October 15, 2018

Preparing For The Holidays

The holidays are rapidly approaching and for many food entrepreneurs, this can be a prime time to rack up sales. In this podcast we talk with Eric Rupart from Nutkrack about how he’s using his 40+ years in the food industry to help him plan for his company’s very first holiday sales season.

Jennifer: Eric, thank you so much for joining us today.

Eric: Oh, thanks for having us.

Jennifer: Very excited to talk to you about your company but also to be talking about what you are doing to get ready for the holidays. Before anybody shoots daggers and arrows at me, I realize that at least up here in the Pacific Northwest the trees are just starting to change, but for entrepreneurs it’s really important to be forward thinking when it comes to the holidays.

Jennifer: Before we get to that though, can you tell us a little bit about your company and how it got its start, a bit about you as well. I had done some reading before we were talking today and I read that all of this started from a mistake, so I want to know if that’s true.

Eric: It is true. I have a well deserved reputation for making lots of mistakes. I just try to make them new and different each time. It’s not like I set out to make them, I just seem to make them a lot. As chefs are wont to do, 13 or 14 years ago I had, I think it was seven or eight different pots going and I wanted to make candied pecans in the same way that I had always made them for a salad for a dinner that I was having that night. At about an hour and a halfish of pecans in a, boiling them in a simple syrup as I always had, and got distracted as I’m also wont to do and scooped the pecans, thinking they were something else, and put them into another pot and then instantly realized what I had done. I think I might have said bad words and then scooped them out and put them on a sheet pan and just thought, “Well, I’ll get rid of them when they cool down and I’m cleaning up.”

Eric: Finished up all the prep and about an hour or so later was looking at the pan and noticed they look good. They didn’t look like what I thought they’d look like and they looked good so I nibbled on one. I think a lot of chefs will tell you this, that food always tastes better when somebody else makes it.

Jennifer: Yes.

Eric: It’s so true. It almost doesn’t matter what it is. When I nibbled on the pecan I didn’t know what to expect and I thought, “That’s actually really good. That’s really good,” because we can be pretty objective about the food that we make. It’s kind of our responsibility as professional chefs to know when something is going to be very appealing. “Oh wow, that’s got a lot going for it there.”

Eric: I kept cleaning up and it made quite a mess. About an hour later, hour and a half later, I was wrapping everything up and I got to that pan and they were gone. That pound and a half of pecans were gone. I knew or at least I thought I knew that I was the only person in the building at the time and I remember snacking on them a little bit. I ate the whole pound and a half. I don’t do stuff like that. It sort of struck me as, “Wow, they were that good? All right.”

Eric: A week or so later I got around to trying to recreate them and did, added a little bit of ingredient and tried to track better the technique that I was using. They turned out really well and I shared them. This holds true to this day, several thousand pounds later that I’ve made, I’ve been a chef for, I wasn’t a chef in 1979 but I started my food career in 1979. I’d like to think that I’ve made a lot of really good food along the way. I’ve worked with some really pretty well known restaurants and I think I’ve made pretty good food. I’ve never seen people react to anything I’ve made the way they react to Nutkrack. They’re delighted. They light up, they get excited, they smile. They want to share it, they want to spread the good word right away. Oh, okay.

Eric: That year, because during the holidays you know how we’re all running around like demented squirrels, and I don’t know. I feel like everybody I know, with the exception of kids in my life, but we don’t need more stuff. Everybody’s got too much stuff already, plus chefs are oftentimes working during the holidays when everybody else is having fun. It’s not a complaint, it’s a choice that we make, but we just don’t have the time to run around and buy more stuff for people. I started giving them away as holiday gifts and people loved them.

Eric: That circle got a little larger over the years and then one year I was even too busy to make them for friends and family and people that genuinely love me, but when I didn’t give them to them, they were genuinely angry with me. I thought, “Okay.” Of course people along the way kind of joking, “Oh, you should start a business, you should start a business,” so sort of stuck in the back of my mind and enjoyed making them and giving them away. That’s kind of how they got their start in terms of conception.

