What happens when you combine a desire to start a mobile boutique and sell coffee? Not a question you think about every day, but Andrea Pasquan had just such an idea. She took this creative commercial venture, put it in a 1965 Airstream, and Urbean was born. Read about the fruition of dream that supports artisans through her unique collection of items that represent individuals who have overcome a myriad of challenges.
Fresh Paths: Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in the Seattle area (Puyallup to be exact). My parents divorced when I was 14, which kind of forced me to grow up and become more independent. I was raised in the Catholic church but didn't have a relationship with Jesus until I came to know Him through Young Life in high school. I went to Azusa Pacific University in California and that was huge in building my faith and taking God out of the box. I went on my first missions trip to El Salvador and that sparked a love for missions and what God's doing around the globe.
Fresh Paths: Urbean Truck is not your first adventure. You went on the World Race. Describe that experience, where you went, what you learned, how it changed you.
I went on the World Race in 2009-2010 and had a great experience. I actually miss a lot of the aspects of it now! We went to Ireland, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, Israel, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. While it's hard to sum up the whole adventure, I would say I learned and practiced walking in both the authority as well as the freedom that Christ has given us. We also had many opportunities to depend on God, and He always took care of us. Laying down all expectations and holding things with an open palm also come to mind as highlights. Six months after the World Race, I went on a Real Life trip as a leader for 5 college-aged women. We went to Thailand and Cambodia for four months working with anti-trafficking organizations. Personally, that was more challenging than the Race! Leading people who have different backgrounds and desiring them to reach the potential you see in their lives...hard stuff, but I still love those women. After that trip, I lived in Atlanta for a bit, Tennessee for a bit, and now have been in Charlotte for six years.
Fresh Paths: When did you first get the idea for Urbean Truck? Did you initially think it was a great idea, or a silly one? How long did it take you to decide to seriously pursue this?
I think at some point during my 20's I thought it'd be fun to start a coffee shop. That idea later evolved into other ideas such as a drive-thru coffee stand (these were very popular where I grew up) or a mobile coffee truck. I also loved the concept of fashion trucks, with a specific interest in sourcing fair trade goods from around the world. So, then my dream kind of settled on combining the two, coffee and retail, into one unit, which would create a unique shopping experience that they wouldn't forget. I thought it was a great idea because it hadn't been done before as far as I could tell in my research. It probably took one to two years to seriously pursue this and then it was a year of hunting for the perfect Airstream, which I had chosen as my dream trailer to convert into a coffee bar/boutique.
Fresh Paths: What did you family/friends think of this idea? Were they supportive, or did they think you should get a “real job”?
My roommates during this process were also World Race Alumni and were cheering me on to make my dream a reality. They just got it. My family was supportive from afar, but I think they secretly wanted me to stick with a real job...maybe they still do. Ha!
Fresh Paths: So what were the steps you took to get started? Where did you get the funding?
I kind of touched on this earlier, but I started looking for an Airstream. I knew I needed a truck to tow it, so I traded in my little car for a Toyota Tundra. I had previous experience of being a server and worked for a food truck/catering company. That helped me learn about the mobile business here in Charlotte and also gain some resourceful contacts. For funding I initially had some investors, but they ended up falling through (for legit reasons) So I did an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds. I didn't hit my goal, so I used credit cards. I saw it as an alternative to getting a business loan.
Fresh Paths: What was the most difficult thing about getting started?
Doing it essentially by myself. People love to throw opinions at you all day of what you should do and how to do it. But in the end, everything comes down to you to make decisions and follow through to completion.
Fresh Paths: Did you ever get discouraged? Did you ever think about giving up on your dream? What kept you going?
Sure, I got discouraged! The process of everything, specifically converting the Airstream, took a lot longer than I would have chosen. But I didn't think about giving up. I knew this was something I would regret later in life if I never even tried.
Fresh Paths: So, what’s it like to run a food truck? What’s unique about your business model?
Having both coffee and retail in a mobile unit is pretty unique. Some people wanted to label me as a coffee truck, but I didn't outfit the trailer to do a high volume of drinks. My vision/goal is to be mainly retail with the occasional coffee/tea service on the side. The Airstream is also available for rent. For example, a bride used it as her bridal suite in her grandma's backyard and decorated it how she wanted to.
It also was used at a coffee festival and Ally Coffee set it up as a station.
Fresh Paths: What do you love about what you do?
I love researching and buying new products to curate a unique collection of items, with most having a greater purpose and story behind them. A lot of the artisans have overcome challenges like poverty, trafficking, prostitution, being a refugee...so when you buy from Urbean, you are empowering an actual person!
Fresh Paths: You have a very mobile business! How do you choose where you park Frances? (note to reader: Frances is the name of the Airstream.)
I've mostly done pop-up events as a vendor. The first year I tried many different markets and events and then this past year I've been a little more selective and strategic about what I participate in. Sometimes businesses approach me, and sometimes I reach out to businesses to ask about popping up there.
Fresh Paths: You are a young, single woman. Has this made things easier or harder for you?
I could go either way on this, but I'd say mostly easier. My friends who are married with kids encouraged me to start my business as a single person, and I can see where they're coming from.
Fresh Paths: How have you grown and changed through the pursuit of this dream? What have you learned?
I have a deeper appreciation for small businesses. Your purchases do truly make a difference. I've learned to be flexible with my "business plan" as it is not exactly how I thought it would be when I first started.
Fresh Paths: Knowing what you know now, would you do it all again?
Yes, but I would've done it a bit differently. Specifically, I would've started out doing pop-ups with a table setup (I still do these depending on the venue) to gain funding and brand awareness before buying an Airstream and converting it.
Fresh Paths: What advice would you give someone who has a “crazy dream” they want to pursue?
Meet with other entrepreneurs in a similar industry and ask lots of questions. Or, if you follow someone on Instagram who could be resourceful, don't be afraid to reach out to them. Those of us who own mobile boutiques are always sending random questions to each other via social media.
Fresh Paths: Anything else you would like to add?
Live with no regrets! Also, my biggest supporters/customers (mainly financially) have been people that have surprised me with their generosity. God provides through the unexpected! It's pretty cool.
Enderly Coffee, who supplies Urbean’s coffee, posted a great article on Andrea Pasquan and her mobile boutique and coffee truck. Check it out at: http://www.enderlycoffee.com/blog/2016/5/30/food-truck-fashion-boutique-have-a-baby.