In a previous post I wrote about the stages involved in the research and testing of historical breads (read here) this process invariably involves a thorough research which often begins with the revision of either digital of physical bibliography, comparing variations, going cake and forth different sources and begin the recipe testing itself.
I also shared how I decided to become an entrepreneur and setting up a microbakery with a subscription scheme (read here) I ran the bakery for four months, although this was quite a constrain period of time, it allowed me to: obtain an immediate source of income, rapidly test recipes, learn from trial and error different marketing strategies, customer relations, understand the basic logistics of managing, scaling up the production, managing the books, making the most of socialmedia platforms. And over all to measure “for reals” my weaknesses, strengths and areas of opportunities as a baker, researcher and business owner.
We seldom read stories of failure and success of people who change paths and pursue their true dreams, well for starters I tell you it’s possible, it can happen if you want it to happen but it won’t be exempt of hard work, sleepless nights, headaches, worries and fear (that was the bad news) the good news is that it’s also immensely rewarding, it allows you to prove to yourself that you are capable of achieving great things, to measure and pace your own personal and professional growth and then share your outcomes so you and others can learn and –hopefully-be inspired to go further, to try.
Self-business-assessment exercise here we go:
- Did becoming an entrepreneur mean a new challenge?
Yes! I mean who didn’t do car-washing in the summers or sold sweets to their friends as kids right? We seldom think of the risks and responsibilities involved when one actually owns the business. As young, eager and naïve professionals we were so often busy trying to further our careers as part of an organization, but even if we’ve had the opportunity to lead, manage and operate projects nothing really prepares you to being 100% responsible of the success or failure of your venture.
In my case I did the baking, delivering, marketing and all the logistics involved, many things to manage, many risks, but the key concept was: go at my own pace, grow with my skills.
- Did I handle with ease difficult and unexpected situations?
No and yes. It is natural to have a learning curve, it is difficult at first to distance yourself and see the risks and opportunities without getting to passionate or even emotional about it, after all it is your dream we’re talking about here, but I had to learn the hard way to be pragmatic about it. And it’s ok, that doesn’t mean that you care less but after two sleepless weeks in a row and orders to deliver, supplies to get, bills to pay, trust me you are forced to manage whatever energy you have left to just survive, dramas are a waste of time.
Baking on a subscription model allowed me to minimize the risk of not being able to sell a ready baked batch, I seldom was asked for “extra loaves” for those who had forgotten to submit their orders online. At first I had a 0 surplus policy but eventually I learnt to play with that and ended up baking from one to 3 extra loaves per delivery and always had a buyer for each.
- Did I remain curious and in continuous search of “discovery” to improve or innovate the way I did things?
Yes. However I don’t necessarily consider myself a naturally playful person when it comes to design and follow a methodology but I understood and learnt to first remain as calm as possible in an environment of uncertainty. The market’s unpredictability can cause great distress and makes it that much harder to set grand goals, even mid term goals but owning a small business gives you the unique opportunity to minimize risks and maximise flexibility to survive and thrive. It also helps a great deal if you have a business mentor and people cheering you through thick and thin. Read as many articles and tips as you can, ping pong ideas, read about similar cases and implement new strategies.
- Did I have confidence that I could carry on this project when I went ahead with it?
I used to be the kind of person that needed 100% + 5 to feel more or less assured when taking professional risks however my reality check proved that: I had 100% confidence in the quality and uniqueness of my products, my baking skills (in spite of being a self-taught baker with just a brief apprenticeship at a small bakery –read story here , here and here) I was told over and over again that feeling 80% ready or even 75% is enough to give me some decent leverage and give me a good push into the learning curve.
- Trust or distrust your instincts?
I’d say that in business “instincts” are actually the result of several things: experience, observation, intuition and understanding the market’s motivations and limits. I certainly didn’t start having all of these, not even now I’d dare claim I have them all, but I’ve learnt and started using these elements and grow at the speed of my own capacity to adapt, experiment and capitalize the results.
- Did I always learn from my failures?
As much as I could, yes. The most valuable lesson I learnt from this is to not see things in black and white, learning from failure is as important as learning from what you get right, because that is exactly what you want more of.
- After a failure, was I able to pick myself up and start over?
This will really put your resilience to the test but I learnt that it is not a matter of endurance but of keeping focused on the big goals and understand that failures are part of the learning process, but there are internal and external factors influencing the results and you need to learn how to distinguish them.
- Always, always… ALWAYS give your best.
When you’re the boss, the one man band, when only you watch your back but keep your eyes up front… you can’t cheat yourself! Give it your all because if you’ve made it possible for this to be the one chance to give your project a go, the only way to have concrete, measurable, objective results to analyse is to actually tick all the boxes and do it as professional as possible notwhistanding of your level of experience, otherwise it’ll be a waste of time and energy.