Callie is one rawkin’ chick. One visit to her blog and you’ll be amazed with how much attention to detail she gives each of her posts, not to mention the passion she has for design, whole foods, and health. Oh… I’m a rawxy fan for life!
Take it away, Callie!
Hi everyone! I’m so ecstatic to be a part of Leanne’s wonderful blog while she’s away. There is something about Leanne (and her blog) that always keeps me coming back for more. In fact, I believe it was her ‘Journey to Health‘ post when I realized I was hooked. I mean, girlfriend with all those hair styles? We are like long lost sistas – How I can I not love her ;)
If you’re a follower of Rawxy , then you know one thing: Right now, my world is straight up cray cray. In fact, as you read this, I’ll probably be Uhauling 2,000 miles West to start the manufacturing and distribution of my product line, Rawxies . It’s amazing to think that in one years time, I went from being miserable at my full-time job, to starting my own business and living the life I’ve always dreamed about.
So, in keeping current with my life, I figured it would be most fitting to give you a quick overview of how I, and you can too, start your own business and do what you love everyday for the rest of your life!
First: Figure out what you want to do.
Make possible what seems impossible. I never thought I’d be able to merge all of my passions into one career – Thanks to my blog however, I realized that a packaged food business merged everything I loved: design, art, food and nutrition.
Trial and error, folks, trial and error. You guys, I’ve made and sold jewelry, created a whole pattern and stationary company and dabbled in freelance design (just to name a few) – natural born hustler, what what!? Each time though, I came up short – but, I never gave up in trying to find what I loved! The only way to find out, is to get your hands dirty (over and over and over). When I was younger, I read Suze Orman’s book ‘Young, Rich and Fabulous’ and I’ll never forget a piece of advice she had for young professionals: Never choose a job for money, and instead, choose a job that you love doing – even if it pays you in pennies. When you choose the latter, you’ll be far more successful in the long run, because you’ll be more motivated to work harder!
Second: Test The Waters.
The old school way of starting a business, is to keep all of your ideas top secret – not the case nowadays! Basically, you should talk about it to almost anyone who will listen. There are lots of benefits to talking to people. You’ll get suggestions for improvements, you’ll discover flaws (and hopefully correct them), you’ll learn about competitive products that exist and you’ll be able to gauge peoples excitement towards your potential product. Share your ideas and analyze any and all feedback. If you’re good at listening, you’ll be able to know soon enough if you’ve got something that a) makes you happy and b) makes others happy!
Third: Get with it.
Ok – Here is where you pass go and collect $200, i.e., you’ve tested and you’ve received. Now, time to make those dreams a reality!
Contact your local SCORE office – check their website for locations and hours. This is gold people, straight up – GOLD. Without the Kansas City SCORE office, I’d still be picking my nose reading “business plans for dummies”… Seriously, books are great, but nothing beats (free) one-on-one mentoring from retired professionals. You name it, they have it: Accountants, Bank Loan Officers, Marketers, etc….
They won’t write your plan for you, but they’ll be there at the drop of a hat to help you with any questions you may have.
Fourth: Brew another and another and another pot of coffee.
Writing a business plan is no cake walk. And, you can forget about online business plan templates, as those are straight up whack. I purchased LivePlan and it was a waste of money – don’t make my mistake! No business plan should be under 10 pages – if it is, keep writing. Get in touch with your business mentor and ask for help! On the SCORE website you can search for a “business plan outline” which, I found to be the best on the net (in my opinion).
To give you an idea, my finished business plan was 32 pages. On top of that, I had about 10 pages of financial excel documents: Month-by-Month, projected for 3 years.
People often ask ‘but I don’t need funding, so why do I need to write a business plan?’ Here’s why: You will be lost without it. You will learn things about your market, competition, demographic, yourself, etc… that you never would have learned (more than likely) otherwise. I thought I was on top of it, but writing my business plan was definitely a humbling experience – and, worth every grueling hour!
Fifth: Make it pretty.
I’m going to assume you’ve decided to go into the food business – although, design principles apply to all businesses.
Design: Do not (repeat: do not) underestimate the power of good design. For the non-designers out there, here’s an idea to get good design on a budget. Contact your local college (even better, art college) and talk with the head of the design or illustration department – Tell them your situation: i.e., your starting a new business and are on a tight budget, from there – they should be more than willing to help you out. Let me tell you, I went to a Private Art College and picked up numerous design gigs from business owners doing just this – I needed the work for my portfolio and they needed the work for their business. It was, a Win-Win.
Websites: If you want a custom website, be prepared to shell out a couple thousand dollars – minimum. However, wordpress has some great themes that allow you to customize a shopping cart, use a pay pal plug in and sell your products for free! My blog is using a free plug in right now, and while it’s not the best option, it has been good for testing products. That being said, I’d like to go ahead and plug that Rawxies new and fabulous website should be launched October 1st… woot!
