if the driver encountered heavy traffic.


Since none of these issues affect Amy, and she has low startup costs, as long as she knows the regulation issues she may be able to start the business soon.


 


 


 

 

 

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #11 of 43)

That's what I was thinking - I will act as a stand in for the person, instead of trying to provide a service to as many people as possible. I don't see myself doing this for more than 2 people/families per day, and if I can do two weeks worth of shopping per client, I could have 20 clients (10 clients one week, 10 the next).

I'd have no loans or investors to pay back, and I'm not interested in making tons of money at this. It's just something to help pay the bills.

And once Ellie starts school, I don't even have to worry about taking her with me.

My mom cleaned houses when I was little, and since I hate cleaning, but love grocery shopping, this should work for me, if I can find people willing to pay for it.

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

soccermom's picture

(post #43726, reply #12 of 43)

But, and this is just me thinking as an entrepreneur, if you had 4 people per day, you could slightly extend those days as a shopper and then have one day off (or ideally another 4 customers on the following day). Your time is not hugely increased by having more people in a single trip; you really want to avoid having 4 separate trips spread out; you won't make money that way. It's not a matter of making tons of money; it's making the most money possible in the most efficient way. Surely that's the American way :)


And I think most people would want weekly shopping; fruit and veg and milk and bread are the things most people need to stop for most frequently. Maybe you could provide a "minishop" for regulars, say on Fridays or before holidays, to stock them up with weekend essentials. This would work particularly well if you were already going to the store.


Will you have a standard sheet for them, or can you have a Word form that they can complete and email you at least a day ahead? I'm unskilled at Excel, but you'd need something that will total everything (including preferred brand and size) and spit out a report.


Have to go pick up DD.


 


 


 

 

 

debe5t's picture

(post #43726, reply #18 of 43)

You may still have to deal with the housecleaning mentality,by that I mean no matter how careful and good you are with shopping etc.there will always be the few who can never be satisfied.I used to clean houses for mid to upper mid class families when I first moved to USA,many years ago,cash under the table.I always said to my customers"please,if you have any complaints tell me, not your friends first.Without a doubt I will not clean the way you would but please tell me how you want it done and I can do it" I also went on to tell them I had grown up with a housekeeper coming a couple of times a week and my Mum and friends were always complaining.Just a few words of warning to keep in mind that your or anyones best may not be good enough for some people and I would hate to see you get hurt.


You have been given some good advice in this thread and I applaud your resourcefulness. Good luck and I think we all have your well being at heart with the comments and advice.Deb


edited to add:I wish I had been as grounded as you are at your age.LOL


Edited 6/24/2005 12:04 am ET by debe5t

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #8 of 43)

Oh, that's easy enough. I've had to do that before as an "independent contractor" for a few jobs. You just estimate how much in taxes come out each week, put aside, and pay quarterly.

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

Marcia's picture

(post #43726, reply #37 of 43)

Amy, if things don't work out because of too many rules and regulations, would you consider advertising, maybe on a supermarket bulletin board at first, to answer people's cooking questions?, I have several friends who consult me frequently and there are a world of people out there who can't cook at all and could use some help, even with simple things.


Don't even know if it's feasible - just a thought.

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #39 of 43)

Hmmm...now THAT'S an idea. I live right near a college, and I bet I could give "home cooking" classes to some of the students. And "Impress Your Date" classes. I could do it cheap, as I'm not a fully trained professional, but I am knowledgeable about home cooking, at least.

That might even be a better idea. Hmmm...now I have two ideas to flesh out and see what works better, lol!

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

CHandGreeson's picture

(post #43726, reply #40 of 43)

I like your idea, Amy. Stop & Shop offers an online delivery service here in New England, you might try ghost shopping their site www.stopandshop.com to see if there are other ideas.
I also like Marcia's idea, re: cooking questions and your spin on classes. You might also try senior centers, adult ed., etc. The county park system in Monmouth County, NJ has awesome coooking classes, I think they are on the web, too.
I like "impress your date"!

jrobin's picture

(post #43726, reply #42 of 43)

Don't forget cooking demonstrations attract customers for vendors too, like at a farmers market, cooking something that people might not be so sure of cooking like eggplant or whatever, I've had people ask me questions as I am shopping, on things they've never used before. Having a demonstration makes a product like eggplant sell for vendors, if they are having trouble selling.


I noticed last week when we were at a tiny market there was a lot of kale in one vendors stand, if he had someone to demonstrate how to cook it, I think he would have sold more. Or even if several vendors came together and paid to have you do several items..... 


I like the idea of giving cooking classes at a college for non-cooks. There was a thread recently about whether people should know how to cook and someone said they made a killing at college because no one knew how make anything. 


Jennifer


 

SondraG's picture

(post #43726, reply #43 of 43)

In your business analysis, don't forget that you have expertise in nutritional issues with not only diabetes, but also renal problems (your Mom, right?).  You may be able to parlay that into some prep cooking for folks who need help with that.