Eric: I think the idea of a business started maybe three or four years ago. It just sort of, I noticed it in the back of my mind. We were on vacation with some of my most beloved friends and family and I watched this small group of people over the course of about two hours and we’re talking like three or four people eat a three pound bag of these things.

Jennifer: Oh wow.

Eric: Without even realizing they’d eaten a three pound bag of them and then get kind of upset when they realized they were gone. I laughed at them and they said, “You really need to start a business.” To my mind, I had the best chef’s job in the country at Epic and had worked a whole career to get there and I love my job and I had no intention of leaving it, but I noticed that little voice in the back of my head growing and growing, sort of in a, oh, how do I put it? Like I need to listen to that voice. That could be my path, that could be something that I need to do.

Eric: Then that same group of people that day, started batting around ideas. I didn’t actually participate. I just was, I think I was reading. I eat them because I have to make sure every batch tastes good. And when I say batch, every batch is, we make them about two, two and half pounds at a time. It is a labor of love to get these things right. It’s really easy to make them poorly or make them kind of okay. It’s really hard to make them really really perfect. Anyways, I think I was off reading a book, but they managed to come up with a name for it. They batted around a bunch of ideas, and they came up with the name, and I kind of chuckled, “Now that’s cute.” It stuck, and that’s what we ended up naming it.

Eric: Then fast forward a couple more years and my oldest son, Kellen, came to me and he’s in college and he was doing fine. But he’s like, “You know, I really want to make my mark. I really want to do something big and I want to sink my teeth into something.” I think that’s what tripped me into it. The time felt right. I’d spent nine years as the executive chef at Epic, leading a team of 210 people and feeding 9,000 or 10,000 people every day from scratch. Actually, closer to 7,000 to 10,000 people a day from scratch. With a menu that changes every day. There was never a sense of been there, done that. Every day was a great challenge, and still is, cause I still work there.

Eric: It just felt like the time was right. I put myself in his shoes when I was that age and remembered feeling that drive to really do something. Everything from there, and I did warn you, I can be a little long winded. It’s just worked out really well. Epic’s been extraordinarily supportive. They allowed me to change my role from executive chef to still a chef and still a team lead and I still lead a team, but I’m just not responsible for the entire operation. So that’s great. That’s my day job. And my son, sure enough is up to his eyeballs in Nutkrack, and he also has a full time job.

Eric: Somebody that I actually worked with at Epic, who left to spend more time with their family, but still wanted to work a few hours and is super, super, super smart and very organized and very disciplined, unlike me. She takes care of … Admin is just too simple of a word. She’s great at corralling really good ideas and making a plan. She’s also really honest, so if they’re really bad ideas, we worked together for a long time. She’ll say, “Eric, that’s just a bad idea. We’re not gonna do that.” She thinks I’m joking, but it’s the best money I spend every month is the money I pay her.

Jennifer: It’s always good to have somebody like that on your team, who can especially refute the bad ideas. That you think are really into the moment.

Eric: Yeah. I’ve come up with so many bad ideas over the years. Usually I’ll preface most of what I say around here, I’ll say, “You know, guys. I’m kinda thinking out loud. So this may or may not be a good idea.” That gives them license to, you know, “Nyeh, no. We’re not doing that.” It’s great, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If I had the top 10 lessons I’ve learned over the years, that would be one. Find people that compliment your strengths and weaknesses, and vice versa. We can’t be good at everything. We each have our roles here, and we really enjoy it. Honestly, we’re working our tails off, and we’re having a ball.

Jennifer: Can you tell-

Eric: It doesn’t mean every day is-

Jennifer: Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.

Eric: No, like I said, I’ll just kinda keep going until you tell me to shut up.

Jennifer: I was gonna ask about the sales channels that you’re currently using to sell your products.

