ears ago, when I picked up my grandmother’s blue mixing bowl and my mother’s favorite spoon with a hole in it and whipped out a few rosemary focacce to sell at a local market, I had no idea that eight years later, a company called Buona Forchetta Hand Made Breads would be selling 60 products to over 200 accounts in the Los Angeles area, each one of those products made by hand.
If you are thinking of starting to sell your own product, no matter what it might be, perhaps these simple rules might spur you on.
— Have a product you believe in. But don’t stop there. Try it out on everyone you know, even the media, and then listen to their criticism. You may still think your product is fine the way it is, but if nine out of 10 people tell you something else, listen. We were lucky. People responded to us positively all along the way, but we still listened to ideas from anyone and everywhere
— Have demos of your product. Send it to the media and anyone who will talk about you to others. Get a website and links from your friends who have sites. Design a great logo, get business cards, and leave them everywhere. Your logo should be simple and have impact.
— Always listen to your customers, especially the ones who have complaints. Hear them, be humane in your acknowledgement of their problem, and then find a solution. There always is one.
— Have a partner, if possible, someone who shares you ethics regarding how to treat people and manage money, and has the same love of the product or service you are creating. In my case, it was my husband, a very optimistic problem analyst who complemented my artistic, crazed-weasel nature by staying calm and objective. Remember, only one of you is allowed to be crazy at any one time, while the other does the deep-breathing.
— Think unconventionally. My husband was a screenwriter, and I was an illustrator, even though I had cooked and baked since the age of five and loved creating new, original products. Still, we were not business people, and I think this served us very well. It gave us myriad opportunities to make mistakes (the best way to learn) or, possibly, find a unique solution that could not possibly have been found in any book.
— Treat your employees as you would treat your best friends. And try to treat yourself and your partner the same way. Be curious. Be so curious that you simply cannot imagine not taking the next step, just to see where it leads. I read something once in Oprah’s O magazine that will stay with me always: Leap, and the net will appear.
— Follow your heart and intuitions, every day, one after the other, and keep the quality of your product ever present in your mind. Who knows, one day, after hard work and persistence and great experiences and sometimes terrible failures but always adventures around every corner, a nice big company that likes your product and your business will make you an offer you can’t refuse and you’ll end up realizing your dream to live in Europe and think up new projects.
It happened to us, and if it could happen to us, naïve as we were, unskilled as we were, sometimes bumbling as we were, it can happen to anyone.