I am nearing the 100th day as an entrepreneur, and to say that launching a business with literally no money, little support, and a bunch of hopes, dreams, and prayers has been difficult, frustrating, and challenging is the understatement to end all understatements. There have been weeks where I have been busy sending out cake samples to my ‘brand advocates,’ bloggers, and later, customers. Those were some pretty busy weeks. Then there were weeks that I had no orders. I tried to keep myself busy with writing, working on new flavors, and other business-related tasks, as too much free time allows for reflection and sometimes even doubt. Yes, I will admit that I have considered shutting down the business and finding a steady job on several occasions. More than I care to admit because just the thought of going back to work for someone who either cannot see that I am more than a resume or flat-out refuses to see that, well honestly, it literally makes my stomach upset.
While preparing to officially open the business, I did as much reading as I could about becoming an entrepreneur. Heck, the idea to send cake samples to people who (I thought) would serve as brand advocates came from Guy Kawasaki’s The Art Of The Start. He encouraged entrepreneurs to work on the prototype (cake), send it to people to use (eat), then make any necessary changes based on their feedback. Well, off to the commercial kitchen I went! And I baked, and baked, and baked. Then I shipped cakes to numerous cities. And then I waited to hear from the people about what they liked or didn’t like. With the exception of three people, everyone enjoyed the cakes. Of those who did not, one stated that they could taste the Agave. I’m not sure how because Agave has no distinct taste/aftertaste, for if it did I would not use it. I don’t believe in spending hours in the kitchen, standing on concrete, baking – only to have the finished product have an aftertaste. Two of the others never responded. Yes, I followed-up and followed-up, but they never responded. If I’ve not learned anything else in my 38 years, I do know when it’s time to move on. My time is as valuable as that of others so I refuse to send large numbers of emails to the same people who obviously have no interest in or knowledge of common courtesy.
Despite that setback, I have had some success at the local farmer’s markets, which run through the remainder of the Summer. I also recently partnered with @UjamaaDeals to create a deal for their marketplace. Ujamaa Deals is a site with a similar premise of both Groupon and LivingSocial, with one major difference: Ujamaa promotes Black-owned and operated businesses. I am glad I was introduced to this business because Black-owned businesses have a higher failure rate and we (Black entrepreneurs) usually have even fewer resources than other entrepreneurs to start, promote, and sustain our businesses. Ujamaa provides an opportunity to showcase your business without signing over a major portion of your profits and there are no upfront fees, so getting your brand and product in front of a wider audience is easier and more cost-effective. programs like Ujamaa Deals are especially great for non-traditional business such as mine-those that do not have a brick-and-mortar establishment for face-to-face interaction.
Still learning and forging ahead!