The reality of being a foodpreneur is rarely discussed. This was one of the more challenging blogs to write. As much as I love being a food entrepreneur, the relationship is like a marriage, good days and bad days. As the founder of Foodpreneur Institute, I can honestly tell you the cottage food business is not a get rich quick scheme.
The expectations when starting a food business can be unrealistic, even delusional. It is easy to be so wrapped up in the product that you lack the ability to first create a business model. We all secretly think if “I make it they will come.” Not true.
The reality is operating a business, any business is tough. Cottage foods, small batch food production is hard work. You’re doing everything, often without help.
- The start-up process is horrendous. You rarely know when you’re doing anything right.
- Chances are you are the artist, crafter, culinary genius, not a business person.
- The horrible secret is despite operating a sound business, there will always be debt if you want to scale up.
- Competitors will steal your ideas, recipes, and customers.
- Surviving the first five years is more difficult than anticipated.
- A leap of faith can mean death to your product or business; sometimes you must take it anyway.
- Fear is an everyday part of life. Do ‘it’ afraid.
- Credit cards are not your friend. Yet you still use them.
- Asking for help does not make you weak or your business inept.
The biggest deterrent to success isn’t what we don’t know. It’s what we think is true. We all suffer from the belief that, “if I make it, they will come.” We all fall prey to delusions thoughts, but if you want to be successful, make every effort to avoid the following.
- Don’t believe others will see your product as you do.
- Avoid making decisions based on your feelings and emotions. Use tested ideas and data.
- Make every effort to not overestimate the value and importance of your product. (Remember, you are part of this equation.)
- Acknowledge that there is a big difference between imagined action and actual action.
- Understand, when people tell you that they are going to do something, don’t believe it. (Responses are often based on perception, not action.)
- Don’t ask people if they will buy a product. Sell it. (Persuade the consumer of the merits ( the value) the product will bring them.
The life of a food entrepreneur is not all bad. My dad, who was in the liquor business (not the food biz, but beverage biz) for more than 20 years loved what he did. He once shared with me that going into business was one of the best decisions he ever made. It was not about the money, although that helped. It was also not about the notoriety, even though that feed his ego. It was about freedom.
Like many small business owners, it was all about the lifestyle. Doing work, he enjoyed with people he liked and respected. I think he also liked being his own boss. Having the ability to also make a positive impact on his community was a plus.
Pros of being a food entrepreneur.
- You stress less (I didn’t say not at all.)
- Nothing is more stressful than cash flow issues. Once you understand how cash flow works you will be a happy business owner.
- You control the work and product.
- There is nothing more satisfying than having some (I said some) control over quality control.
- You adapt faster to the marketplace.
- There are times when you can impact food trends (in your community).
- A small, stable business is more flexible. It is easier to react to fluctuating market conditions.
There is no denying, running any small food business (or any small business) can be hard work and very stressful. It may appear our current economy is coasting along. The truth is good times never last. You must have steady growth to build a lucrative business. There is something to be said about growing slow and easy and staying small. Don’t stagnate or your competitors will take vital market share away from you. In other words, don’t get comfortable. Small business owners will always have to keep a close eye on their company finances and newbies in the market. Stay in the know about new technologies and ask for help when you need it.
The best piece of knowledge a small business must remember… Never to rest on your laurels!