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How to Start a Food Business

Before you get cooking, here are some tips from folks who built their business from scratch

JL: 1. You must have a solid business plan. If the business side of the food industry isn't your strong point, hire a pro.

2. The start-up costs will always be more than you think. Add 10 percent.

3. The entire process will be much more successful if you have a real passion and desire to make it work. Really think about this question: "Is this what I want to do?"

AARP: What's the best piece of advice you ever received?

JL: "Always pay yourself first." You can't go without a salary while you're working these kinds of hours. This advice I took to heart, and it's one rule I've always followed.

AARP: What's one thing you know today that you wish you knew when you started out?

JL: I was shocked by how physically demanding a food truck is. When we finish a session on the street, the truck has to be cleaned, and we have to purchase and prep the food for the next day. There are also daily finances, bookkeeping, scheduling and catering jobs to be booked. Honestly evaluate your energy and the time you are willing to commit to make your business a success.

AARP: What was your best day at work?

JL: My very best day was when a woman wrote us a very heartfelt letter saying how much she loved our food, the fact it was healthy and delicious, and how happy it made her to see two women succeed. She will never know how much that meant to me that she took the time to tell us that.

AARP: The worst?

JL: It was 102 degrees outside. Inside our tin box, as we like to call it, our instant thermometer read 120. We looked out on the deserted streets and said, "What the heck are we doing?"

AARP: What's a pay range someone starting a food truck might expect?

JL: Depending on your loan repayment plan, the salary range for the first few years is $45,000 to $80,000.

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Meet Carla Hall and find out about her philosophy of food and cooking.

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