We're No Longer "Pre-Revenue"... We're Now "Pre-Profit"
Things have finally settled down enough to write a post - it's been a while and in that while, so much has happened to this company that it's difficult to sum up the events, how I feel about them or what takeaways there are.
All told, this was a month characterized by challenge and triumph. In fact, we started generating revenue! We started the month with the equivalent of an acme anvil falling out of a window and landing on our head. We found out from a benevolent individual that our primary sweetener was not on the list of sweeteners approved for commercial usage in Canada (despite it being readily available as a table-top sweetener). For a sugar conscious company, that's a major blow. The next day, we discovered that our chosen brand name for one of our products was already registered by our primary competitor. That means that our nutritional panel and our branding had to be paused, tweaked, and resubmitted. With a lot of hustle, even more ingenuity and a little luck, we came out of the situation stronger as a team and most importantly, with better tasting, better sounding and better looking products.
Then we epitomized the definition of the word 'scramble' to get prepared for the Niagara Food and Wine Expo. Classic 2am-night-before-the-big-show-hustle to box up our products, our gear, our clown-car and our psyche only to get there and have a very significant portion of our product break apart into samples or unusable fragments. Yes.. our cookie literally crumbled. #innovation lead to barter bags for trade with the other vendors, and "odds and ends" bags for people to pair their wines and beer with. We persevered and successfully debuted the company to approximately 13,000 people! We're no longer "pre-revenue!" And... we now have the beginnings of our sugar conscious pie line.
So why am I not satisfied? Why can't I stop if only for a second, and smell the roses? In fact, that special bottle that I was saving for the moment I generated my first dollar remains unopened! I fear that I'm focusing more on the challenges than the triumphs; the frustrations that lay ahead as opposed to the success that's enjoyed from overcoming them. Put another way, I'm focusing too heavily on the forest and not enough on the trees.
It comes down to me wanting this company to scale and not be a 'lifestyle' company. This isn't coming from a greed or pride point of view, but because I genuinely believe that there is a massively underserved demographic that would benefit from our products. I also believe our products represent a quantum leap forward in how people indulge and engage with their foods. Whoa is me, but if we can't ship 1,000 units by ourselves without significant breakage, how can somebody else ship 100,000?
So, future me's advice to current me is to focus on what I can control now, take it step by step and work up to it, but don't ever lose sight of the big picture or what's motivating me.
For example, to isolate the cause of the breakage: was I under-baking when it could use 30 more seconds? Should I leave the products to cool and harden for longer before packaging? Perhaps bake on a higher temperature? Add more or less baking powder or more or less binding agent? All fun experiments to try, so that's exactly what we're going to do.
We also need to optimize our packaging, because as much fun as staying up until 2 am is, there wasn't much booze or loud music involved and I don't care to do that again. And I burned all the friend favors on that one. So we will experiment with individual unit packaging while I continue to source a flow-wrapper. Work on finding a co-packer that specializes in small batch production. Form cookies or brownies more amenable to individual packing.
It all takes time and patience and I have some of the former and none of the latter. I was asked on the ride home from the Expo what my breaking point was if we couldn't get this venture profitable. Instinctively, I replied that I had to get slapped pretty hard in the face to give up. Meaning, I choose to believe that there is no end point, only exciting new beginnings. I will do everything in my power to make this a growing, profitable company and we'll just address each challenge one by one. After-all, we only stayed pre-revenue for four months from the day we started... let's see how long (or short) it takes to shake off the "pre-profit" moniker.