In Austin, Texas, entrepreneurship appears to be alive and well. Austin is a hotbed of new tech companies and a rival for Silicon Valley. In addition, successful companies like Home Away and Whole Foods are headquartered in town. However, perhaps the most striking sign of entrepreneurial activities are the remarkably creative and numerous enterprises housed in old vehicles.
My family once vacationed across the Southern US in an Airstream trailer, hitching up at campgrounds along the way and feeding, showering and sleeping a family of five across 1,500 miles. The silver trailers look like the body of a small plane, or, according to some, a tin can. Inside, necessities of living are packed in and every inch is useful. Like automobiles, Airstreams have a life expectancy. At some point they get old, inefficient, tattered, dented, and replaceable.
In Austin, these Airstreams and other old vehicles, find a new home with entrepreneurial restaurateurs, bakers, and retailers. On Congress Avenue, there is a line of food trucks, offering Indian, Thai, BBQ, tacos and of course, dessert. Tables and benches were set out front for diners to enjoy the food and the view. Think cafes in Paris, only here the food options cover almost every continent, the restaurants are mobile, and the view includes plenty of longhorn tee shirts. Further down the street a few blocks, there were quite a few trailers selling jewelry, clothes, handbags, pets (kittens!), and, of course, sandwiches and cold drinks. Had we gone further down the street, I’m certain we would have found even more entrepreneurs making a living from old vehicles.
While the Airstreams were the most elegant establishments, some of the business owners had built customized vehicles on a trailer chassis. Still others found an old school bus and housed a great kitchen inside them. I interviewed a terrific entrepreneur last year whose entire multi-million dollar food business started by selling delicious cookies all over town from an old fashioned “wagon” on a Volkswagen chassis.
One of the tag lines for the city is “Keep Austin Weird.” However, there’s nothing weird about housing your business in a portable space you can move to wherever there is likely to be a high volume of traffic. Weekdays, food trucks do well at intersections of the business district. On weekends, they do well at tourist attractions. The rent’s low, too. Think car payment with some build out expenses associated with retrofitting the space to meet your needs. What creative space could you use to follow your market?
All the best,