Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1090132

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Page 71 of 87

SPRING 2019 69 Unless a company is seeking to go before investors to raise capi- tal, a business plan does not have to conform to a rigid structure at first. Biscaye suggests that early on, an entrepreneurial company can get by with a plan that includes a budget and a timeline. "At the least, prioritize the different steps that you have to go through," he says. Budgeting is also a critical aspect of planning, says Biscaye. "With money, you buy time, and the less time you have, the sooner you are going to be pressured to close your business," he says. "It is important to budget properly for at least a year. If you are not good with numbers, ask for help." 4. Communicate the growth vison to the team. Articulating a company's vision is perhaps the most important ele- ment of laying the groundwork for successful growth. "How is your organization going to be in alignment with you, and running as fast as it can in the same direction as you, if it doesn't know where the finish line is?" says Riggs. Hsiao of March Brand says that leaders, particularly at small companies, need to be very explicit in articulating their growth vision to their teams to avoid misperceptions. "A lot of times, when it is just an entrepreneur, a lot of the vision is all in that person's head," she says. Riggs advocates that company leaders set aside time to think strategically about leadership, including communicating the growth vision to their teams and ensuring that people are being developed properly to support that vision. 5. Listen to customers and adjust as needed. Biscaye said that in general he would recommend that startups revisit the business plan twice in the first year, at the six-month mark and the 12-month mark. In the following years, the company will likely be accumulating more data to evaluate, and so will be able to adjust more frequently. While the core tenets of the business plan are likely to remain in place for a long period of time, other adjustments can be made based on consumer feedback. "Several clients have had one product when they started, and today it is very different," Biscaye says. "They listened to the consumer, and that is why they are still alive and have a thriving business in years three and four." Sometimes, however, growing a startup requires having the confidence that an idea will work, even if the evidence is not readily visible, says Hsiao. "If you have a strong conviction, keep working at it," she says. "You may need to keep editing—not editing your vision, but editing how you get there." Specialty Food Magazine recently spoke with Riggs, Biscaye, and Hsiao for some advice for entrepreneurs who are seeking to build a growth vision. 1. Network to build industry knowledge. Even before launching, would-be entrepreneurs should invest time in networking and speaking with people who can offer insights and share experiences. "Ours is a very generous industry," says Biscaye. "You will get a lot [of insights and advice] for free, and eventually you will give back." He cites an example of a young entrepreneur who was in the early planning stages and was networking and researching at the Winter Fancy Food Show in January, and by the time Natural Products Expo East rolled around in September, he had built a team of advisors and was ready to launch. Startups don't necessarily need a formal board of advisors, but they do need to ensure they have people they can rely on to provide skills that the entrepreneur lacks, Biscaye explains. "You just need people who are going to advise you," he says. "You have a friend who understands banking? Good, he's your financial advisor. And maybe you have a friend who knows retail, and a friend who has a brand. Surround yourself with people who know what you don't know." 2. Assess your opportunities in the market. Having a well-differentiated product in an existing category can present a powerful opportunity, says Hsiao. By contrast, seeking to innovate in an untested space can be more challenging. "Looking for evidence in the marketplace when you are trying to be really new is hard," she says. Hsiao also says that small companies need to be selective in terms of which opportunities they pursue, despite the temptations. "When you are small, anything with a dollar sign and sales results can be welcoming, but you need to know your guard rails and what supports your growth and what doesn't," she says. "You won't be able to do everything, and it's good to be strategic about what you pick and choose." Testing is also critical in the early stages leading to a product launch, says Biscaye. He suggests testing not only with family and friends—whose feedback may be biased—but with others through venues such as farmers markets. It's also helpful to launch a product on at least a very small scale to gain feedback, even if all the pieces—such as the final version of the packaging, for example—are not yet in place, he adds. 3. Create a formal business plan. Transforming an entrepreneurial vision into an actual strategic plan can be a challenge for many small company leaders. "No one teaches us how to plan, so we struggle translating it from this vision in our head, to getting it down on paper, to communicating it, to then trans- lating it into a plan," says Riggs of Sana Sano Consulting. Mark Hamstra is a regular contributor to Specialty Food Magazine. Want to learn more about sparking growth? Attend the Specialty Food Business Summit. V i s i t s p e c i a l t y f o o d . c o m /s f b s article bug 69 SPRING 2019 specialty food maker

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