What’s wrong with this “picture”? The problem with how we look at starting a business.

When I first decided to finally follow my dreams and start Galaxy Girl Coffee, I was, what many in the entrepreneur world consider, a bad bet. I had no income, I had very little I could invest in the business, I had no entrepreneur experience, and worst of all I refuse to follow the ‘standard formula’ that many say is the way to have a coffee business or any business for that matter. The question I have is why is my business growing, if I was such a bad candidate for owning my own business?

I’m a huge believer in thinking outside the box. It is really the only way to solve problems. The more we try and follow the same patterns as others, the better chance we have at failing or even just not being as successful as we could be. What works for one person at one point in time, does not work for everyone or even the same person at different points in time.

This idea is reinforced by all the stories of some of our biggest innovators. I’m not just talking about business owners. Many of our best athletes, scholars, scientists, and inventors have taken the generally accepted blueprint on how to do whatever they do best and turned it on its head. There is no one right way to do most things, so please don’t think that if you want to start your own business you must follow the ’10 steps to start a home-based business’ blog post. Do your research. Learn from those posts, then do what works for you.

I belong to the local farmer’s market organization. One of the biggest complaints the more experienced members have about new vendors is that they expect to instantly start making tons of money their first time out. I think too many have read the stories of ‘overnight riches’ and think that the story is 100% accurate. This makes no logical sense. Yes, there can be perfect storms of innovation and implementation that hits at just the right time, but that isn’t the regular course of a business. There is the hidden story of how many other attempts at starting a business an entrepreneur failed at, or maybe just didn’t excel at, before finding the right fit for themselves that lead to the ‘overnight’ success with their most well-known business.

Pre-pandemic and pre-internet, the goal of most retailers and food vendors was to open a storefront. Having a brick-and-mortar location is considered a sign of success by most people. Post-pandemic, I see more of us gravitating towards a more mobile and flexible business model. My neighbor for the past month or so at the market told me that he regrets investing in a building for his business, as operating out of a trailer was more cost effective. I see extremely successful sole-proprietorship small businesses that have no desire to take out loans or find external funding to grow their business. While it means their business grows a lot slower than it could, in the long run their business, is more stable and sustainable when they get to the point where they can expand.

What really makes me sad is that, while researching for my pitch deck, people talk about ‘exit strategies’ for their business. The idea that people are starting a business with the intention of selling it someday in the near future just boggles my mind. I think that mindset hinders the business, as those starting the business are actually focused on more short-term personal financial goals rather than goals that will help the business be around for as long as possible.

While this doesn’t apply to all businesses, just as many generalizations don’t pertain to every iteration of anything in our society, it is a perceived and reinforced idea that has shaped many startups recently. I am hoping that we, as a society, can take a step back and reassess what our values are so that we can improve going forward. Not every company needs to have millions in profit annually to be successful. If we can get back to the ‘mom and pop’ businesses that sustain generation after generation I think we will be healthier as a society.

But who am I? I’m just your small business coffee roaster trying to make ends meet.

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