Packaging: There is a reason many small business do not use manufactured packaging – it is #$%^&* expensive! Luckily, I have over 6 years of experience working with overseas manufacturers, so I’m well versed in this area. And, because people never tell you how much it really cost, let me break it down for you – Rawxies packaging, for 6 flavors, is costing between $10,000 to $20,000. See, it’s not cheap – and, that’s with my connections to overseas manufacturers. I had a state company quote me $50,000 for 1/4 the quantity above – it was absurd!! So, as you can see, the most economical option will be to package and print your own product in the beginning. Again, make contact with other creatives! I don’t care if you can’t cut a straight line to save your life, find someone who can and become their best friend.
**See references below for printing companies I use.
Sixth: Get licensed!
There are 3 levels of health licensing that you will need to consider – again, I’m assuming you are starting a food business.
Farmers Markets: County Licensed Kitchen. Plus, some states require a food handlers permit as well.
Grocery Stores/Retail: State Licensed Kitchen.
Grocery/Retail – Out of state: Federally Licensed Kitchen.
Obviously, setting up your own kitchen is crazy amounts of money – seriously, crazy amounts! Here’s a way around those initial fees – call every commercial kitchen in your town – restaurant, bakery, churches, etc… You never know, they may just be willing to rent you there kitchen for a flat per-hour fee. If you live in a larger city, you shouldn’t have a problem renting a by-the-hour kitchen. If you’re a Gluten-Free company, this is a bit trickier, as per-hour kitchens are cross contaminated with just about every ingredient under the sun. For myself, I lucked out in landing a co-packer that is a tea company – no gluten, no dairy, no eggs, etc, etc, etc… So, try going this route – look for drink companies, coffee shops, etc.
**For a better understanding of how the food purchasing/selling process works – you must read “Sell Your Speciality Food”. It is worth every penny… Every single one. Promise.
Seventh: Where dem dollars at…
No really, where the heck are they!?
Funding is tricky – very tricky, and in today’s economy (I hate that line, but it’s true) is somewhat hard to come by. Here is where the business plan comes back in play – it needs to kick butt and nothing less. You need to show your banker that you are passionate, hard working, knowledgeable and most importantly, the next big thing. Blow. Their. Socks. Off.
Again, take full advantage of your local SCORE office. Ask for retired bank officers, accountants, etc… and have them all read over your business plan. Take everything they say to heart and readjust accordingly.
Alternative option: Ask a family member or a friend for a small loan. However, if you go this route, make sure to get it in writing and draft up a contract. I’ve also heard from a few business owners who used their credit line on credit cards to start their business – personally, this makes me uneasy, but hey – I guess it’s really no different than taking out a loan, so I won’t hate.
Eighth: Take it day by day…
At this point, you’re going to be so overwhelmed with task that your primary key to survival (and/or staying sane) is going to be taking it day by day. Furthermore, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities to overcome any and all hurdles thrown your way – because trust me, you’re going to have plenty.
And lastly: Have fun!
Yes, you’re going to be working your butt off – but guess what? You’re working it off for yourself – and that my darlings, is the best feeling ever. I promise, It will make every sleepless night and every mental breakdown worth it!
And there you have it, my guide to doing what you love in a teeny tiny itty bitty nutshell!
Below are a few resources I highly recommend for starting and/or running a small business:
Keeping the Books – by Linda Pinson
Best book for understanding accounting basics – and yes, you’ll need to know and understand the basics.
Sell Your Specialty Food – by Stephen F. Hall
Buy it, read it and re-read it.
Crush it! and The Thank You Economy – Both by Gary Vaynerchuk
I own both on mp3 – It’s a personal opinion, but his narrating is one of my favorites to date. Plus, the books are just so on target with running and marketing a business in the modern world.
Attention! This Book Will Make You Money – by Jim Kukral
Another book I own on mp3 – it takes a bit to get into it (about 30 minutes), but once you’re in – you’re IN. This is one of the best marketing books I’ve read to date!
DIY: Design It Yourself – By Ellen Lupton
This book is very controversial in the professional design world – as many designers do not like the idea of ‘DIY Design’. However, I’m all for it – Educating the public to be better self-designers – Heck ya, especially if it means I never have to see another ‘comic sans’ self-printed flyer :) Plus, Ellen is a very talented and well respected designer – she’s a personal fav of mine, so I’m a bit bias.
1,000 Bags, Tags & Labels – by Kiki Eldridge
Great book for package and design inspiration – if you need ideas, here is a great place to start!
Your new home – this will have everything you need to start a small business. Plus, you can search for mentors and actually Skype with them if you find one that doesn’t live in your area… Umm, LOVE!
Labels by the Sheet
This is my go-to site for labels. I love being able to order as many or as little as needed. Furthermore, not having to purchase in bulk will allow you to test different textures, shapes and colors.
This is the only company I ever use for printing – Please do your business a favor and do not print your business cards from Kinkos – they can not print on a heavy enough stock. I’m also not a fan of the oh-so popular VistaPrint. I find their stock (weight of paper) to be sub-par – plus, their web interface drives me mad!
I never realized how involved Entrepreneur was with the younger generation, until I really started to browse their site and faithfully read the magazine… For myself, being 27, I love reading articles in reference to ‘young entrepreneurs’ – it’s really refreshing (and helpful!). However, young or old aside, this site is filled with credible articles that have great references for whatever you may need.
Thanks for this post, Callie. It’s rare to find this much useful information all in one place!
Have any of you started up your own business? What did you find successful, or not so successful?