I am hooked on Project Runway. Last night I watched an episode where a $20,000 prize was up for grabs. The winner said that he previously had just $14 in his bank account – so now he’d have $20,014. Not surprisingly, he was pretty emotional about the win.
THE PINK ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
The episode made me think about the pink-elephant issue of being an entrepreneur: where to get the money to have a small business. The “pink elephant” aspect is that if people are currently employed, there’s a certain hesitation to talk about the fact that it is really, really hard to leave the certainty of a biweekly direct deposit for, well, $14.
Not only is there the immediate hit to the bank account, there are the issues of where to get capital for the business and what happens if the business doesn’t work out. It’s risky and is, I think, the #1 reason that quite validly stops people from following their dream of having their own business.
AUSSIE MEAT PIES – THE ULTIMATE SMALL BUSINESS STORY
I recently mentioned Live Beautiful, an online jewelry and wardrobe consulting business, which is an example of a business starting small with a virtual presence and no immediate plans for the bricks-and-mortar of a retail space. Today I want to mention Kanga, owned by two incredibly outgoing, funny, and smart twentysomething women who are bringing Australia’s delicious flaky-crusted, gravy-filled meat pies, fries with chicken salt and “damn good coffee” to Toronto, starting this Friday at 65 Duncan Street. Their story of how they went from successful careers in business to opening a food service business is amazing and I can’t tell it better than using their own words:
The whole idea of Kanga started off when we wondered “why can’t we find delicious handheld meat pies in Toronto? We had both lived in Oz, where we had eaten many a handheld meat pie, and we had thoroughly enjoyed them. We had also recently been to a food event called Toronto Underground Market (TUM), which is a market that was designed to give food entrepreneurs a chance to sell to the public and test out their idea. We made a plan to come up with the best Aussie meat pies we could, and to see whether we’d make it into the October 2012 Toronto Underground Market. It was a competitive process and we were overjoyed to receive the email that told us we’d made the cut! We proceeded to make our 500 meat pies, took them to the market and ended up selling out that night, and that really lit our fire!
As we are getting ready to open our store, and looking back on our journey, the thing that got us going right at the beginning was that we thought about it more like a project. One of Erynn’s good friends said “You’re starting a business!”, and we remember just laughing it off because we never thought we were really starting a business, we were just doing something fun, that jibed with our passion for food, and our love of Australia and travel. I think that mindset let us take action without feeling all the pressure of ‘starting your own business’.
After the success of the first event, we continued to do other pop-up events, like small in-store markets at Williams-Sonoma and music festivals. A few months later, we found a partner with a large commissary to help us make our pies on a day to day basis and this ultimately allowed us to open up our wholesale channel and selling through a few select businesses. This was the beginning of Kanga Aussie pies being available on a regular basis. As we started wholesaling, Megan took two weeks off work to focus on Kanga but had so much fun that we talked it over and decided to make the leap into working on Kanga full-time. Once we made that decision, we knew we had to get cookin’ to support the two of us!
We looked carefully at whether we wanted to pursue wholesale more or retail, and ultimately landed on retail. Hence, 65 Duncan St.. It worked for us to take a step by step process because now we have confidence in our product, and we have confidence in ourselves to ensure our business is a success. We’ve had time to ready ourselves mentally to be full-time entrepreneurs. Also, by testing the waters with pop-up events, and by working with a partner to bring the pies to market before going with our own retail location, we were able to cultivate the business without taking on a lot of financial risk at the beginning.
What a great story!! I really admire Megan and Erynn – how they have made the transition from paid employment to having their own business, cautiously but at the same time with determination and a sense of humour. I know that they will be as successful in their new store as they’ve been in their business so far, and I wish them all the best.
Check out their website and also at their new store at 65 Duncan Street as of this Friday, May 16th.