Interview with Kusa, Taiwanese dessert cart-cycle entrepreneur

We sat down and had a very insightful and inspirational chat with Kusa, our friend who has ran his own creative dessert cart business for a while now. We wanted to get to know more about how cycling fits into his busy life, and how he got to where he is now. This is his story.

“I believe that people and life should remain simple for us to remember our roots and traditions." -Kusa

Kusa on the way to the long queue already awaiting him since 30 minutes before his arrival.

Everyday Kusa arrives on his dessert cart he has to open and setup his stand before he begins the sale.

He believes that everything needs to be made fresh, so torching the crème brûlée is a must before he hands it to the customer, reminding them to finish it within 20 minutes for the best taste.

Kusa animatedly sharing his stories with the Outerboro crew.

Kusa displaying the dessert cart-cycle he designed.

Outerboro: So it seems like cycling and making desserts are both your passions, what inspired you to combine these two passions and make it your business now?

Kusa: All because of the animation movie “Kiki’s Delivery”. My passion in bicycle delivery is all due to the movie. I really enjoy the feeling of delivering items to people. Once I am commissioned to deliver something I feel the urge and need to deliver it quickly to the customer. I love the feeling of satisfaction when the recipient of a package is happy to finally receive it. Nowadays it is so easy to purchase things from the internet, but people are slowly forgetting the old, simple, and traditional feel of buying things in person.

Besides cycling, I also really love eating crème brûlée and cake, so learning how to make these desserts was a great experience on its own. I would like to think of my cart as a roadside vendor but with restaurant quality, but I try to keep everything at a low cost for my customers.

My favorite moments are when kids from the neighborhood runs to my cart to buy dessert. I would love to become a happy part of these kids’ childhood memories it will make me feel like my life has come full circle.

Outerboro: When did you start your unique business?

Kusa: 2 years and 3 months ago! Still going strong.

Outerboro: Wow, I’m guessing you had other jobs prior to having your own business. What were they and why did you decide to leave those jobs?

Kusa: The first job I ever had, right out of the 1-year army service, was working 5 years in a Japanese styled bakery. Making desserts and pastries at the bakery, everything was too rushed and there was too much pressure on the job to carry out customers’ orders. In the last few years working there, the bakery started losing business and the bakery owner even ran away, leaving a huge debt behind. After that I told myself I will not work in someone else’s company baking goods, and had the idea that on my own, I could make sandwiches to sell early in the afternoon, then sell desserts in the late afternoon. I even went on to work for a few months in a Subway to learn how to make good sandwiches.

Outerboro:That sounds amazing! What other jobs did you hold and how were they in relationship to the start of your current business?

Kusa: Ah, my timeline went like this. I ran a coffee truck for a year, and was a horse caretaker in the mountains for 9 months. I then moved onto bike delivery for a year. After that, I finally decided to take a chance on the dessert cart business. I had to wait about 6 months for my custom bike to be built, and now I am at my 2 year and 3 months in running my own dessert cart business.

Outerboro: Very diverse jobs you had, what exactly did you do for the coffee truck business?

Kusa: In the first 4 months after working in the bakery, I rode the old style tricycle to Dunghua Eslite to sell my homemade desserts. I made a friend while selling there, and together along with my wife, we laid out a plan to make a coffee truck. This plan seemed foolproof with my friend selling coffee, me selling pastries and my wife selling handmade crafts.

However, we spent a great deal of money on building the coffee truck, but in that year we were not making any profit from our sales at all. We also ran into difficulties finding a place in Taipei that would allow us to legally park our truck to sell goods. We tried everything, even parking by the beach, but we needed a license to be there, which will require more money, so we were always shooed away by the cops.

By the end of the year, I was the one who brought up disbanding the coffee truck team. With debt on hand and a failed business, I wanted to be away from working with people for awhile, then came up with the idea to take care of horses in the mountains of Yanmingshan. I handwrote a letter and applied for the job, an action that moved the boss, who agreed on an interview, though they didn’t need extra employees at the time. He eventually gave me a job, in which I worked at for 9 months, during the duration taking care of 16 horses at most.

Outerboro: What happened after? How did you get into the bike delivery gig?

Kusa: After I worked for 9 months as a horse caretaker, I thought whether there was a job out there in Taipei that does bike delivery services. It has always been my interests to be in the delivery business, and combining it with my passion in cycling made it seem like a dream job.

