Having owned several businesses in the states, I can tell you that being really, really good at what you're going to do is only part of the equation for being successful. You also need a complete understanding of the market, the finances and the governmental regulations.
First, understand that I am not trying to discourage you, but exactly the opposite. There is no better way to go through life than by being in control of your own successful business. I think everyone should try being self-employed, or even run a small business on the side while working a regular job. It is an eye opening and uplifting experience.
If you do it wrong, however, it can break you. I have been on both sides of that. One is great. The other one really sucks. So here is my advice, for what it is worth.
I would look at these in the following order, spending a great amount of time thinking about the first 2 before you even proceed to the next ones.
- Know the regulations. I have no idea what it takes to run a food business here in the states, much less what it's like in Ireland. I would suspect there are regulations for selling and serving food to people. Make sure you understand these before you even look at anything else, as the regulations may be so cumbersome and restrictive that they will add a tremendous expense to the final product. If there is an inspecting agency that will be checking your product contact them first, start a discussion with them. Talk to as many people as possible, so that you know exactly what's going to happen when you sell your first pulled pork sandwich. The last thing you need is to have someone shut you down because you don't have the right paperwork or haven't paid for the right permits or inspections.
- Know the finances. Crunch the numbers, if you're not good at that find someone that is. Start with figuring out how much money you want (need) to make. Figure out how many units you can get from each pound of pork butt, brisket and chicken. Understand all of your costs really, really well. Build some sandwiches and track every penny of what it takes to make one and hand it to a customer. Then add in your overhead costs, making special notes from step 1 above. Figure out how much on an investment you will need to get started. Plan on making mistakes, ordering the wrong items, throwing out food that isn't up to your standards. Clearly understand what it will cost for time in the food hub, and make sure you're not surprised by an unexpected expense. Once you completely understand exactly how much it will cost to make the product, figure out how much you will need to sell them for and how many you will need to sell to hit your goal for the money you want (need) to make.
- Know the market. Once you know how much your items will cost take some time to make sure people want those items at that price. Don't guess or make assumptions here. Start small, do some test runs, get feedback from people. Talk to people. Once you've done that, spend a lot more time talking to people. Make sure you understand what they want. Don't invest in a ton of a particular type of BBQ sauce because you just love it, only to find out that everyone else hates it. Tastes are regional, what works in one place may not work somewhere else.
- Know the products. All smokers have a personality of their own, and you need to have some expertise to end up with the product you want. Don't expect to drop a pork butt or brisket into that smoker and come up with a perfect product the first time. See if you can get some time on it, and plan on some trial and error to get what you're looking for. Plan on throwing out some mistakes.
Start really small, get some time in the hub, and smoke a couple of things. Above all, don't bet the farm. Try it out, keeping in mind some of the things I wrote above, and try to work it out. Ask more questions, there are people that are doing this for a living, talk to them.
I wish you the best of luck, if you proceed make sure you keep us posted here.