Emma met Frankie a year ago. This summer they took the plunge, moved to Sweden and set up shop. Only a few months in and they are already taking Stockholm by storm with their unique mobile coffee shop experience. Oh yes, and Frankie is a car.
Originally from Australia, but having lived in the UK for the last 10 years, Emma Jenkins met Frankie in London, fell in love and now they sell coffee and cake at the Hornstull market every Sunday. YLC caught up with her to chat about owning Frankie, setting up a business in Stockholm – and salted caramel.
Having studied architecture and design in London, Emma always wanted to own her own company, preferably incorporating into it her design knowledge, but she felt she needed a bit of a break before going on to study toward a master’s degree. So last year, serendipity stepped in and led her to a food truck named Frankie, which was being sold by his doting and eccentric French owner. Naturally, Emma decided to do something some may think is just a little bit loopy…
“I thought, why not take a year off and just do it?, Emma told YLC.
“Summer was coming and I thought, ‘this is an opportunity to do something different.’ I had been to Stockholm to visit friends before and I knew the idea of a foodtruck isn’t very common there. So I thought: if not now, then when?”
So she bought Frankie, shipped him and herself off to Stockholm and opened up a mobile coffee shop.
“Frankie is more than just a motor vehicle; he is also a vehicle to do this unique thing”
Emma once again pointed to the fact that the food truck business is something new to Stockholmers.In fact, the concept is so new to the city that the first food truck license was only granted in the middle of this year. This means that a year ago, there were no regulations. There were also no food trucks.
“Swedes seem to like it, but I get a lot of curious looks a lot of intrigue and confusion. I often have to explain where I come from and how normal it actually is.”
“I think Fred’s Food Truck was one of the first; he actually worked with the council. He got the idea when he went travelling to the US. It’s popping up and it’s a great idea, especially in summer because everyone wants to get outside into the sunshine and walk around, have lunch, take a break. You can follow on social media where food trucks are going to be so you can make a little journey to them and experience them.”
But buying food from a truck isn’t the sum of your experience. It’s also about engaging with nature, different people, alternate cuisines and ideas; adding a whole new dimension to “dining out”. According to Emma, the part about food trucks is that you’ve got to activate spaces. And the thing about activating spaces is getting people together and exposing them to new ideas.
“That’s where Frankie comes in. He’s a great character and provides a talking point for customers. People come up to us and stand around and chat for hours. I get to meet all types of characters.”
Hornstull market is perfect for people in the summer to come down and explore the local community, engage with other people, taste different cuisines… it has a little bit of everything”
It’s a bold move, relocating to Stockholm, but Emma isn’t naive about Sweden and a few of its pitfalls. She’d travelled to Stockholm a few times to visit friends before deciding to move and has experienced it’s icy winter.
“It’s actually pretty exciting. I’m from Australia, so I’ve never had a white Christmas. I am aware it can get very cold though.”
But it’s not only the weather that can challenge an expat. We all know the Swedes are masterful at the English language, so the decision not to learn Swedish at all can be a tempting one, but Emma believes it’s important be able to communicate with locals, especially as she has a business here.
“I’m studying SFI in the evenings. It’s not so difficult; it’s actually fun. People walk past and say ‘Ah, en fin bil!’ and I’ll understand that, but then they might ask questions about the make or model of Frankie and I get a bit lost. I’m starting to understand more now though. It’s all a game of give and take; sometimes I’ll ask people a question and they’ll respond in Swedish and I learn a lot that way.”
On starting a business
Sweden has a system. For everything. You stand in a queue to claim a ticket just to stand in another queue. It all works out somehow, but the bureaucracy can boggle your brain at times.
“The biggest challenge for me has been the bureaucracy.”
“There is a lot of paperwork. It’s more difficult than I expected and it’s more difficult than the Swedish authorities say it is. It all took time, time that I didn’t really have to spend on it. But saying that, I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. The personal number was like gold for me. You really do need it before you do anything else. It was the biggest thing that took away some of the excitement and creativity away from what I was wanting to do.”
It may have been tough to sort out the legal technicalities, but finding a platform from which to launch her idea was serendipitously fluid.
“The people who run Hornstull market want it to be different and unique and colourful and vibrant. They loved the idea of Frankie and welcomed me very warmly. They also didn’t want too much competition between the vendors, so you’ll see at the market that we aren’t all selling the same thing. Each of us brings something new. This is one of the only markets of its kind in Stockholm, hopefully it will expand.”
Pragmatic advice for latent expat entrepreneurs
“Whatever your business is, it motivates you when people get excited about your ideas. So get people excited, get excited yourself and don’t give up when things get tough.”
Starting a business is tough. Starting a business in a foreign country is a whole other level of tough.
“The first and best thing to do is to go to Skatteverket, they have an evening course that they run every week or so on setting up a business in Sweden and it goes through a number of key points that you need to do to set up a business. It’s in English, it’s free, it’s frequent and it’s a good place to meet people starting up their own businesses and going through the same thing as you. Also it’s obviously easier if you’ve been here a while and have your personal number sorted.”
But once you know what’s potting, you’ll have to get yourself out there and spread the word. Stockholm is an especially tough nut to crack when it comes to networking, yet Emma thinks it’s vital to your success as an entrepreneur in Sweden.
“I think my best piece of advice would be to network.”
“Stockholm’s quite a small place, but if you know a lot of people, Swedish or otherwise, tell them what you’re doing, expose them to your ideas because that’s what has made people excited about Frankie’s coffee; it’s word of mouth via friends and friends of friends. That’s how you get ahead here.”
Useful info on Frankie’s Coffee:
- You have one month to meet Frankie and sample the food truck experience that everyone’s been buzzing about as he’ll be going into hibernation in October. He will, however, be rocking Hornstull Market next summer.
- If you want to go to heaven in just one bite, try out Emma’s homemade Salted Caramel, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Slices.
- Visit Frankie’s website for more info or follow him on Facebook, Tumblr or instagram @frankiescoffee
Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.