Eric: Yep. So we have a brick and mortar store. And we’re in this great neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin. Terrific food community. Lots of great food going on and has been for a long time. We’re very mutually supportive of one another. We took over a building that has, in my mind, one of the best chocolatiers in the country, Gail Ambrosius Chocolates, was in the building that we’re in now. We took over her space. She moved directly across the street. She’s an old friend and colleague. It’s been just great. People come to this neighborhood. We’ve got a Laotian restaurant and Nepali restaurant and a diner and wine.

Eric: It’s a great neighborhood to be in. So we’ve got the brick and mortar. We’ll go out to little fairs and markets. We sell direct that way. No surprise, we wanna sell as much as possible directly to people. Then, of course, we’ve got wholesale. We focused very much on local wholesale. Probably about 20 different … they range in size from small wine bars or cool craft beer places all the way to large grocery stores locally. Then Door County, which is a beautiful little peninsula in Wisconsin. It’s touristy, but really cool touristy area. We peppered that and pretty much any place walk into says, “Oh, yeah, we want that.” It’s worked out really well. We’re so tiny. I already described our entire staff to you. We’re not open during the week. We’re only open during the weekends. That’s gonna change come November.

Jennifer: OK.

Eric: So I mentioned Gail Ambrosius Chocolates. She’s right across the street. She’s like, “We’re tired of watching people come to your door Monday through Friday and not be able to get in,” so she actually sells it for us across the street in her shop.

Jennifer: Oh, wow.

Eric: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s just so wonderful. Then the web. The web is somewhere between voodoo and magic as far as I can tell. I know that there’s some science to it, but you get everything going. We knew that it was going to be the thing that took the longest to develop sales on. I was right, absolutely right. It’s growing, but it’s so mysterious that … Is it gonna grow? Are we gonna get 10 more orders a week? How is it gonna grow? What’s it gonna look like? We very much wanna grow that part of our business. There’s only a million gazillion people out there that we’re pretty sure would love Nutkrack. We’re pretty easy to get ahold of, and we’ll ship it to you. Driving people to the website and getting orders, we’re certainly grateful for what we’ve got thus far. It is growing. We know during the holidays it’s gonna get very, very busy. I get impatient sometimes. I want it all to happen right now.

Jennifer: So let’s ask you about that question. You’re anticipating that the holidays are gonna be busy and that you’re gonna have the retail store open during the week. Explain to us so somebody who’s listening and who hasn’t had your product yet. Why do you think that Nutkrack is going to have strong holiday sales.

Eric: Number one, it tastes great. Number two, I think nuts … people are more likely to think about nuts or candied nuts at that time of the year. From a price point, we make three sizes and they each fit a nice price point. For those that have had it. We estimate in the three and a half months that we’ve been opened, we’ve handed out about 22,000 samples.

Jennifer: Wow.

Eric: Let’s just say that maybe 2,000 of those people have had repeat samples. That’s fine. We’re on a bit of a mission to get people to try it. They may or may not buy it at that time, but we’re pretty confident that if they know what it is, when the time is right to get something, that they will think of us and they’ll come by or they’ll order it. I think there is a tradition of giving nuts during the holidays. They’re also super fun. The packaging is very fun. This is not how I was raised, so with apologies to my mother. They’re so darn good that they kinda take you by surprise. Yeah, all right, that’s nice, they’re candied nuts, that’s great. And then you try them, and like, “Oh, these are amazing! Where did you get those! Those are the best gift.” So we get a lot of folks that come into the shop that either gifted them previously and it just worked out really well, or they were given some and now they’re going to a party or they need to get a gift. I would say half of the people that buy them are getting them as gifts.

Jennifer: OK. Yeah, so then, yes, the holidays would be a prime time for you.

Eric: Would be absolute prime time. I can’t tell you the number of times, “Oh, these are going in the stockings.”

Jennifer: Yep.

Eric: We hear that all the time. The sizes that we make, they would actually fit into the stocking. Parties and gatherings. Lots of people bring wine or booze to parties as a host or hostess gift. More and more people are bringing these, and that’s working out really well.

