"It'll be perfect -- we'll just take our KitchenAid mixer, make a ton of delicious fresh pasta and then sell it in farmers markets wearing cute floaty dresses with the sun on our faces and smell of tomatoes!" Well, that was the original plan, anyway.
In reality, we didn't make it quite out of the county clerk's office with our license in hand before we got the first taste of what running a business would really be like. Of course there were the original challenges: scaling recipes, not being able make to make enough product, not knowing the right venues to sell our products; but as we see it, our real challenges started in 2010 after winning the Start Small, Go Big Contest.
We were on top of the world: We had thousands of votes supporting our business, we met with business idols and celebrity chefs and were off the plane from an amazing whirlwind trip where we were wined and dined in New York City. But what now? How do we respond to the dozens of emails in our mailbox requesting that we ship our products? Enter Phase Two of running a business. Step 1: Equipment. Before doing anything else (and quite literally the moment we walked out of the Daily Candy office) we started looking for a new ravioli machine that would help us keep up with demand. It took a few weeks but we were finally able to find a machine to suite both our current and future needs in Pennsylvania. In fact, before making the purchase we were able to take a quick road trip to see the machine in action with our own recipes to really get a feel how the machine worked and if it was in fact the right fit for our business.
From there we turned our attention from merely fulfilling current orders to actively pursuing new accounts. In order to maximize our ability to add new accounts we needed a change. Where we once sold fresh to order, we knew we needed to make the switch to frozen to expand our reach and allow us to start producing well ahead of time and hold an inventory. This switch allowed us to actively pursue accounts and fill orders on the spot. But with this switch came additional challenges. Namely, lack of both frozen storage space and distribution (which we find go hand in hand). Now we have the capability to have large-scale production, but where do we store the product? We found we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off during production weeks, not having enough production staff to keep up with the demands of production and then all of the sudden the freezer is filled and we cannot staff those same workers the following week since there is no room in the freezer to add additional product. We are now actively seeking a distributor to eliminate this problem, affording us the opportunity to produce on a larger scale and transfer the product over to a warehouse where there's a sales team in place to send our product to a large network of wholesale accounts.
In the beginning, we entered into the world of entrepreneurialism to spend our days doing what we love. Along the way, we went from being cooks to self-taught accountants, marketing gurus, writers, salesmen, manufacturing workers and bosses. We've learned to think ahead and have a solid plan whenever possible, and know that often situations arise where you need to throw that plan out the window. We started out just the two of us as a somewhat fantasy to make people happy with the quality of our products and we have and continue to achieve that goal with a staff of four, three more contact workers and plans to expand our sales into new territories in the next quarter. There are days that we are exhausted, stressed and ready to throw in the towel and days that we find out we have won a national award amidst 2,500 other products through the NASFT determined by industry leaders like O, The Oprah Magazine, Whole Foods and Fresh Market. The best of all, though, are the days we receive a two-line email from a fan: "Hey there, just wanted to let you know I just tried your ravioli and its best I have ever had." Ah, the life of an entrepreneur!
DailyCandy, the original trusted source for handpicked discoveries of fashion, food, and fun has acted as a launching pad for new small businesses since 2000; Nella Pasta is a 2010 winner of the DailyCandy Start Small, Go Big program. For more small business tips and stories, visit www.startsmallgobig.com
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