Deciding to create a business is making up your mind to start on a journey; an exciting and unpredictable journey.
This journey can be a really long journey, and for some might be a bit lonely sometimes. You have the responsibility of your customers and all business activities. Not every person you meet wants you to succeed. This story is about Alice a computer engineer who dreamed of starting a chain of cake and dessert shops.
Alice was a studious girl who graduated with distinctions and was the student with the highest score in her year. One of the multinational corporations visiting the University offered her a job in their technical team.
Alice was thrilled with the opportunity and was quick to accept their offer and began work almost before the paper-work was completed. Alice fitted in well with her colleagues and soon became a favourite as would prepare cakes for each member of her team for their birthdays. She had a passion for cakes, pastries and desserts and loved being able to experiment on her willing and appreciative colleagues. Her grandmother had taught her everything she knew about baking cakes and making delicous desserts using family recipies.
It was ineviatble that some one woud suggest she start taking orders commercially. Bob was her closest friend and while he had been in the business of computer engineering for many years, he knew nothing about how to run a business enterprse.
Alice liked the idea of just making occassional cakes or desserts for colleagues. Alice hadn’t told anyone about her quiet dream to one day open her own chain of dessert shops. She would never tell anyone in her workplace in case they thought she wasn’t serious about her career, she liked her work and most day
s enjoyed being part of the large corporation.
People seemed happy to pay her for the cakes and Alice was comfortable about asking them to pay. She had read about some Business StartUps where the Founders became akward about asking for money, or who gave too much of their time and energy and products away for free or heavily discounted. Alice knew her cakes and desserts were made with best quality ingredients and she felt comfortable asking for a fair price, and her customers seemed prepared to pay.
Alice started to wonder what it would be like to make cakes all day instead of having to look at a compter screen all day long. Her dream of owning a chain of cake and dessert shops became stronger. She started to read books, blogs and articles about starting a business and felt she was learning enough to make a decision. She thought she woud work for a few more months and be super diligent about saving money for a “nest egg” so she would be ready.
Six months later, she quit her job, rented a small store for a bargain rent deal and commenced renovations immediately. The store had been used as a bread bakery so already had a lot of the equipment Alice required for her cak and dessert making. Everything went according to plan, and in no time she opened her store. Alice remembered reading some of the warnings in the business books about things taking longer than expected, seemed that hadn’t applied to her business. She promoted her cakes and desserts amongst her colleagues and the local community. The shop was busy and Alice was happy. It all seemed so easy. She moved out of her flat and into the room at the back of the store and she worked every day creating and producing beautiful desserts and cakes for her clients and customers.
Things were going well. In fact Alice thought things were going so well that she decided to open another stores and employ people to work for her in both stores
Her frineds suggested that this was a huge step, and wouldn’t it be best to talk to someone experienced about her plan first.
However, Alice was proud of her success at the first store and decided to continue with her plan. She found new premises in a swanky part of a new shopping development and interviewed bakers and spoke enthusiastically to everyone about her venture.
Alice thought it would be a good idea for the 2 new dessert chefs to start working with her in the first store before they went to work in the new store. At first they appeared positive and willing to learn everything about her family recipes. Alice trained them to ensure their desserts and cakes turned out exactly like hers. The chefs began to work on their own and soon became proficient at making her family desserts and cakes. Customers were not able to tell the difference between Alice’s cakes and the new chefs’
It wasn’t long before one of the chefs left to start his own business and took her recipes and some of her clients with him. Alice couldn’t believe it. She began losing customers and business began to suffer. The other chef resigned to travel in Europe with her boyfriend. Alice was distraught. In such a small space of time things had changed dramatically. Now it was just her with 2 stores and diminishing orders and increasing costs. She was unable to make enough to money pay her rent for both stores.
Alice wondered what went wrong. One of her colleagues, Tim, came into the store and asked how things were going? Alice broke down. “I wish I knew what to do” Tim had previously had his own business and offered to help Alice.
They worked on rebuilding her customer base and Tim showed her how to market and ask for referrals. They employed new chefs to make the desserts and cakes so that Alice could spend more time researching trends in the dessert and cake world and with her customers. She learned it was important to find out what they like and don’t like. Tim showed Alice how to take charge of the finances, Alice hadn’t really been paying attention to the costs and the revenue and had no real idea if the business was profitable or not – and it wasn’t! She had also fallen into the trap many Business StartUps do by not paying herself a salary.
With Tim to show her how to run a successful business, Alice realised how much time and energy, not to mention money, she could have saved if she had known these things from the start. She knew she’d been lucky with her first store, she’d had cheap rent, a small and loyal customer base who told their friends and colleagues. She also had her savings which she now realised were almost completely depleted through paying for things in the business. And as Tim pointed out she was doing almost everything herself, it was time to have others in the business. Having Time to work with made such a difference. Alice didn’t know why she hadn’t had a mentor and coach to start with, she just didn’t know how much she needed some one like that.
Now she was ready to start laying the foundations to grow a successful chain of cake and dessert stores; watch out world!
I’m Ingrid Thompson and thank you for reading this post.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
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