November 1, 2013

Jumping Off Into The Unknown

starting a small food businessI get questions all the time from aspiring entrepreneurs or part-time entrepreneurs who are looking to go full-time about how to know when the time is right to take that leap into entrepreneurship. I wish there was a magic formula that would tell you exactly the right time, like you could accumulate enough points and then know that you’re ready. But entrepreneurship isn’t like that – it’s a combination of preparation and faith. And that can be absolutely terrifying!

Trust me, I get it. I’ve been there not once but twice now and each time that point where I stood at the precipice and looked over made my heart flutter with fear. What you’re asking yourself to do is leave the comfortable and known and jump off that ledge, hoping that your wings will actually carry you. And even if they do, what are they carrying you into? You have a rough idea of what your future entrepreneurial life might look like, but you can’t know for sure.

When I started my first food business the precipice didn’t bother me too much. Just out of graduate school, I had a few job offers in front of me but nothing that made me really excited and I’d been spending every free minute at school starting a business out of my living room so I figured I might as well go ahead and give it a shot (it definitely helped when Neiman Marcus called a few weeks before graduation and said they’d love to carry my products).

This time was different. For the past few years I’ve been working on this site, the associated books, and food business consulting/coaching while also having one consistent marketing consulting job that accounted for about 20-hours a week and provided me with a steady paycheck. It was with an organization I love and believe in so the 50-50 time split seemed perfect. But over the last 3.5 years where I’ve been working on both this site and the marketing consulting job, this site has grown tremendously and so too has my dreams for what it can become. I know I say this time and time again, but I really do want this site to be the business resource for food entrepreneurs because I passionately believe that artisan food needs to be a bigger part of our national and world diet for the good of our farmers, our entrepreneurs, and our consumers.

Which is what brought me to my current ledge. I wanted the site to grow but in order to do so I needed more time. I’d squeezed every second of time I had out of my life – working pretty much every weekend and night and still not finding enough time to do everything I wanted to (not to mention ignoring my family in the process) and to do it all well. So I finally had to look over the edge and ask myself what I was going to do. Was I going to continue with what was safe and comfortable or was I ready to break ties with the marketing consulting gig so I could focus full-time on Small Food Business.

Despite my fears and apprehensions about not knowing what the future might hold, I took a deep breath and jumped. As of January I will be working full-time on Small Food Business and have even rented a small office in a national historic building that used to be a grocery warehouse (which, honestly, seemed like a sign from the universe). I’m excited but terrified all at the same time.

So how do you know when you’re ready to become an entrepreneur? Like I said, there’s no secret formula I can share with you other than getting as ready as you possibly can (making sure your finances are in order, getting your business plan written, etc.) and then at some point trusting your instincts and making that jump.

What about you? Did you hesitate at the ledge before jumping off? Or if you’re currently at that ledge, what sorts of things are going through your mind?

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10 comments on “Jumping Off Into The Unknown

  • Jane S on said:

    How exciting!! Good luck! I imagine it will be incredibly rewarding. I look forward to your updates on how it’s all going.

  • Tom H on said:

    That is super exciting yet scary at the same time I’m sure. I listen to personal finance podcasts by a man named Dave Ramsey and he gets this question a lot from people. He recommends keeping the “comfortable” gig until the business your building can replace your income from the “comfortable” gig. Another thing he teaches is to build the business debt free if possible. Some people don’t think that it can be done but we have built our pretzel business debt free and it is my wife’s full time gig. We hope to grow it big enough that I can leave my full time job and come work with her.

    • smallfoodbiz on said:

      Totally agree with trying to be as debt-free as possible. At least in my case where I’m pretty financially conservative to begin with and debt will keep me up at night worrying (rather focusing on the business). But that’s still money coming out of your bank account which is a leap of faith in and of itself. I mentioned to someone the other day that entrepreneurship is a bit like the lottery. The odds may be a bit more in your favor because of the research you’ve done/work you’re doing, but there are no guarantees! I hope to soon hear that you’re working full-time in the business with your wife!

  • Anthony Roach on said:

    I am currently looking over the cliff. Wow, what a long, long way down! I am happy to have the support of my wife and family, but it is still scary. I can start my business with the right financial support as well, but it is happening a little too fast to adjust to it. The nice thing is that I am providing engineering and operations consulting to small and mid-size food companies (shameless plug, hey, we all have to market ourselves, right) so the capital cost is nearly nothing. The downside is the turmoil with Obamacare and not knowing how that will impact my expenses. But at some point I guess we all have to take a deep breath and jump. Geronimo….

  • Thembi Johnson on said:

    I hear that question a lot. I tell people it’s just like skydiving, you have to be a bit stupid, fearless and brave all at the same time. I’ve made the jump once and will do it again (soon I hope) and I get the same feeling I felt when skydiving, nervous, scared, excited…

    Good Luck on your leap and I can’t wait to take mine.

    • smallfoodbiz on said:

      Good luck to you too – what a perfect description. We entrepreneurs are a mixture of fearlessness and stupidity with a heaping cup of brave. I think that pretty well sums it up!