Never give up…
Ashley – Decemberland co-founder and owner
Three and a half years ago, Ashley and two friends were discussing starting their own business. Ashley had a degree from Ramkhamheng University’s International Business program in Marketing and at the time of starting the Milk & Toast truck, she was working for a firm as an assistant marketing manager.
She had worked as a secretary in a Paragon Department Store previously, and had also worked as a project manager. Yet she found herself stressed and not enjoying her work. She and her friends were brainstorming ideas that would allow them to start their own business.
For Ashley, the idea evolved from the thing that she loves.
About four times a week, she and her partner would go out on the motorbike on a ride to the Khao San Road area, where they could find good fresh milk and toast. At that time, compared to currently in 2017, there were almost no milk shops with the quality she was looking for.
The group had thought to do a coffee shop, but Ashley doesn’t like to drink coffee. This fact, along with the opening in the market, pushed them to choose milk and toast over coffee.
She said, she would have never thought to do something like this before – to start her own business. She never anticipated it, or planned on working for herself.
In fact, she admits that the work she does now is still stressful, but stressful in a different way. Starting something to do with food was quite a stretch because Ashley cannot even cook a hard-boiled egg.
It took two months of training with a barista friend in order for her to have the skills she would need for starting her own shop. Then there was time and materials invested in the creation of the recipe that she was satisfied with.
Daily taste tests of milk, adjusting the recipe, until they were able to settle on the recipes she enjoyed most. This is what she wanted for her customers, to enjoy a good cup of fresh milk as much as she does.
Starting out the shop focused on hot and cold fresh milk, and the basic toast recipes.
The customer comes first…
The concept of the shop was inspired out of her love of vintage classic items. She invested in an old Mazda truck from the late 1980’s and decorated it with lights, and they opened on the East side of Nak Niwat Road.
At first, they had discussed opening in a market. But Ashley knew that she wanted people to intend to come to her shop instead of just happening upon it. She says today, most of her customers come from passing by her truck on the road. They later end up returning.
In setting the prices, from the beginning Ashley wanted it to be a place that everyone could come. Yet, she wanted to offer quality products as well. Thus, she brings in products such as Skippy, Nutella, and Ovaltine spreads for her toasts, and focuses on quality for her milk and coffee.
She wants to give all people an opportunity to come and enjoy high quality for a middle price. She says her customer base is wide, ranging from the street sweepers to people who drive Porsche – they come from everywhere.
Concept of enough…
For her, the profit is enough for her to pay her expenses.
She doesn’t need more than that. She has enough for herself, and is happy with that. The customers can get good quality at a middle range price. When asked where this idea came from, she explained it was from her environment — Her parents, her school and university, and the people around her shop.
She always keeps the bottles and items that the trash collectors can use to resell. Sometimes, they will bring her grapes or cherries. Or someone may pass her shop selling the flower garlands made of jasmine, and she gives them fresh milk. The seller will give her a strand of the fragrant flowers in return.
Currently, her parents are helping her since one of her partners began working again. They are both retired from sales. Her father sold alcohol, and her mother used to as well before becoming a nursery teacher in the last few years. Once fully retiring, she said that it is good for them to do something and stay active.
Recently, in March of 2017, they began renting a small shop front space on the west side of Nak Niwat in Lad Phrao. She was facing an obstacle working with the changing requirements and restrictions on the hours she was allowed to park her truck.
Working with the Thai government and other regulation agencies has been one of her biggest obstacles. But she has fought through these barriers, and made adjustments to keep the milk and coffee pouring hot.
At present, she has a shop front where she can prepare the drinks. They have kept the Mazda truck parked outside on the road to remind people the shop is open, draw new customers, and continue to make the toast from the back of the truck.
The menu at Decemberland has been expanding since the beginning, as now they offer Italian Sodas of various flavors and Frappes. Next, Ashley wants to add ham and cheese options to the toast.
Ashley does the thing that she loves. In addition to the fresh milk, she is learning more about dog breeding and is interested in Akido breeds. She loves taking care of the dogs, feeding them, caring for them, and sharing this with others.
The money is not her focus.
Her intention is to introduce a good breed of Akido to Thailand, as currently the Akido breeds are not healthy. Some have problems with their legs, others have features that do not fit with the standards of the Japanese dog breed requirements for the Akido. She continues to study and learn, build contacts in order for her to have a strong foundation.