Building a food business can be a terrifying ordeal, especially when you have to think about money, business plans, and the future. Aditi Handa, the founder of the successful artisanal bakery, The Baker’s Dozen, writes for Kool Kanya and shares her top ten tips on starting a food business–from coming up with a food-related idea to making your vision a reality.
Beginning a business is not easy work. If you are wondering where the starting line actually is, you’ll be surprised to know you probably aren’t too far from it!
1. Start With A Simple Dish That Your Family And Friends love
The first step to starting any business is just having the drive to become an entrepreneur. The idea and other details come much later. After that, make sure that your product is fantastic, if not the best.
Confused? Don’t worry! All you need to do is think of something that you or a family member really enjoy making.
Don’t settle on a theme or cuisine, start off with something much simpler than that. Your food does not need to be western or fancy. Your food has to be an honest, tasty dish.
I am a big believer in using local ingredients and eating indigenous items. My mom makes delicious chevda or chavana. While it is a simple home-made dish, it is far superior to the taste and quality of any packed variety that one finds in markets.
A simple chevda can be the centerpiece of your menu, if you have enough confidence in your recipe! Don’t wait to invent a product that is sensational. Choose comfort!
Once you have a great product, you will find customers for it. Once you have repeat customers from within a limited radius, you are ready to charge full steam ahead.
If you want to know more about building your businesses and brands, sign up to the Kool Kanya community to watch Aditi Handa’s session on ‘Turning Your Passion Into A Booming Business.’ Sign up now.
2. Start Small And Take Baby Steps Towards Your Goal
We cannot be business owners and entrepreneurs if we cannot hold onto some level of naivety. Being an entrepreneur seems like a lucrative option to most because it feels like you might have control. However, it is often the opposite. Starting something new is fraught with uncertainty and a distinct feeling that you are losing control of your life! This uncertainty should actually excite you.
Another big step you must make as a new business owner or entrepreneur is that you should never get too ambitious! Ambition is a great motivator, but like anything else, it needs to be consumed in moderation.
Stick to the things you know will do well and perfect those. There is no need to try and rush headlong into fame and fortune.
3. Meet This One Legal Requirement
If you are wondering about licenses, permits, and other such documents, there is only one license you need when starting out.
To begin with you will only need a shop and establishment license for your manufacturing and selling space.
However, this is not necessary in the beginning at all. Spaces and licences start only after a few months, once you know the scale of your operation. Focus on making your product brilliant!
4. Finance Your Operation
There isn’t really a fixed amount you need to begin with. Plan your strategy according to how much capital you have to begin with.
Think of the money you need to start off. This includes money for your license permit, kitchen equipment and food supplies.
Ideally, within three to four months of starting your business you should be making a small amount of profit. If that happens you can rest assured that you will always grow your business by the sweat of your brow. This is much better than diluting your stake for equity.
Growth shouldn’t be considered the benchmark of your new business! Getting a product right and sustainability is always the best groundwork for success.
5. Decide Your Pricing By Asking This Simple Question
Businesses start and end with the flow of money. You need to know how much you should charge!
Look at your product and ask yourself what’s the maximum a customer will pay for it? That is how you decide the MRP.
You might need to do some market research, but don’t worry too much about it.
6. Focus On Customer Feedback
Food gives instant gratification. You do not have to wait to collate information over months!
The minute your dish is on the table, you know whether the customer approves of it or not!
Engage with your customer and ask them for their feedback, and pay special attention to it. When we started The Baker’s Dozen we had a very tasty product to begin with but customers regularly gave us feedback on our packing and how it was not storage friendly once they took the bread home. We decided to address that before we expanded to more stores with more products
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7.Make Your Business The Talk Of The Town By Nailing These Basics
I have always been a big believer that in the food industry, one thing is the most important.
Taste reigns supreme!
Ensure your product is extremely tasty and the rest will work itself out.