 

 

ICDOCEAN1's picture

(post #43726, reply #10 of 43)

I am not at all familiar with your area, but many years ago hubby and I thought that it would be a great idea to provide the grocery shopping for beach goers...that being said, it was a good idea and I still might tackle that alone, but not any sort of prep work, as the stores provide quite an assortment of prepared foods.


I can see the potential for a great business, but "a sudden illness" caught me by surprise.  I still might pitch it to several sources and keep it small.  I have neighbors that want me to do their shopping.  I could still do that and keep things small.


Good idea, but be careful...


 


 

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #13 of 43)

That's my general idea - keep it very small, just a few families. At no point could I possibly handle more than two families per day. If I can just get one or two people interested, word of mouth should get me enough of a start.

I dunno - I'm going to double check the bonding/insurance issue. If that's not an issue, I might just start asking around to see if anyone I know knows someone that might like to skip one chore a week for the low, low price of $19.95.

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #43726, reply #14 of 43)

Amy, don't underprice yourself! I thinnk that's one of the most common mistakes beginning entrepreneurs make. I worked for myself for about 20 years, and I figure it took me about three hours of marketing myself for every paid hour of work. I also had to figure in paying myself in lieu of benefits/vacation/sick time Bear in mind that it's going to cost you to do this - gas, telephone bills, any selling you have to do, your own overhead (spillage, spoilage, squished bananas, etc.).  You have every right to make a reasonable wage for yourself. $20. is too little! I'd go for about $45/hour (which could include any pre-prep your customers want) and aim at a minimum of about ten hours a week. Alternatively, you could go on a cost + basis - that is, the amount the groceries actually cost, plus your commission - maybe 20% with a $25 minimum. Then if they want pre-prep, sell them your time @ $45/hr. You'd still be a bargain for the cash-rich/time-poor!  





"All of life's big problems include the words "indictment" or "inoperable." Everything else is small stuff." Alton Brown


http://costofwar.com/

jrobin's picture

(post #43726, reply #15 of 43)

Amy,  have you looked at this business?


www.dreamdinners.com


My husband and I did it because we were checking it out for ourselves to start a business. I think it is an interesting concept.


Jennifer

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #17 of 43)

I've seen similar stuff in my area - there are some "cook your own" places, and several personal chef companies. I'd have to cost less than those to make it marketable, I think.

Not everyone that has two incomes has the extra income to afford $200 a week for "homecooked meals". But they might be able to afford $50 a week and 20 minutes to cook it themselves, since all the prep work is done, and they wouldn't have to think about what to cook.

I think that's what I'd really be selling - menu planning and someone to think for you, lol!

I'm going to have to take some time to really think this through. Ellie starts school in August, and I'm planning on going back in January, so I've got that time to get something started and in place, so I can work around a school schedule.

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

dlish's picture

(post #43726, reply #28 of 43)

If you're looking into the Dream Dinners franchise, another one to consider is Super Suppers.

They are direct competitors, but I just thought you might want to explore another option. www.supersuppers.com

My good friend is opening a Super Suppers franchise in Scottsdale, AZ at the end of the summer.

Good luck!! 8^)

Gretchen's picture

(post #43726, reply #31 of 43)

My good friend is opening a Super Suppers franchise in Scottsdale, AZ at the end of the summer.


In NC this might require a separate kitchen and inspection thereof.


Gretchen
Gretchen
jrobin's picture

(post #43726, reply #36 of 43)

I looked at many 'foodie' type businesses, like Amy, I was looking for something with little start up costs, and the dream dinners was definately really costly, but I liked the concept. I had a real problem with the dinners being put together with canned soups, lots of ingredients that I never use anymore.  I also had a problem with the layout of the floor plan, being in kitchen design for so long I just hated the idea of being locked into other peoples idea for everything.


The girl who had the one we looked at loved the idea of not having to make any decisions, it wasn't for me.


I also looked at doing our local farmers market, selling 'gourmet' foods, which would have been the cheapest business to start up.


We tossed around lots of ideas. But it always seemed like foods are more work for the money.


I wonder how much different the supper suppers is from dream dinners? I hope they use other better ingredients!


Jennifer

dlish's picture

(post #43726, reply #38 of 43)

Super Suppers is probably about the same to start up as DD. The line I get from my friend is that Super Suppers has more of a "home kitchen" feel than DD. I do think the meals are very similar in style/preparation as well. The woman who founded SS is named Judy Byrd and she has several cookbooks. She's a nice lady, but I'm not a fan. They had a write up in people magazine recently too.

