When you hear “Sando”, you think of the Southern city of San Fernando or a taxi driver touting for passengers to make a trip to the southland.
When you hear “Sandough”, San Fernandians and foodies alike think of Amanda Daniel, 28, the perky, effervescent and environmentally-conscious owner of the first of its kind dessert and coffee bar cart at Lady Hailes Avenue in Cross Crossing, San Fernando, better known as the “Cross” by locals.
The bar serves hot and cold drinks such as frappes, coffee, tea and fun items like waffle pops, doughnut bites, Nutella cream cheese bites and fried Oreos all made from scratch and served in recyclable, plant-based environmentally-friendly containers.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
In the young entrepreneur’s case, that which does not kill her financially makes her stronger and her products sweeter.
This is Daniel’s inspiring story of her giving up her career as an attorney and her call to the bar to pursue her dream and begin her fulfilling journey to another bar; the dessert and coffee bar and the challenges she encountered from not receiving support for her business venture from her parents, being robbed by a fabricator to trying to open her business in the time of COVID-19.
Daniel said, “I was definitely influenced by all the places while travelling all over Europe and seeing their street food culture. We do not have anything like it here, especially with regard to desserts and sweet foods.
“We had the Cross for many years but no desserts.
“Sandough” is a play on the shortened San Fernando. I just love south Trinidad and San Fernando. I went to school there and I live there.
“Dough” is for the batters and doughs we use to make our desserts.
“Since secondary school at Naparima Girls’, I wanted to be a pastry chef but my parents were not on board with that. I went on to study international relations at UWI, St Augustine.
“I had no idea what to do next, then I studied law and went to the United Kingdom to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC). I was called to the bar in T&T in 2018.”
After some bad experiences working in the legal profession locally, she decided to follow her heart and intuition and be her own boss.
Daniel said she opened the food cart for business on May 22, just 11 days after food establishments were allowed to reopen under revised COVID-19 regulations.
She said the business idea came about a few years ago, but she was just not ready financially and otherwise to take the necessary steps. Daniel said she was ready to open in March, then the COVID-19 pandemic occurred and vending was suspended.
This was just after she purchased ingredients for the bar, most of which were perishable like cream cheese that she had to dispose of, incurring severe losses.
Daniel said her being able to offer something different and having such a great response from customers motivate her and allowed her to indulge her creativity.
She said she enjoyed being on the Cross and meeting new people, however, the fast-paced food environment even though highly rewarding could also be quite challenging.
Daniel said some of the challenges were getting a consistent supply of goods, both ingredients and packaging, prices had risen.
She said some items she would ship down, but they had become too costly and took too long to arrive. Sourcing these products locally had been difficult.
Daniel said among the bar’s fare were fried Oreos which had been a big seller from the beginning because it was something customers had never heard of, were curious enough to try and most of them came back for more.
Daniel said with a laugh that she had some new items in the works but it was a secret. What was unique about her business was that there was no other dessert cart on the Cross or in T&T.
She said everything was made to order, there was a misconception that she sold desserts like cakes that were made off-site and sold in the cart.
When asked what advice she had for young entrepreneurs, especially women who would like to open their own businesses, Daniel said to just do it, take the jump and risk.
She said she was ripped off by a fabricator she paid to build her food cart who never delivered, it was a big financial hit for her and she learned from the hard lesson.
Daniel said she hadn’t been working for a very long time, didn’t have a lot of finances and it took her a while to save up to pay another fabricator. She said if that ordeal was not enough, then COVID-19 hit.
Daniel said looking back now, all the negative experiences, setbacks and little roadblocks along the way were more motivation to keep pushing on.
She said she received no financial support from anybody, she was a sole trader, not a family business and she had no business experience in the food industry or business world.
She said she had an idea, she figured it out along the way, she talked with other vendors on the Cross and she can now make smarter and better decisions.