Starting a Business- the Good, the Bad, & the Dysfunctional
Starting a Business:
Well, I should be honest. I have technically been in business for about 3 years. I hate to say that because I feel like we don't have much to show for the 3 years we have put in except for a whole lot of debt, old equipment, and aggravation, but some would say we have learned a lot and have come a long way. Before I start to write a daily synopsis on what it's like to run a business, I will at least give you some background on the last 3 years. I will try to be brief.
I went into my first business like many other people--unaware, unafraid, unknowing, basically stupid and naive to the work that it would entail. I had no money, no business schooling, and no experience. I had no business plan, and a business partner who I thought I got along with well because we had known each other since high school and had never had one significant fight in all those years. I had a good idea that I was sure that it would take off. I could not have been more wrong on everything I thought I knew.
Both me and my business partner were from the east coast and we along with many of our friends, enjoyed a sweet, cold product called Italian Ice (fruit, water, and sugar blended and frozen to create an all-natural frozen treat). Haha! Can't believe I remembered that whole tag line. "Water ice" as many east coasters called it was a very popular product and everyone seemed to love it. People would go in droves to Rita's and buy water ice on a hot day. It seemed like the perfect product to bring to the west coast, so we started making it with real fruit in our own kitchen (did I mention my male business partner and I lived together when we started this venture?)
Anyway, we went into our local bank and made friends with one of the head honchos there. He took a liking to us and for our business and gave us 4 business credit cards and 25,000.00 loan without so much as a one-page business plan. We didn't have to talk to anyone else, we didn't have to make any sort of presentation, we didn't have to prove that our business would see growth. This was before the market crashed and banks were apparently just giving out money. How wrong they were to give us money. How wrong we were to take it. We used those credit cards and that credit line pretty quickly to buy all of the equipment that we needed to see this venture to fruition.
We had to figure out how to use the equipment to make the Italian Ice and we had to nail down our recipe. Once we completed that lengthy project, we started going to events to sell our fabulous, all-natural product. We would set up a traveling store front at local street fairs and farmer's markets. We would pay between 300.00 and 500.00 to set up a booth at an event where we would only make 200.00 and not even break even. I had no idea which events would be better for our product and the only way to figure this out was through trial and error.
Every weekend, we would pack the truck with all of our supplies--restaurant grade food tent, plastic card tables, hand washing station, cups, spoons, posters, etc. and then wake up at 5 AM to get to the location on time and set up. We would be all set up by 6:30 AM and then have to wait for 5-6 hours before anyone wanted to start buying our product, and our product sales all depended on the weather. If it was cold or cloudy or rainy, no one would buy our product. If we were unlucky enough to have competition, we found that most people would rather buy the unhealthy version of Italian Ice--the one with all the sugar and food coloring rather than the healthy, all-natural version we were offering. Then, we also had to worry about the demographic of people to come to the event and also the location of our booth. Were we placed in the middle of everything, off at the end, or by the kiddie tent? It was a terrible way to try and make a living. We both hated it and decided that we would be better off attempting to take the lessons we learned and put them into another product.
We took the lessons we learned and the desire to create a product that was healthier than what was currently out there and we made an all-natural, low-calorie sweet and sour mix. At the time, it seemed like a perfect idea. Most people, women especially, love mixed drinks especially margaritas, but they avoid drinking them because they are so high in calories and sugar. I thought this was the perfect option for a new product. Unfortunately, many other people out there were hatching the same idea and developing it at the same time. Thankfully, ours still proves to be the best tasting and the healthiest of the bunch. We launched the new product about 2 years after the genesis of the water ice idea. We had it bottled and labeled by a professional manufacturer in April, 2009 and made our first big sale in June, 2009. Since then, we have decided to re-brand the product to make the bottle, name, and label more appealing on a national level.
So, that brings us to the present time. Now that you know the background, check back in for the daily news on running a business one day at a time.