Consistent supply is very important to keep the customer coming back for more.
Be prepared to supply your products to your customers daily, and not staggeringly through the week. Consistency is key!
Ask your customers to recommend you to their friends if they like the product.
The power of customer testimonials is huge! Make sure you tell your regulars to rate you and talk about your product. Take your testimonials to your website and wear them proudly! This will let your new and potential customers know about your value and plus points.
Ensure that whenever you provide food, it is fresh.
The freshness of your produce is very important, and so is the quality of your dishes. Talk to your customers about the quality and importance of each ingredient.
In the time of Covid-19, health and safety becomes an integral part of any dining experience.
Hygiene when it comes to food is of the utmost importance.
Wash hands, use clean utensils, cover your faces, and make sure that all health protocols are in place!
Easy and Inexpensive Tools Like Whatsapp
You can use it to stay in touch with consumers. You can also use such platforms to market yourself and your brand.
Working on messaging sites like whatsapp also brings you much closer to your customers.
While they think it’s you personalising your service, you can take care of those kitchen appliance bills without breaking the bank!
Last but not the least, make sure you communicate with your customers and followers.
Talk to your customer about the importance of each ingredient you are using. This will help them develop faith in your product.
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8. Scale Up Only When You Are Ready
I am a big believer in keeping one’s business small initially. Until you know that you are making a solid product, positive that you will be able to establish a consistent supply, and have a grip on your numbers, etc, you should concentrate on keeping your business working well.
However, the first rule of upscaling is that you need to build a brilliant team.
Start curating your team as soon as it seems like you are going to hit your professional goals. Once you have achieved stability, whether it is in six months or two years, you need to start working on bringing your team together. Without a team, some of the best businesses never take off from their grounded realities.
You might start off with a home-cooking business, but expanding should be slower than you think it should be. Cooking at home is small scale. Upgrading from baking for your friends to becoming a household name is a gradual process.
Try to become a household name in your building or in a one kilometer radius to begin with. If you can crack that then scaling up will come easier.
9. Manage The Pandemic By Keeping Costs Low
Covid has been strangely graceful and kind to several businesses. A lot of food businesses have actually picked up their sales during these turbulent times. People are ordering in more often now that going out is not really an option. This has resulted in bakeries, ingredient companies, and even home-based food-delivery places becoming more sought after!
However, the lockdown has also forced many to abandon their food ventures. There is a huge need to be self-sufficient during this pandemic. There are some ways you can safely keep your venture running during the age of the Coronavirus!
DO NOT STOP!
One of the most important things to do in such a crisis is to keep your costs low. However, do not halt your production. Your product must keep going in the market. When so many others are struggling to supply, if people see the ‘open’ sign hanging proudly on our window (or ‘windows’ if you’ve gone online), they will undoubtedly come flocking to you.
10. Finally, Learn How To Deal With Stress
Starting things from scratch always comes with mental and physical exhaustion. Be it the physical side of things or the mental aspects, there are a lot of things to get done before you can positively establish your brand as a food-related venture.
An entrepreneur’s journey is almost a study into self-discovery. You will never take such a deep-dive into your own self as you will during your journey.
I think it’s very important to know your limits and work with that. If you don’t have the set up to do a home delivery service make it a collect-only product.
The next step is always to get organized.
You will be amazed by how easy life becomes when you have your work streamlined. Customers also respond better to having a routine, and knowing what to expect. After all, they would also like some consistency when it comes to when and where they need to pick up their orders!
The food business is a lucrative and fun field to dip your toes into. Make sure you come in with guns blazing. All you need is confidence and motivation, and the spirit of competition. Don’t give up when you find yourself in a pickle. In my opinion, pickles and success go very well together!
Go to the Kool Kanya Community to watch Aditi Handa’s session on ‘Turning Your Passion Into A Booming Business,’ and learn all about managing, financing, and upscaling your businesses! Sign up now.
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