Then eventually I found “Tokyo Delivery Express”. I immediately wrote a letter to the boss, who, perhaps touched by my enthusiasm for the job, gave a position to me.

At the end of this job, there were only 2 people who remain as the deliverymen in the company. Getting complaints for late delivery and poor service happened regularly if not daily. Our boss always slept on the job and did not help improve the situation. When eventually our boss had to close the business, he actually wanted me to take over the company, but I rejected the offer as “Tokyo Delivery Express’” reputation was already run to the ground.

Outerboro: So what eventually led you to the dessert cart business? What did you have to go through to prepare for it?

Kusa: After I got out from that job, I decided to go back to my roots to make desserts again. The longest preparation time was building the dessert bicycle cart I now ride. I had to go to several different bicycle-building factories to show them my blueprint and discuss the concept of it. I finally found a place where they agreed to build the bicycle, and the entire process took 6 months. After it was built, I had to test ride the bicycle in the middle of the night to keep my bicycle design a secret to the public.

Outerboro: That shows amazing dedication for your work. Could you describe your average day? What is the most difficult or tedious part of it? What is the most rewarding?

Kusa: I believe in hand making the desserts as I don’t want to lose focus on making larger numbers of desserts a day, and how to make more money, etc. If that were on my mind, I would have to start using cheaper ingredients to cut costs. I wanted to focus on making high quality and tasty desserts for my customers.

Another thing is you need to focus a lot when you making crème brûlée. My wife knows when I am baking, she cannot ask me to pick up the phone or help her with anything unless it is an emergency (laughs).

Outerboro: Would you consider opening a café or dessert shop in the future?

Kusa: Not at all, at least not for the time being. I think it is the cost of running the store that has kept me away from the idea. I use my money to buy better ingredients and make quality desserts. If I open a store, I would have to be at the store everyday, and my feelings toward dessert making will change. I don’t want to worry about rent, electricity bills, and other miscellaneous costs. It is very important that I made the desserts and sold the desserts, to oversee the entire process and proudly say, “I made all this”. My tagline is “Desserts all hand-made and home made”, literally.

Outerboro: Looks like you wear button up shirts every day, is this just your style of clothing or is there special idea behind it?

Kusa: It’s my personal style, I like to look good when I work (smiles).

Outerboro: Ah, I see. Depending on different industries, we usually have to wear clothes that either suits, helps or protects us on the job. What kind of functions would you say you need in the clothing you wear to make work easier?

Kusa: I would say clothes need to look great on me, and I have to wear button up shirts. My clothes have to be fitted, simple, and clean cut. If clothes have functions it would be even better. I like pants with water repellent and elastic qualities, clothes that are made for riding around town.

Outerboro: I see you are wearing our Motile Pants right now! How does our clothes help you on a day to day basis?

Kusa: They are very comfortable and I could move freely in these clothes. I even tried a high kick and can bend down comfortably. Honestly, I was also very surprised at the water repellent qualities of these clothes! I did not expect it from pants that look like slacks. It certainly helps when it rains a bit in Taipei and I need to ride out for my daily sale.

Outerboro: Sounds great! We are very glad you like it. Last question here, what is the most interesting or memorable thing that has happened while you were out selling dessert?

Kusa: What is amazing is that I get customers flying in from Hong Kong, Canada, China, and all around Taiwan to buy my desserts. One of my customers from Hong Kong stopped by where my cart usually is, realized that he missed my sale hours, and left a card for me with the clothing store my cart parks by. The next day I received the card, which read the customer was sad he didn’t make it to my cart as he was flying back to Hong Kong that day. It really is rewarding to know people like my desserts.

-Outerboro

 

FYI

Kusa usually arrives at the location at around 3:30pm everyday (except for Sundays). This may vary as he rides his cart-cycle from home, which is roughly 45 minutes to an hour away from his destination. Timing will depend on weather and traffic conditions.

Sale Time: around 3:30PM everyday except for Sundays

Location: in front of GRD clothing store; Lane 20, Section 2, Zhongshan N. Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan

Transportation: by MRT, Zhongshan MRT Station Exit 2

Reminders: 1) Arrive roughly 30 minutes prior to sale time to ensure you receive a number card for the crème brûlée. 2) All sales and operations are done by Kusa alone, the clothing store does not hold any information or number card at the store. 3) Please form a neat line starting from the pole and kindly refrain from blocking the entrance of the clothing store, thanks!

Visit Kusa's personal blog here.




Rebecca Chen
Rebecca Chen

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