The couple behind coffee and doughnut caravan Yolanda and Wolfe have shared six secrets for starting a successful food truck - many of which translate to any small business.

Amy and Chris Guy spent around $10,000 readying their business to open in Auckland's Northwest, near Hobsonville Point, in April last year.

Amy is a baker by trade and Chris a coffee technician and barista, and after living in Melbourne they decided to bring a taste of its food scene back home.

Their designer doughnuts span from traditional favourites like raspberry jam cream to creations featuring the likes of peanut butter, lavender, lemon curd and pavlova.


Their first year saw them feature in the Herald's Viva, get named "Auckland's coolest new coffee caravan" by Metro and, more importantly for startup, bring in a healthy $130,000 in revenue.

The couple did as much DIY work as they could on a second-hand caravan, but still needed some professional help - but with no budget for it.

"My advice is: if you can't afford to pay somebody, bake them a cake, buy them some beers, give them a massage - that might be too much - but try and see what you've got in your hands to swap, trade or manipulate or blackmail your way into getting some help when you're on a budget," Amy says, possibly not in full seriousness about those last two suggestions.

In terms of branding, she offers, "What matters is your intention. What matters is that your product is good. What matters is that you know how to be nice to people and serve them something good. The rest will come."

The couple say they make a great team and share parallels to the characters from the movie Pulp Fiction, two of whose characters inspired the name of their bright-blue caravan. "My husband is like Winston Wolfe: cool, calm and collected," says Amy. "I'm Yolanda, the crazy lady with the fringe and all the ideas!"

"The name was a reflection of our personalities, which in turn made our brand friendly and fun and relatable to people."

With no budget for traditional marketing - at least for the first six months before they hit profit - "we did a free doughnut day twice to increase the value of our brand and it really, really worked," Amy says.

"I cannot say this enough. Do not be afraid of giving away something for free."


The couple also supported sports teams and local fundraisers in the local community with free doughnuts, which gave them profile on local Facebook groups without coming over as too intense.

"Do stuff for free for people who have a little reach," Amy says.

"It sounds sleazy but it's not because you're sharing something you're passionate about - and people are happy to share things that other people are passionate about and that they like too. So I gave a lot of doughnuts away to people who were happy to share it on their social media and I did a lot of giveaways to build awareness and build followers."

She says it really paid off. "A year and a half later, we've got 3500 followers - and no paid followers. They are all pretty much customers from this local area."

On a more meat-and-potatoes level, she says know the cost of your recipes - and your profit margin on each batch of food - before you start; research the cost of gaining the relevant consents for your small business ... and don't remove shelves that turn out to have a load-bearing function in your caravan.

Amy and Chris survived the latter mistake and have recently expanded into online sales.