Jennifer: As you are anticipating that the holidays are going to be big. Especially given your background as a professional chef, and understanding production and all of that. How have you been planning for the holidays? Up to this point, and I’ll use up to this point, meaning you’re not necessarily ready to start producing thousands of batches today. How have you been planning for that, from a production and operation standpoint. How much of this am I going to need?

Eric: Great question. At least to my mind, a fairly straightforward answer. I printed out calendars with every day of the month and put all of the events that we’ve got on there and all of the days that we’re open for business and any special orders that we’ve got. Some of it’s a bit of crystal balling, but I think then we just back up the numbers. My biggest concern is that I’m underestimating. I’m sure you’ve heard this before and many people have been in this position. Pecans aren’t cheap. A pallet of pecans with freight. They come from New Mexico. Is about $7,800. We’re gonna need between … and then there’s packaging and labeling and all the things that go along with it. We’re gonna need about $30,000 worth of stuff. And we’re a brand new business that’s been open for about three and a half months that opened five months later than we had hoped. So we went through all of our reserve money. That part, I might loose a little bit of sleep over. But in terms of the math? I’m pretty conservative in that I’ll build in some cushion.

Eric: I also tend to push the production schedule so that we have everything I think we’ll need for the holidays pretty much done by the beginning of December. That way if I’m wrong, because they’ve got a really good shelf life. They’re good for five or six months from the time of packaging. That way, if I’m wrong we can just make more. There’s places that are huge compared to us and there’s places that are smaller. In a day, we can produce and package and label and get in cases, somewhere around 200 pounds.

Jennifer: Oh, okay.

Eric: Now, that doesn’t make 200 units. If they’re quarter pounds, then that’s 800 units. If they’re half pounds, 400 units. It’s not a lot, but if you just, every day you come in. And that’s what we’re doing. Every day we come in. We make a batch. We might make two batches. To use the squirrel and nut metaphor, we’re just squirreling away as many as we can. The tricky part is, we’re trying to sell as much as we can now, so we can generate the money so that we can get the next pallet of pecans. We’re just walking a razors edge.

Jennifer: I literally was just envisioning a tight rope as you said that.

Eric: It really is. Thankfully I don’t need to, at this point, the company, the business doesn’t need to pay me. So we’re paying part to my son, who is part time, and Jess, who’s part time. That’s pretty much our payroll right there. So that helps. Rent’s reasonable. Everything else is pretty reasonable. Couple of loans we’ve already paid off. The good news is we were not crazy profitable, but we didn’t lose right outta the gate. We either broke even or made a little bit of money coming right out of the gate.

Jennifer: That’s huge for the food business, or for food in general. That’s huge.

Eric: I remember looking at the PNL after a month on and said, “You sure? Really?” But again, we’re so small. What I can’t tell from listening to your podcasts and others is, “Where do we fit in in terms of size?” In terms of staffing, we’re just tiny. To my mind, that’s great. We can adjust very quickly. We’re very agile. A team like I worked with at Epic. It’s a bit of an aircraft carrier. It’s not designed to turn on a dime. We can make plans, and we do, in great detail. But if we need to change, it’s much easier to do that. We assume when we make the plans that there’s gonna be all sorts of little micro and not so micro changes along the way. I think it’s important to just know that going into it.

Jennifer: Yeah, that’s very true.

Eric: I think people write business plans and everything goes according to plan. I imagine that actually happens out in the world. It’s certainly not happening here. We build in time and the assumption that things will change, and we need to be ready. First of all, to learn to be receptive and perceptive. Put your ego … we really don’t have much of that. We work on the assumption that we’ve got everything to learn because we’re all new at it. That helps a lot. We’re not attached to doing anything any particular way, aside from how we make the pecans.

