May 8, 2006
the freedom idea
Every time I get a train down to London I buy a cup of coffee from this guy. A nice, piping hot cup of java, right there in the train station.
Besides the coffee being good [comparable to Starbuckís, anyway], I love the guyís business model. It could not be any simpler. One of those funky, European three-wheeled microvans, an industrial espresso machine in the back, and a space for napkins and cups.
Iíve talked to the guy about his business a few times. No, heíll never be rich, but itís a good living. Beats having to work for The Man. Beats having to shell out big bucks to the landlord and the payroll, which is what heíd have to do if he opened a conventional coffee shop in the center of town.
Besides that, thereís something so utterly cheerful about the enterprise- quite a contrast to your average British drab, tepid railway coffee shop. All the guy needs is a wee microvan, a smile on his face and the capacity to work hard, and his customers are well looked after, his bills are taken care of, his house and his familyís needs are paid for. Easy.
Yes, itís interesting for us marketing geeks to read about how the founders of Microsoft or Google made their first billion while they were still in diapers. But somehow I find this story just as compelling. Because itís not a story about a rock star. Itís not a story about gods and titans. Itís a story about a regular guy who managed to find a simple, sustainable level of personal sovereignty in a small town in Northern England.
In other words, itís a story about freedom. And when itís simple to understand and relatively attainable for us mere mortals, the freedom idea hits us on a deeper level than any story about billionaires.
[LINK: Caffeine Rush]
Posted by hugh macleod at May 8, 2006 2:11 PM
I almost spit out my coffee when you say Starbucks coffee is good. But besides that, I do love the freedom idea and can totally relate since it's something I'm trying to accomplish myself
i like starbuck's, though granted, it's not NEARLY in the same league as the coffee in france or italy etc
Now this guy could paint "recommended by gapingvoid" on his microvan and boost his business :-))
"Rich" can be defined many ways, as I'm sure you know, Hugh. Maybe he will never make piles of money, but if he loves what he is doing then he is rich. I went from a six-figure salary where I was miserable, to working for myself and making just a fraction of what I was before, but I'm happy and feel richer now than before.
I'm sure I've seen that van, but I never bothered to try the coffee, so there'll be at least one extra sale from the gapingvoid effect.
Which small town in Northern England would that be, Hugh? I tried the link, but his URL seems to have been GapingVoided off the 'net...
Hugh, did you ask him if he was interested in a Global MicroVan?
A compelling story, the relation to the freedom idea is apparent. Have any of you considered how accountability of the economic supra-elite and the accesibility to this kind of personal sovereignty are related? Or what it is we as individuals can do about this rapid decline in our ability to attain true social, economic, and spiritual freedom? There is a much needed discourse and I am searching far and wide to find it. Perhaps here and I hope to hear from you.
He appears to be outdoors. What happens when it rains?
A-M-E-N! This is one of my favorites of all your posts. I could not agree more with you on this. "There are people who have money, and people who are rich." Coco Chanel
I see many such microvans (called auto-rickshaws) selling sncaks and tea and fruits at many places in Bangalore, India. There is a sense of freshness, I think, due to the just arrived, buy it direct feel. Also, the prices seem reasonable, perhaps since there are no middlemen. I will try and send you a snap from here the next time I remember to notice one of these vans.
He is rich at heart.
The opposite of the marketer with no soul, kissing the business worlds feet.
nice to see Hugh has a human side and can appreciate life!
He's not outdoors, he's in a train station... with a glass roof.
Shipwreck, "what it is we as individuals can do about this rapid decline in our ability to attain true social, economic, and spiritual freedom"?
Why, find out own "global microbrand", of course ;-)
It is a touching tale, one that does resonate, but sometimes, it seems, it isn't about sticking it to the MAN, just doing what's right?
Another question: has anyone tried offering a large chunk of change to this guy? Just to validate your conclusions, so to speak ...
When big co marketing is mainstream and all around you, a small mobile coffee shop run by a individual is 'Freedom'.
What do you do when such small time operation is the norm? And all around you.
It is like your Happyness is Kathy Sieera Naked cartoon!
Gautama Buddha after after careful contemplation said 'No freedom for me'
If I figure out why exactly he said that, I will let you know :)
Till then enjoy the mocha!
To rephrase that previous remark: "It is a touching tale, one that does resonate, but sometimes, it seems, it isn't about sticking it to the MAN, just doing what's NEEDED?"
This is a great post, and illustrates the strength of the global microbrand idea. There are only so many 'Local MicroVans' a physical space could support - and it likely wouldn't work as well if you tried to start something like a pickled herring van. However, thanks to the internet your potential market is no longer limited to your immediate surroundings and community - and somewhere, right now, somebody out there really wants pickled herring.
I just returned from last week's OnHollywood conference, an attempt to bring tech companies and entertainment companies together. The buzzwords of the week were "User generated content" and "monetize" - basically, the big entertainment companies were desperately casting about for technology which would let them capitalize on the biggest thing which is hurting their profits. Not piracy, but content made by individual producers which takes eyes and attention away from their product. Attention is shifting away from the big brands and media which dominated the second half of the 20th century, and it's being replaced by the individual microbrand - the big companies know it, and they're getting worried.
thanks for the post, really inspiring and true.
This reminds me of the crepe wagon in Hampstead that's been in place for 15 years or so, has a staff of 6 or so employees (usually 2 at a time), and has a line to the end of the block on most clear days. No overhead, no marketing, great crepes: what's not to love?
(Interestingly, the owner was interviewed recently because the city decided he owed 15,000 pounds -- sorry, no pound symbol here -- in licensing taxes, so he decided to fight the good fight and increase his public profile in the process. I'm not sure if he won, but I hope he did, since 15,000 pounds seems like a crippling amount for a lone ranger business type like that.)
Great story. Cute picture too! Keep up your great work. I just discovered your site.