Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a room full of women at The Austin Women’s Conference. The session name was Cook, Create, Cash in! Build Your Business One Fork At A Time, a discussion on starting a successful food business in the Austin market. It was both an exciting and humbling experience. I remember receiving the invitation from none other than the brilliant Addie Broyles, Food Writer for the Austin American Statesman. I immediately turned to my husband stating, “Someone out there thinks I know what I’m doing!”
I was joined by two other panelists – Kimberly Lanski, co-owner of Buddha’s Brew Kombucha and Lisa Matulis, owner of Delish Bakery. Addie was our fabulous facilitator, asking us to discuss challenges, roadblocks, and successes of owning a food business. It was amazing to hear the viewpoints from Kimberly and Lisa – their stories, the challenges they have overcome that I am currently facing, and to simply witness the passion they have for their trade.
What were my ‘take-aways’ from the session?
1. Don’t be afraid: When leaping into the unknown, fear isn’t always bad. If you acknowledge its existence and listen to what your ‘fear’ is telling you, it can often guide you to mitigating the risks, preparing for the unknown, and proceeding with a plan (a Business Plan to be more specific). But, don’t let the fear prevent you from trying to and ultimately creating a successful business.
2. Down economy: Many think that the worst time to start a business is during a down economy. The recession doesn’t make it easier – loan money is scarce and risks are higher. However, starting a business when the demand is down due to the economy will allow you to grow your business at a pace that is manageable. It will prepare you for when the economy and spending power is back in full force.
3. Develop a realistic business strategy: Be realistic. Start your business small and manageable. You don’t need the boutique storefront in New York City to launch the newest thing. You will be working the rest of your life to simply pay the rent. Set small goals – manageable targets that you can celebrate as they are achieved. And constantly reassess, reprioritizing your business strategy to match the marketplace. And keep the NYC boutique dream close to your heart – it’ll happen one day.
4. Don’t need all the answers: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that before you start a business, you must have all the answers. Most business owners still don’t know it all – they just figure it out as they go along. You must be smart though – get the skills you need to be successful and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
5. Have fun: There will be stressful days – days you’ll just want to throw in the towel. That’s normal. Just don’t forget to have fun. You’ll be working for yourself now, so make sure you are doing something that you love, something that you are passionate about. If you have that, when you look back at those stressful days they’ll seem like minor bumps in the road, reminding you that you can handle anything that’s thrown at you.