In the already unique world of mobile food vending, Madison Gouzie's s'mores cart still stands alone. The Marshmallow Cart, a mobile s'mores unit in Portland, Maine, is a hand-built cart where Gouzie roasts mallows to order. Every ingredient is handmade, every marshmallow is torched on-site, and the experience is fully singular: no other s'mores cart exists.
Gouzie started in 2015 with a business partner as a spinoff of a similar brick-and-mortar concept in New York. He's grown exponentially every year, and now finds himself consistently fully booked with catering orders and private parties. We sat down to ask him about some of the challenges he's faced with The Marshmallow Cart and what he's learned. After all, the concept might be unique, but the journey isn't!
What's a challenge you didn't anticipate when you started?
How much time it was going to take for all the other day-to-day things, especially being solo now. Building all that extra time into my schedule is tough. There originally wasn't enough work to afford a second body, but now there's more than enough to do for one body. So I'm scrambling to sort that out!
What's been your proudest moment as a business owner?
Being asked back to work with some key vendors and key fundraising events. I have one in mind: having been invited back to L.L. Bean as their exclusive vendor for the holiday season for the second year in a row is awesome. It's a perfect brand partnership. And another: being invited to work with nonprofits, like the Animal Refuge League's Fur Ball Gala for the second year in a row. It really gives meaning to what I'm doing - I wanted to be a local business and I feel connected when I work with partners. It's not just me trying to sell as much as I can - I feel rooted in the community.
What's a problem you encountered recently?
Fulfilling the business. I'm lucky enough to be turning down gigs because I'm so busy. And knowing when the right time is to reinvest in a dramatic way - and when to go looking for money.
What makes it all worth it?
It's two-fold. It definitely feels like an extension of my personality - there's a lot of me in it. And it takes me back to being a bartender - I get to connect with people on the other side of the bar. Except now, I'm a s'moretender instead of a bartender. I get to be social like I like to be.
What would you tell your early self, back in 2015?
Find a community, an ecosystem, as soon as you can. It's a small business and I'm running it by myself, but I learn so much more from being connected with the other food cart guys than I would ever be able to learn on my own.