Having worked in the non-profit, marketing, and entertainment industry for over a decade, many of my friends thought I would be unequivocally in that space for many more years to come. However, I threw everyone a curveball when I decided to start a gluten-free bakery after a celiac disease diagnosis.
Even though outwardly this seemed like a stretch, my family knew our history with entrepreneurship and that I spent my early years cooking and baking with my grandmother on their farm. Though my experience in baking was limited, I did know that what was available to me as a celiac consumer was slim and not of great quality. I tell a story about going to a local bakery and buying hundreds of dollars worth of product for a birthday party, only to have it all moldy the morning of.
With my bakery business, I wanted to focus not only on a quality product but also the education and customer care side that came with this type of fresh-zero preservatives product. I wanted to be known as the most exciting, fun, and caring place for the gluten free community.
Creating a Gluten-Free Business
Three years later, after staying up late nights researching and collecting data, I came up with a business plan for my gluten-free bakery. My business plan at the time included a partner because I knew I couldn’t do it all in this entrepreneurial bakery business. I needed a partner who could own the product development side.
I was able to find my partner via @glutenfreegirl on Twitter, who retweeted my request for a bakery business partner on her feed. Several people were interested, and the interview process started. One of the six potential partners made its way to the top of my list, and we started working together at the local farmer’s market. After a few months of working with my partner, I was able to leave my career to build out the bakery idea fully.
Creating a Business from a Problem to Solution
The majority of businesses are created for two reasons: either to solve a problem (gluten free bakery) or as investment opportunities for those who are really good at their jobs (think attornies, bookkeepers, landscapers, etc). In both cases, the business model should be developed around your why. You’ve likely heard it before, people don’t buy your product they buy your why (or you).
From a financial stability standpoint, think about your runway. How are you going to sustain your lifestyle as you build? People talk in terms of five years, I like to think of investments in terms of three years. What capital do you need to get to to know what you’re doing is successful? Do you need outside investment to make it? What curveballs (pandemic? hurricane? economic downturn?) could derail your business and to what extent? We have a lot of examples of potential threats to businesses as of late, including inflation and supply chain challenges.
When developing the concept, what is the end goal. Even now, if you aren’t building with the end in mind, let’s dig into that.
How to Choose a Good Business Partner
I’ve been asked a number of times what I would have done differently in my business and one of them would have been to look at the business partnership in a different way. I dove in with a nice pair of thick rose-colored glasses. In hindsight, I coach partnerships through a series of sessions to address inter and intrapersonal issues that have come up in the past and what could come up in the future. We explore all sides of the business, leaving no stone not talked about or duty unassigned. From a partnership standpoint, that looks like changing your operating agreement a bit as the company grows, shifts, and changes direction. Having a neutral third party such as a business advisor, coach, or consultant can anchor the big picture for your business, especially if you’re in a fast-paced company.
Why Business Partnerships Fail
Partnerships fail largely due to power or lack of power. One partner can feel that the other partner is running everything or doing all the work, and their partner is feeling as though they aren’t pulling their weight.
I think there’s also a lack of visibility of successful women and family-owned partnerships available to us entrepreneurs as we build our partnerships. When I went searching on how to form a successful business partnership, many books or articles highlight only tech companies run by men. There are other verticals that thrive in partnership status including multi-generational businesses that don’t often show up on those searches, yet, are an integral part of economic growth and sustainability in America.
I hope you found some nuggets to take into your business. If you want to explore more about these topics and more, including a section on employee relationships and other key takeaways from my business journey thus far, you can find it on this interview with Keith Coniers on Real Talk Podcast episode 11.