Thursday, July 26, 2007

Make sure to do your research

If you have an idea for a small business for yourself, it's hard to stop thinking about anything else. But starting your own business requires a lot of pre-launch work if you want to have a fair hand at making a go of it. I remember years ago, a friend of mine and I had this great idea of starting our own little business, and we worked many long and hard hours at it before it even got off to a start. What we were going to do was to bring healthy and tasty lunch choices in to various offices around town. You know how those food wagons show up at construction sites at break time? Well that was basically the idea, but with healthier, tastier foods, and we were going to hit the shut-ins that worked in the office buildings downtown and in the industrial areas around here.

First we came up with recipes and menus for a four week rotation, leaving a little room for the odd extra, like fruits and veggies of the season, etc. We registered our business and got a license. We contacted city hall for zoning, to ensure we could run this business out of our two homes, as well as the local Health Board to find out exactly what had to be done to our kitchens so we would pass inspection, should that ever happen. We didn't want to have any problems with the government, at any level. We worked on a company name and logo, which we had a rubber stamp of made to stamp our different packaging that we had shopped for and decided upon. We bought various commercial kitchen supplies, such as large cutting boards for sandwich prep, and larger baking sheets to make bigger batches of cookies and bars.

The one thing we did wrong was to put the cart before the horse. The most important task of all, in my opinion was a little
market research to see if we would have enough interest in our service to consider venturing forth with it. So we made up a survey which consisted of a few different questions, and another list that we compiled of numerous companies around town, starting with the larger offices that had most employees. If I remember right, we sent out the first batch of surveys to those companies with at least 20 or more employees. We had enclosed self addressed stamped envelopes for the return of the completed surveys, and were quite saddened to receive less than 20 percent of those. There was some interest in our new venture, but not enough to consider going forward. So we sent out another batch, to companies that had between 10 and 20 employees. This time we received a higher percentage of replies, but a lower interest in our service. Our third and final mailing was to smaller offices, with five to ten employees.

When all was said and done from these three mailings, which were quite costly for stationary and postage, we decided that this great idea we had wasn't going to be profitable enough to bring in a bottom line that would make both of us enough income that was required, so we opted out of any further losses and kept with our secured incomes we already had working for someone else. It was a costly learning experience, and the one major thing I took away from it is to do your
market research first if you have an idea for a new business. That and a very large
commercial cutting board for my kitchen!


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