My friend tried to get me to go into SS with her. I had to decline. Besides not having the ready capital, the whole concept was not for me. Like you, I don't like being locked into someone else's idea. I really feel the SS/DD concept is here for a "season." The whole "fresh prepared" meals that you take home and heat up concept has been around for a while now. I've not seen one of these businesses succeed. Maybe it's just the Phoenix market? I think the supermarkets are doing the concept better. I know I probably wouldn't go to a separate store to get prepared meals -- unless they were going to heat it up and serve it to me. I guess then it would be a restaurant.

I'm not sure what convenience I'm paying for with DD/SS. I still have to go there and put it together. They are just doing the mies en place, which, I guess, is the time-consuing part.

I think it is just that I enjoy cooking too much. I am also single with no kids, so I don't have to deal with too many time demands.

I am positive that my friend's SS franchise will be successful.

I agree, doing food is a lot more work for the money! My dream is to open a small bakery. I always describe it as "if Martha Stewart opened a bakery." Food would be paramount, but good branding and PR buzz is the key. I figure if the teeny-tiny Magnolia Bakery in NYC can be successful, so can I. Besides, their cupcakes aren't any better than mine. ;^)

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #43726, reply #16 of 43)

Yeah, the people I was talking to today that got this idea in my head said like 10% or 15% of the bill. But, for smaller runs, that wouldn't make it worth my time.

I could probably do a combo - $10 fee (that would cover gas at the very least) and then 10% of the bill for a certain price range, 15% for more shopping and so forth.

I don't want to get too complicated though - I am just going to go to the store for people, after all. I won't have ANY overhead, other than gas costs, which - since the area I plan to do this in is quite close to where I live - shouldn't be outrageous and should be covered by what I make.

And honestly, I would never charge $45 an hour for cutting up veggies. It's scut work, and I'd charge an honest price for it. $10 an hour for cutting up veggies is fair. I'd make less than that if I was prepping at a restaurant. It's not like I'm a cooking goddess taking over their kitchen and leaving exquisite food behind. I'd be leaving behind homemade hamburger helper seasoning and some diced potatoes, lol!

Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. ~ George Burns

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

soccermom's picture

(post #43726, reply #19 of 43)

Amy, I agree with the poster who warned to not underprice yourself. Many of us start out that way then realize that it's very difficult to increase prices once we get going. The clients getting the lowest price are often the most demanding because you're making "so much money" from them--but they never leave LOL. Price a little higher and then give discounts as you see fit. Maybe even a tiny bunch of flowers or 4 homebaked cookies or whatever.


Don't sell yourself short or others won't see your value. My overhead as an editor is Post-It notes and my computer. However, my services are worth much more. House cleaners use the client's supplies and in Toronto they make approx $100 for 4 hours. Don't underestimate your costs or you'll have a thriving business and kick yourself that you could be making a fair bit more at it.


I think a percentage may be a mistake; if I ask you to shop for meat you'll charge me more than if I ask you to pick up 7 peaches, 4 tomatoes, 3 lettuce etc., which would take a lot more time and hassle. I think a flat rate is the way to go. However, you may want to consider heavy groceries. Most of the people I knew who used Grocery Gateway in Toronto used them for mostly heavy things: pet food, cases of pop and water, etc. Are you up for that, and do you have a dolly etc? If you do, some offices may be interested. Also, you could market the pet food pickup as an awful chore you'll be happy to do. Your entire service could also be good for seniors/housebound people (you could place flyers in seniors' buildings).


I knew someone who had a business simply delivering liquor for catering businesses. Could you deliver liquor/beer too?


How will you be paid? I would NEVER put out my own money because some clients are bound to delay payment or never pay.


Although you may consider $10/hour fair, other people will have a different view. You should charge what the market will bear and remember that you won't be taking home $10/hour after tax and overhead etc. Don't worry about what you think your clients can afford; we all make choices about the services for which we'll pay. You'd make less at a restaurant because you'd have other benefits and rights. When you're self-employed you have to watch out for yourself--then when you have an empire you can treat the little people nicely :)


Keep all your receipts and notations of your mileage. Our tax department is particularly picky about auto expenses and yours may be too.



 


 


Edited 6/24/2005 9:13 am ET by Canuck

 

 

Gretchen's picture

(post #43726, reply #20 of 43)

The auto thing may be one place the insurance company will want to know--you are using it for a business, not just personal use.


$10/hour would not "cut" it for me. I can shop for all my groceries in an hour--you wouldn't make anything.  Maybe I didn't read this closely enough to understand however.


Can you estimate how long a grocery run would take you to do it?  That may make plainer how much you should charge--and if you will have a viable income from this.
 Perhaps after the initial contact is made and you have your agreement, the list can be e-mailed.  I think you said in one post you would have a pre-made list for them to check off.
And the payment "problem"--how will you be paid for the groceries and your fee?


I am no accountant but when my husband set up a "business" it was a type S corporation, I think (or some "letter"--as I said, I'm not a CPA).  Required no incorporation or such, just a separate income tax listing form for the income.


Gretchen
Gretchen