Jennifer: So what about in terms of … you mentioned that you sat down, basically, with a calendar to literally pencil stuff in to figure out the math for the production side of it, with the goal of having that production in place, or having that inventory in place by the beginning of December. What about marketing? And because you also have these different retail channels. Some are going out to events. There’s your retail store, obviously. Your wholesale accounts. Is there anything different you’re gonna do to support them during the holidays. Then online. That’s a lot of different pieces. So I guess I actually have two questions. One is: did you and your team, did you pick and choose and say, “You know what, we can’t do everything, so here is where we’re gonna focus our energy from a marketing standpoint this year.” Also, when did you sit down, or did you sit down and did you plan out anything that you want to do marketing wise heading into the holidays?

Eric: Sure. I don’t know if this makes complete business sense, but in my gut it makes sense. When we go out and do events. I mentioned the estimate of 22,000 samples. As you can imagine, there’s a cost involved in that. We did an event last night. A local bodega. Beautiful night. Lot of fun. Sales were okay. We sampled out, and we’re genuinely excited about this. About 950 samples. To us, that’s the marketing. That’s everything. I might be biased because I’m a chef and I get super excited about food, but experience has taught us. When we watch people try them, they may or may not buy them then and there. A lot of people do. I’ve been told that our actual sell through rate when we sample is extraordinarily high. That’s great. I wouldn’t know any different, cause that’s what we’ve always seen.

Eric: What we do hear a lot is, “Well I tried them at the bodega or the Madison night market or whatnot. I didn’t need them then, but here I am now.” I believe that that just comes around. In time, that just comes around. That’s the part where I get impatient, because I can feel it building. It is in fact snowballing. We’re still just tapped into the Madison market, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We’ve got [inaudible 00:27:11] larger grocery stores. I’ll go and spend two or three hours sampling out there. Once again, the buyer or the person that sets up the demos is left amazed. We have a standing offer now at one of Madison’s best grocery stores. “You guys can just show up whenever you want.”

Jennifer: Oh, wow.

Eric: And bring three cases with you every time, because that’s what we’re gonna sell in the two hours you’re there. That’s 70 units in that amount of time. We focus our efforts there. It’s not necessarily money spent in the way that you typically spend marketing. We choose to market by getting people to try it. It takes time, but we are … I knew this going into it. You’ve seen the can. The labeling, it’s fun.

Jennifer: Oh, it is.

Eric: It’s cool. Honestly, if I was looking at that at the store and I didn’t really know what it was from an aesthetic or how does it taste, I’d be like, “Hmm, that’s a really cool can. I wonder if those are good or not.” But if you’ve had it, you go, “Oh, man. That was a really cool can, I can’t wait to get inside of it.” That’s how we choose to spend it. We’ve put a little money … it’s kind of fun, actually. I’m cheap. I’m super conservative with money. Partly because this is a brand new business that blew through all of its reserve fund. We don’t really have a lot. We find that Facebook. You can spend $10 and target a particular area or particular group. It’s pretty easy to see what comes back from that. I was given that recommendation by a number of other businesses. I think I’ve spent a total of maybe $80 bucks. We like what we’ve seen.

Jennifer: OK. Interesting.

Eric: Both in terms of what works and what doesn’t. Doesn’t mean that it’s always driving people here or to the website, but you get a feel for how that mechanism works and how does it work for us.

Jennifer: That’s a good point to bring up. For a lot of … I feel like as food entrepreneurs, we always hear these stories of, “Oh, so and so did this on Facebook or on Instagram or wherever and it did amazing for them.” Not to say you shouldn’t go try it, but to your point, every business is different. Every consumer group who is buying from is different. Just because something was a rock star sellout for one business doesn’t necessarily mean you should go and dump all of your marketing dollars into that and expect the same results tomorrow for your business.

Eric: Yes. I couldn’t agree more. I think you have to stay grounded in who you are. You even asked about, can we find the time as … This is how I heard your question. In the midst of being a brand new business and ramping up for the holidays and being really busy and having other jobs and working 90 hours a week. Do we find the time to be strategic about how we want to market and plan? Yes, we do. We dedicate … and we say it’s the most important two hours of our week. We sit down every Wednesday night and we look back on the week and what worked, what didn’t. We look at what got done, what didn’t. What needs to get done. That’s really important, but I think more than anything … and maybe it’s mostly my job, because I’m also aware of the effect of culture on business. When you’re really tired, and sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes the other guys are tired, sometimes they’re not. It’s easy to lose sight of … most people when they’re in the dream phase of a business, they imagine … you just can’t possibly imagine all of the millions of little ducks that are nibbling at your heals all the time. You can’t fathom that. Then when you get into it, you’re just surrounded by them constantly.

