And more advice from Jennifer Behar, Founder/CEO of Jennifer's Homemade. In 2005, Jennifer's Homemade was born out of a passion for baking and the inspiration to create delicious products with integrity and quality. Their breadsticks and flatbread are made from scratch with only the finest natural ingredients. Extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh rosemary in their recipes create a distinctive flavor in every bite. They sell their breadsticks and flatbread to restaurants, hotels, and gourmet markets across the country.
1. Don't Take More than you need
When I started, I rented space in different bakeries, and then I ultimately built out my own space. I set up a relatively large facility thinking I will grow into this; I will need this. And while we used it, it was more than I needed at the time. When 2008 came about, and things got tough, I ended up downsizing, taking what I needed. That turned out to be a good move. I would recommend not to take more than you need until you need it. And now I wish I had all that space, but it was the thing to do at the time to save my business.
It is hard to know what you need and plan for the future. Now we are busting at the seams. It is better to be in this position than not overspending on space. Now I am looking at our next move, and I keep reminding myself how we started. I am looking at moving to a co-manufacturer to accelerate growth. It is a smarter way to grow, though it is tough to let go.
2. Don't think you can do everything yourself
While I can do everything, I have learned that I will never grow the way I want to grow if I try to do everything myself. Mistakes will be made if you do everything yourself. There are people that are smarter than you in different areas of the business. I recently brought in a marketing team, and I have a sales team and more help. All of this is helping me grow smartly.
At the beginning of the business, it didn't even occur to me to go to a co-manufacturer. I was in my home kitchen baking. I quickly got out of my home kitchen and rented space after hours at a bakery. I was selling to a couple of stores. It escalated quickly, but it was still small. Most co-manufactures need specific volumes. I kept moving; I just kept doing it on my own.
About 3-5 years ago, I decided to grow and scale the business. I updated our packaging and streamlined my product line to focus on growth. So now we are growing, and now I am figuring out how I manage growth.
3. Don't take no for an answer!
No is maybe! I have had plenty of people say we are not bringing your product in, and I take that as a not now. There have been plenty of people who have said stay in touch. You build relationships, and you keep moving forward. Eventually, if you have a good product, it will ultimately turn into a yes, which is happening to me now. I have these relationships, and people are coming back around years later. It is exciting, and it is nice to know that people who I met years ago are finally now customers.
4. Don't tell everyone your dreams
Not too many people can see what you can see. When you are building a business, you are doing something that has never been done before in some capacity. Some people are either not going to support you or don't have your vision. You need to share with certain people who can help you, but not everybody will be able to do that. Sometimes you need to keep your circle tight.
It is a different mindset being an entrepreneur. I came from an entrepreneurial family, but I have taken more risks than them for sure. I mortgaged my house to do this business. I believed in what I was doing and kept going. "Get a job; you can make more money." I heard that a lot. I would say, "yeah, but I have a big goal in mind. I am building something here. It is not about the salary I am taking today; it is about the brand I am building and something bigger down the road." Ultimately, it would be nice to make a ton of money and sell this, but it is more significant than that for me.
5. Believe in yourself!
Believe in yourself, believe in your product. Don't lose sight of that no matter what happens. When things got tough, and I was ready to walk away, I thought, what do I do to figure it out. It doesn't have to be perfect. I can be a perfectionist, but being flawless can work against you. You want things to be as good as they can and then make it move forward.
Dealing with all of the challenges is tough. One of the things that I will say is that you think that things will get easier at a certain level, and it doesn't. Problems get bigger. It doesn't necessarily get easier. I think it is being able to roll with the punches and knowing that you will have ups and downs. It is not for the faint of heart!