When you create a business, are you a slacker if you decide you want to keep it small and have it be more of a lifestyle business? In the food industry, no one talks about the small brands who do very well, but aren’t everywhere for everyone. They have found their niche and they cater to that well. Their businesses allow them to provide for their families, make a profit, live comfortably, and retain control.
Shows like Shark Tank and business accelerator programs are designed to help companies grow big and fast, and that’s not for everyone. There are so many bright business owners who have great ideas and great products, but aren’t ready to scale that quickly.
Last year, I went through a business accelerator and it was a tremendous experience with such wonderful people, but one that confused me for many months during and after. I thought I wanted to be everywhere for everyone…. What I learned throughout this experience is that most entrepreneurs who create something, like me, think big. But it takes a long time to get there, and it takes deep pockets and alignment with others who have grown companies to go on that journey with you. Unless you are planning on raising big capital (and are even able to) and build a solid team, being everywhere for everyone is not attainable.
Whatever happened to the small start-ups that grow slow and steady and over a long period of time? They do it because it’s their passion, enjoyment, and in a way where they retain control. They exist, it’s just harder to see them.
This is front and center on my mind because I attended a food expo this past weekend. I was there to help friends with their company booth, but it brought up a lot of goofy feelings. Over the last year, I have seen many companies shut down because they went down a path for large growth, listened to the advice of experienced individuals who have come from big brands. Many of these companies have had to shut down because they were unable to raise the money, and often, they were able to raise some money, but it was never enough.
I have also seen fellow food entrepreneurs risk their health and sanity to try to get to a place that is not yet attainable. The growth might be in their future, but good things take time (to plant the seeds in the right way). I see so many companies struggling daily (having been there), that it just breaks my heart. Especially because these are good companies coming out with amazing products that that people should be eating! Made with real ingredients versus all the fake shit that is sold all over the place.
I was one of those struggling companies and some days feel like I still am. I felt that I needed to do things the way that others told me if I wanted to grow big. It took many months of listening to others tell me what I needed to do to get big, and then failing, only to realize that I had blinders on too; I thought there was only one way. There were so many other directions that I could take my company and products, but I had to be confident enough in myself and my brand to be able to see those other options.
Shark Tank and accelerator programs want you to grow HUGE, so that is the advice they give, but that is not the only way.
Back to my initial question…. Are you a slacker or a failure if you decide you don’t want to be that big? The number one question that I get from interested consumers is, at what stores can I find you? That is a tough question because you want to be accessible, but knowing what it takes to get onto store shelves (money, scalability, pay to play), it isn’t always the right move for every company.
I purposely branded my products to have a higher end, giftier look, feel and taste, so that I could sell it direct to consumers through my website, and in person through specialty shows. I’m not interested in the retail game (at this time) and know that for me, these other channels do work.
Moral of the story, I wish that smaller companies could be highlighted more so that new businesses can see that there are so many different directions that one can take their businesses to build success.