Together with family, friends, dedicated employees and two woefully small ovens, I opened Prairie Girl Bakery on April 1, 2011.
Three years later feels like the right time to reflect on opening and running a small business, so welcome to my blog on that very subject! I will write a short post each Monday and I welcome your comments and suggestions both on what I write and also what I should write about!
Occasionally I have been asked to meet for coffee by people interested in hearing about my experience and also wanting to discuss their own ideas about starting a business. I enjoy these conversations because it is fascinating how every person looks differently at being an entrepreneur.
However, one constant in speaking with people thinking about starting any business is an awareness of the “R” word – “risk”. Although there is risk involved in so many things: starting a new job, falling in love or having a child, the decision to put one’s money and pride on the line with a new business feels to many of us as one of life’s riskiest propositions. In this blog I will talk about some of the things I did to try to mitigate the risks of opening a cupcake store but still, the night before we opened PGB’s doors for the first time, the thought that no one – simply no one – would come and buy a single cupcake was certainly on my mind.
Once I decided to write this blog, I asked some of the new or prospective business owners I have met recently for their ideas for blog topics. The most frequently mentioned idea involved slipping up: What mistakes did I make? What challenges did I face? When I thought about this, I realized that an interest in the tough spots along the way is related to the concern about risk. The more you think that you can’t make any mistakes in starting a business, the riskier it feels. But so far my experience has been that I can and do make mistakes at PGB and things can still turn out okay – maybe not perfect or exactly as planned but “good enough”. So I will do my best to share not only the high points but also the times when it all felt pretty shaky.
Other topics I will cover include:
- Do you have the right personality to be a business owner?
- How do you decide on a product or service?
- Beyond the product, how will you be different from the next guy?
- Practically speaking, how do you write a business plan and why bother?
- What role does the competition play in your assessment?
- What is the actual process for opening- do you go small or large? What do you do first?
- Do you need a website?
- How and when do you hire people?
- Where should you open up your business?
- How do you know when you are ready to open?
- How important is packaging…and other “little things”?
- What does “branding” mean for the small business owner?
- How do you go from saying you want to offer great service to actually delivering on that?
- How do you actually achieve consistency?
- Why will people stay on your team?
- What about marketing including social media?
- What about franchising?