Introspection, Food-trepreneurship, and Being Happy-Go-Lucky

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Hi, friends, I’ve missed you. It’s been quite some time (well, two weeks, actually, but it feels like a million years)…

As some of you might remember from my “The Long and Winding Road: Saying Goodbye to Cottage Law” post from the Spring, I’m doing my best to make it as a food-trepreneur. Happy-Go-Lucky Foods (formerly Happy-Go-Lucky Granola and, before that, formerly nameless) has gone from zero to sixty in seven months, and I’m taking a moment to catch my breath and write about my experience thus far. I’ll begin by saying that I never thought I’d make it this far. I really didn’t. I wanted to, but was wanting to enough?

Desire only can take a person so far; having a plan (not necessarily in the full-on business 101 sense of the word) is uber-important. Being aimless and being successful in business don’t correlate well. I told my new friend, Amanda, of Amanda’s Amigos this when we spoke last week. I’m sure I was more eloquent then, but…

I met Amanda at my farmers market booth a few months back. She bought a few Apricot Ginger granola bars, we chatted for a moment, and she was off. A few weeks later, I was tickled to be included in her Daytona Beach is Vegan Friendly post. Amanda was on vacation from Alaska! A-L-A-S-K-A. How cool (no pun, I promise.).

A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me and asked if I’d have some time to chat; she wanted to know how to start her own vegan-based business. And, so, while chatting, laughing, and experiencing the joy of cross-country internet-related issues, I had the chance to reflect. Sometimes, when life is so busy, we forget to look inward. Amanda’s thoughtful inquiry encouraged the introspection I so desperately needed. From our chat, I learned the following:

Have a plan, but know that it’s OK to deviate from it.

Being too rigid can hinder you from following your intuition. If you know something’s not right or could be better, allow yourself to re-envision your path. Be flexible.

Any feedback is good feedback.

Listen not only to yourself, but those around you. Feedback is important; take advantage of it. You don’t have to jump at every suggestion you hear, but allow yourself the liberty to explore feasible options. When a regular customer tells you that she has to repackage her granola bars as soon as she gets home from the market because the moisture leaches out onto the kraft paper bag that they’re packed in, get different bags! And feel free to thank the honest individual who cared enough to share her thoughts with you. Everybody likes to know they’re being heard.

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Acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.

If I never admitted that I bought cellophane bags that were too small for granola clusters, I’d still be spending double-time cramming too much product into too small of a package. My boyfriend said they were too small, and, while I absolutely didn’t want to admit he was right, I did. I now buy bigger bags. It’s OK for him to win once in a while.

Don’t buy whims in bulk.

While a great deal on organic dried Zante currants in bulk might seem too good to pass up, consider if you really need them or not. Case in point: I gave tons of currants to my neighbor.

Don’t go into unnecessary debt.

My financial goal was to let Happy-Go-Lucky Foods pay for itself as it grew. I knew that I’d have to pay for testing, licensing, permitting, equipment, etc. as I moved forward with adding hummus to our product line, but I let the sales from selling granola under Cottage Law pay for the expansion. While hummus was always the plan, being patient prevented me from taking out loans. It was the best decision I could have made.

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Be grateful for every customer, no matter how much they buy.

It still amazes me that people shell out real dollars for the hummus and granola that we make. They work hard to earn money and choose to spend some of it with Happy-Go-Lucky Foods. I smile every single time I think of it. I’m ever-so-grateful. Whether someone spends one dollar or fifty, I know they don’t have to spend any at all. Never take any customer for granted.

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Be consistent.

McDonalds is so popular, in part, because they are consistent. The fries taste the same from coast to coast and even across continents. People love consistency. If you’ve got a slew of people who love your banana walnut bread just as it is, don’t add nutmeg. We all know what happened to New Coke.

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Enjoy the ride.

Enjoy every moment of being an entrepreneur. It takes guts to go out on a limb and do your own thing. Breathe it in. Know that you’re courageous. Believe that you can do it. And don’t forget to smile.

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Thanks for seeing this post through to the end, my friends.

Until next time,

Jenna

P.S. Thanks, Amanda, for encouraging me to look inward. Good luck on your adventure.