Thursday, February 24, 2011

Part 2: Enterprising

Read Part 1: Corn Chowder on the Brain

Veggies from a friend's garden.
Photo by Amy Baranski
The night we found ourselves sipping wine and eating crab stuffed won-tons at a bistro on Lake Washington, Melissa revealed that to Write a Business plan was one of the new things she had picked for the blog this year. I figured something like that was up her sleeve, and I agreed it would be a fun and challenging exercise.

I immediately recalled that it wasn't long ago when her son Levi, along with several of the other kids in the building, were in a tizzy late one afternoon trying to figure out how they could raise some money to buy a video game. After asking and being denied donations from their parents and us neighbors they landed on enterprising a hot chocolate stand. Bob and I had packets of hot chocolate to donate to the cause and things seemed to be coming together until their head of operations unknowingly purchased the wrong (uninsulated) kind of cup from the dollar store. By then it was too late in the day to correct the situation. The young entrepreneurs had spent what little money they did have on cups that could melt and anyway all sales were final at the dollar store. Miraculously the group's emotions teetered from epic Shakespearean tragedy to a more determined disappointment.

I was hoping to escape similar pitfalls of starting our own hot chocolate stand, or Soup and Pretzel business as we'd have it, when Melissa and I commenced our first business planning meeting. My first question was: were we starting a business or just writing a business plan? And I think we decided that we were going to write a business plan with the intention of starting a business, if it were viable and scalable. Either way we'd aim to learn a lot and see where the month took us. We intuitively knew this was a joint project. Some months we may work independently on our goals, but this effort lent itself to collaboration quite naturally.

Were we still excited about making soup and pretzels and delivering them via bicycle? Yes! We even set the wallpaper of our blog to a picture of vegetables and posed for a picture with vegetables! We didn't really know where to start, but brainstorming seemed intuitive. We wrote out all our goals and ideals: be sustainable, make good nutritional food, keep it simple. etc. We started brainstorming questions around operations. Would the business be decentralized? Who would build our website? Could we rent a kitchen? What would be the benefits of having a brick and mortar location? What were the legal requirements around licensing? How would sourcing for ingredients work? Who would establish relationships with the farmers? How would delivery work? Would we freeze the soups? Did pretzels need to be made day-of delivery? Most importantly would it be cost-effective to produce and offer corn chowder on the menu? There were many, many questions. We knew that needed to crunch some numbers, and quickly.

by Amy Continued in Part 3: Chicken Soup Kills The Soul...

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