Eric: And that’s fine. But it’s really easy to lose sight of things like what’s important, who are we, who do we want to be, how do we maintain our integrity and our identity, how do we build our identity, how do we articulate our identity? We’re always asking those questions as well, and that typically leads us do what I think is reasonably good, reasonably simple solution for how to message who we are and what we are. But at the end of the day, you just gotta try it. You have to eat it. That’s just gonna take some time. It’s one of the reasons I love the holidays, honestly. We’re gonna go from selling 200, 300, 400 pounds a week. In a good week, we might hit those numbers. We could be selling 2,000 pounds a week. That, instantly, automatically, my brain goes to, “That’s awesome. Now we’ve got thousands of people. Thousands and thousands of people that know what it tastes like.”

Jennifer: I love too how you talked about … not even your approach, but your attitude. That’s the right word. Your attitude towards sampling is one truly of marketing. I feel in talking to a whole lot of food entrepreneurs. Often times, there’s this hesitation to sample because it does cost money and it does cost time. It’s frustrating sometimes to just be sampling. If you don’t see that return sale immediately. It’s correct from a marketing standpoint. But it’s also correct from an accounting standpoint in that sampling would fall under your marketing bucket in your chart of accounts. When it comes to food, nine times out of ten, people want to be able to taste it before they’re going to buy. It’s like the old adage of catering. That’s why caterers do samples a lot of times. Wedding cake people do samples before people put in orders with them. Again, I think as you know, a lot of times in the produced food side, we get caught up in this negativity around sampling cause it does seem like it’s money going out the door. You’ve got a great attitude towards it.

Eric: Again, as being somewhat new to this, I was not aware that there was a negative perception. We’re the opposite end of that spectrum. We look for opportunities to sample it out and welcome that. Even if we go to an event and sales … there was an even at Madison night market recently and sales were fine, but I think we handed out almost 3,000 samples that night. We’re genuinely … of course we have to pay attention to how much money we brought in. That’s important. I don’t mean to downplay that, but one of the first things we talk about is how many portion cups did we go through? “We went through 3,000? That’s amazing. That’s awesome.” That’s part of our … mission is too strong of a word, but that’s a big part of our plan. Also it’s super fun because we get to watch people’s faces when they buy it. Pecans, yeah we get a range of, “Oh, I love pecans,” or, “Meh, I’m not much of a nut person,” or, “I don’t like nuts.” All of them lose their minds. “That’s amazing.” So we get to watch that reaction, so it’s super fun on our end.

Eric: When we cost out the product. Obviously pecans are not inexpensive. We factor it into what we charge. We have to. We just have to. Next thing is, a sample can be two pecan halves. That’s all you really need to give them. I can tell you exactly what a pecan half of a Nutkrack costs. We figured that part out. It also makes for really strong partnerships. That’s what we’ve noticed. Places where we go and demo, the staff is much more likely to be supportive of that product. Sometimes when we make deliveries to some of our wholesale accounts, we’ll actually bring an extra can or two, just for the people that are checking it in and receiving it, so you’ve got an awareness and an excitement and an appreciative enthusiasm for the product as well. That’s yielding good results so far.

Jennifer: Let’s say, if you could envision, you’re at this Wednesday meeting and it’s an early January after everything’s been cleaned up, tallied up. You’re finally having a chance to breath after the holidays. In a perfect world, what would you guys sit there and say about the holiday season?

