August 9, 2011
Ugh! That’s really the only word to describe the financial markets yesterday. With everyone predicting the end of the world as we know it, you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would think of starting up a business right now. With the entire global financial market on the verge of a nervous breakdown, is it really a good idea to start a business. Truth of the matter is that now is actually a great time to start a small business – if you do it right.
Unemployed or Underemployed? Employ yourself! – Unemployment is hovering around 9.2% and that doesn’t even take into account those who are underemployed. If you’re looking for a job right now, or looking for a job worthy of your skill set and background, you know that it’s brutal out there and every resume you send out seems to go into a giant black hole.
While it may seem crazy to start a business in an environment like this, it may actually be better to put yourself to work rather than waiting for someone else to give you a job. Use the skills you have and those business ideas you used to fantasize about while sitting in your office cube to good use and do something for yourself. Not to mention that a small business – food or otherwise – can be a source of income and it shouldn’t necessarily prohibit you from looking for a job. In fact, showing that you have the wherewithal, gumption, and mental fortitude to start a business while unemployed, regardless of its size, may actually help your resume float to the top of that next pile.
One of the great unemployed-to-small food business success stories is that of King of Pops. When the founder was downsized from AIG in the first part of the Great Recession he literally turned lemons into lemonade – or more correctly, into juicy delicious fruit ice pops known, inCentral America, as paletas. What started as one cart and a way to bring a little extra cash into his pockets has turned into one of the most successful mobile food business operations in theSoutheastern United States.
Employed but nervous about your next paycheck? – If you’re worried that your company might be considering a round of layoffs of if it’s already been explained that there will be no pay increases in 2012, starting your own small business is a way to take control of your own financial situation and try to bring in additional money. In this case, a part-time business like a farmers’ market booth or a small wedding cake business can be a way for you to work your regular 9-5 (who are we kidding – it’s more like 8-6 these days!) and start up something of your own on the side. In addition to being a source of additional revenue, a part-time business can be expanded to become a full-time business if you’re one day callously handed a pink slip under the guise of “corporate cost cutting.” As I always like to say, no one can ever fire me from my own business and when things are this uncertain that’s a very empowering feeling!
Being Small Is Feasible and Powerful! – Unlike other business models, a small food business can be started with minimal money. Startup costs obviously vary depending on what type of business you plan to start, but thinking small in these times can be a benefit. You may have always dreamed about starting a bakery, rather than go into debt to finance that consider starting smaller with a baked goods booth at a festival or other event. If you’ve always wanted to open up your own restaurant rather than trying to get a loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars, take a look at food trucks instead. In both those cases you can start your dream food business on a shoestring budget, build a customer base, and, when the economy improves, use that as a springboard to grow your business into something bigger. You may very well be the next Microsoft (which started during the recession of the 1970’s) of the food world and the skills you learn now about keeping a tight rein on the budget will be a huge benefit regardless of how big your business one day grows.
This Is A Great Time to Hire Outsourced Help – No matter how big or small the business you’re planning is, there are some key fundamentals that you should have in place when you launch including, at a minimum, a well-designed logo, packaging (if that is needed for your business), and a website. Of that 9.2% of people who are out of work, there are a multitude of unemployed graphic artists, web designers, and other skilled professionals who are anxious for work. While I always advocate paying people fairly for the work that they do, anyone you hire to help with outsourced tasks may be willing to negotiate their rate based on what you want and how much you are willing to pay.
There Is Still A Large Focus On Buying Local – One of the best things to come out of the ‘last’ recession of 2008 (we are not technically in a new recession, which is two quarters of negative growth, but to many it may already feel like we’re in another or, in some cases, the first one never ended) was the focus on buying locally-made products and locally-sourced ingredients. If you live in an area where “buy local” is an important factor in people’s buying decisions, this can help propel your small food business to success. Historically in recessions, people crave basic comfort items which explains, in part, why pie became so popular during 2008-2010. If you have an idea that harkens back to a simpler time and is made from locally-sourced ingredients you may just be sitting on the next big food trend idea!
Without a doubt, starting a business – be it big or small – is always a bit of a gamble and there is absolutely no guarantee that you will make money. That is why developing a business plan before you start is so important. However, if opening your own small food business is something you’ve always dreamed of, this may actually be a great time to jump in and give entrepreneurship a try.