One of the benefits of starting a Cottage Food Operation rather than a full fledged commercial food business is that the fixed costs are minimal. If life gets in the way and you find yourself with no spare time to devote, if success isn't knocking down your door, if the exciting leads dry up, there's no evil business vampire lurking over your shoulder saying "Wow, you better do something about this. Your kitchen space is costing you $600/month and you're netting -$50. You have to work harder, smarter and faster or your debt will snowball, your business will die, and you'll never achieve your dreams." My fixed cost this month is $0. I can take a little break from Mallow & Hop, and I won't go bankrupt.
This particular benefit of a CFO is also, right now, its biggest disadvantage.
I purposely over-produced for Artisanal LA in early October. I thought "If I have a stack of product leftover, I'll have no choice but to shop it around to the wholesalers in the city I haven't spoken to yet." And here we are, almost a month later, and the stack of marshmallow packages on the kitchen table is not getting shorter. (Well, it is, but only at the rate my boyfriend can eat them.)
I can come up with a number of excuses: I had a friend in town. It was my birthday. I got a promotion at my day job that requires a lot of creative energy. I tried making marshmallow cupcake frosting and it was a bit of a failure, which bummed me out. I'm taking a Buttercream Cake Decoration class. I just generally deserved a break.
But excuses don't make money. Excuses don't make contacts. Excuses don't result in innovative ideas. Excuses don't get the Mallow & Hop name out to the target demographic.
Excuses just make you feel better for not trying.
"I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse." -Florence Nightingale
It would be disingenuous to say "But starting now - no excuses! I'll prioritize this business over anything else in my life and I will work myself to the bone to get the results I want!" Because what, I posted a blog? That's the "the diet starts on Monday" view of the world, and it doesn't cut it.
I will get back to work because commitments loom - Unique LA is on December 5th and 6th and I want to develop a special holiday flavor and a few new packaging ideas for the holiday season (is your Christmas tree already up? mine is), plus actually make all the product for the event. I've promised to provide marshmallows for a wedding in early January, and I need to get them custom flavor prototypes and packaging samples this month, as well as experiment with organic Kosher gelatin. My boyfriend's brother is a vegetarian which gives me a pretty great reason to experiment with vegan marshmallow recipes for christmas presents. There's a party I'm catering on Saturday. Plus, I've made a ton of cranberry marshmallows with the intention of figuring out the perfect Sweet Potato recipe for Thanksgiving, and on a related note: I intend to make a ton of pie.
My trick to staying motivated has to be this: keeping saying yes. Keep making commitments. Ask "why not?" instead of "why?" Light the fire under your own ass.
In other news, last month (actually right before Artisanal LA in my craziest week - speaking of "saying yes") I provided Adipose shaped marshmallows for Buzzfeed's "Doctor Who Fans Try Doctor Who Themed Treats" video. They were either coffee or apple flavored (I chose marshmallows I knew would turn out beige at the darkest to mimic the whiteness of the characters but also pimp my whole "marshmallows should be flavored!" philosophy) and feedback from the video's stars was overwhelmingly possible. I tell you what though: marshmallow sculpting is an art, and not one I have yet perfected. :)
It was an interesting experiment in target demos and the limitations of a CFO, for sure. Here's what my website's traffic looks like just before and after a video like this gets posted (on October 17th):
And here's what it looks like in terms of business generated, due to an almost total lack of items available for those visitors to purchase on my website:
It's an endless experiment, and I am so so thankful that the CFO law affords me the opportunity to try it until something sticks. But it's not without it's disadvantages, like the inability to ship product in the mail. It's been said that limitation breeds innovation. I just need to come at this issue with a new narrative.
“A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, "SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES". The other writes back triumphantly, "GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES" To the marketing expert who sees no shoes, all the evidence points to hopelessness. To his colleague, the same conditions point to abundance and possibility. Each scout comes to the scene with his own perspective; each returns telling a different tale. Indeed, all of life comes to us in narrative form; it’s a story we tell.” - Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander