A Lot Can Happen in a Year
A few days ago, I received one of the best emails I've ever read, and it was from the hyper-talented woman who eventually became the company's Chief Cookie Officer. The subject line read, "One Year Ago.." and here's what it said:
"We had our first call to discuss Bald Baker (unnamed at that time!)... and now we're prepping for our BIGGEST event yet! Happy one year!!! See you later :) "
I wish that I had more time to reflect on the meaning of the email, but it was Friday, we were in the bakery, and indeed, prepping for our BIGGEST event yet. In the year since that fateful phone call, we've named the company, commercialized three delicious, vegan and sugar conscious products, created a steady (albeit low, but growing) stream of revenue, a happy and consistent set of loyal followers (that aren't our biased family), and most importantly, set ourselves up for continued growth and expansion.
In the same year, we've spent way more money that originally contemplated, suffered (but persevered) through countless setbacks, engaged and paid a cadre of worthless consultants, listened to the unqualified and unsolicited (and well-meaning?) opinions of just about everyone on how we should change our company's direction and best/worst of all, not quit even though I have worked more than a few times an empty booth at an empty farmers' market on a cold rainy day, just losing money by the minute.
But then you have a day like we did on Saturday, at Toronto's 3rd Annual Vegan Food and Drink Festival, and you realize that quitting just isn't an option. In fact, the only option is to double-down. I enjoy blackjack and I find the game itself mirrors life: either you play "by-the-book" and in so doing, follow the rules and the etiquette dictated by others at the table, or you play based on how you feel. The latter can draw the ire of your fellow gamblers, but can also net you some disproportionate gains. For example, would you split kings against a 6? Either way, if you don't bet big, you certainly won't win big.
What I've realized as an entrepreneur is that each day is a big bet and despite some occasional losses, we're beating the house on a consistent basis. There's just too many people reaching out, too many complements, too many "thank-you's" for making something that's not overly infused with sugar or other harmful substances, too many repeat customers and too many opportunities for me to indulge the idea that I should quit and move on.
And if external indicators aren't enough, the other day, I was bringing a few leftovers back to the bakery to freeze for a rainy-day. As I entered, there's very noticeable smoke - haziness in the air and stench. There was another team that warned me of the smell and I replied, "I won't be more than a minute - just running this into the freezer." A normal person, upon realizing that they were likely walking straight into a very hazardous situation, would turn around. An entrepreneur, not wanting to waste any product, would put his goods in the freezer and not even think about the peripheral dangers of doing so. As I left, three fire trucks pulled up and I was escorted to my car. Ironically, there was a situation with the freezer's engine that was causing the smoke (of all places!).
The point is that there wasn't much that was getting in the way of accomplishing my task. In the last year, I've learned two things that I've come to rely on for my survival and for my sanity:
1) don't let anything get in the way of your progress; most significantly, yourself. It's very easy to doubt yourself, second-guess a decision, rely on the advice/guidance of others or place too much meaning on what is perceived to be a roadblock. They're all just tests of your own ability to persevere.
2) Trust your gut. Sometimes, the only way to do so is to fail a few times so that you can learn lessons the hard way, but every experience you have is one that hones your instincts and eventually, if not quickly, they become fine tuned and highly responsive to the copious amount of BS floating around. Every consultant promising you crazy benefits, every festival or event that you could sign up for, every element in your environment that makes you think - is this worth it? - is an opportunity to listen to your gut and to follow it. Even when it's way off and laughably wrong, it's ok because it means that next time, you're more likely to be right.
That's all for now. We have a crazy few weeks coming up, including the Veg Food Fest that will eclipse the aforementioned Vegan Food and Drink Festival from an attendance perspective as well as the launch of our kickstarter campaign to really propel this company into the public spotlight. Stay tuned and remember to treat yourself with respect...not sugar.