Eric: First off, I think the first thing we would all note is a sense of gratitude for the effort that we ourselves put in. For each other. I think more importantly, for the support that we received. I’m new … I’ve been in kitchens for forty-something years. I’ve never worked the retail end of things. I’ll say, any time anybody comes through the front door, I’m just like, “Wow. That’s amazing. Somebody’s here!” I see that in my son and in Jess too. We’re super grateful. We feel very supported. We look at any time somebody makes that purchase as a form of supporting us. I think gratitude: number one. It’s pretty easy to forget, because there’s a lot of effort that goes into … between now and the end of the year, we’re … I can’t remember what the number is. It’s probably about 4,500 pounds of Nutkrack between now and the end of the year. Again, that’s not just 4,500 units. It’s a lot.

Eric: Again, with the staff size that we have. It’s going to be a lot of work. Part of our culture here is … I remind, both as an employee but also as my son, that having a body and a mind that can work hard. That is a blessing. We are fortunate, and we like it. We like the challenge. We like … not every facet of it, but we generally feel really grateful that we’re able to work. If we have to work 16 hours that day? All right, let’s do it. Let’s make four batches. Let’s get it done. We also have, in the bullpen, we have our youngest son. Colson. He’s 14. He can come in and he can help with the packaging. He’s really busy making, I just have to throw this out there because I’m still sort of amazed. He makes really high end kitchen knives. He’s a blacksmith. He’s a blade smith.

Eric: I asked him. I just sort of marvel. We use his knives at work. They’re amazing. Everybody wants them. He does sell them. He’s really super busy with that, while going to high school and being 14. “How did you learn how to do this, Colson?” He’s like, “I dunno. YouTube.” Seriously, I don’t know what you were doing when you were 14. I was doing dumb stuff.

Jennifer: Yeah, I was. I was just thinking, I have a four year old daughter and I was like, “Wow, she could end up going to high school, helping out one business and running her own business, I’d be pretty darn proud.”

Eric: He’s been doing it for three or four years now, so you’d think I’d be used to it. Every knife he makes is somewhere between art and a tool. Absolutely stunningly beautiful. If there is such a thing as past lives, he must have done this in a past life. Other knife makers just look at his stuff and go, “How does he know how to do that?” Anyways, he’ll pitch in too. Sorta reeling myself back in. When we sit down in January … I would love to be able to … and Jess said a really smart thing. She sat down and mapped out every anticipated expense and what we will anticipate taking in and basically timelined it. If you strung it all together, it’s maybe three feet long. It’s just day by day by day. Here’s what’s going out, here’s what’s coming in. That helps me.

Eric: I can not have to worry about that piece of it. We made the right amount that we reacted. I think this is maybe the most important thing. We set ourselves up in a way that we were able to react appropriately. That we were able to react strategically. That are able to react smartly, if that’s a word. That we were in a position to make really good decisions when important micro and macro decisions needed to be made. That we met the challenge. That we embrace the challenge. That we still had fun doing it. That we supported each other. There’ll be an element of, “Phew. We did it. We made it.” All right. What did we learn? I’ve learned this the hard way in my work over the years. When you go through large events. In my job at Epic we do … our company picnic, for instance, is for 14,000 or 15,000 people. It’s critically important to capture the feedback either in the moment or right … set aside time, right after the event. Right after the first of the year.

Eric: Say what worked and what didn’t. Be really honest, really candid, and say, “How do we do it differently next time around?” Again, I think in that decompression, which naturally will come, don’t lean back too far. Say in it, “We know what we’re gonna be focusing on in the first quarter of next year, which is expanding our wholesale beyond the Madison market. We’ll start looking at Chicago and Milwaukee. We’re gonna need it. We can’t stay this size forever. We don’t want to. I know, in time … I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball. I firmly believe and have faith that, in time. The more people that try it and know it. That will allow us to expand our reach and our sales. And word of mouth too. That certainly helps.

Jennifer: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, Eric, thank you so much. I really appreciate it and certainly wish you the best of luck this holiday season. As always, for folks that are listening, we will include a transcript and all the links on our website, so you can go and learn more about Nutkrack there.

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