Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Washington Post Live “Powering Small Business” event. Despite being concerned about leaving a heap of work behind on my desk, I am so glad I went! The collection of speakers was fascinating. While sitting in the room, I was most interested in Dan Case and Robert Litan but since leaving my mind keeps returning to the discussion with Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne, the owners of Georgetown Cupcake. So, with that in mind, here are my take aways from that presentation.
- An exciting company doesn’t have to stem from a revolutionary idea. We grow used to thinking about fast growing companies as those that offer so called game changing products. Georgetown Cupcakes offers cupcakes. The foundation of their product is sugar, flour, eggs, and sprinkles… products you can buy in any grocery store. Even when they opened their doors for business, what they were making was something that almost every person who had ever gone through grammar school in the US had consumed.
- When you have no money left, dig deeper for marketing. One of the anecdotes Sophie told was that when they were about to open the store, they had completely run out of money. Despite that she had a nice sign made to put outside their shop promoting their business. This upset her husband (who reminded her that she had no money) but she credited the sign with promoting interest in their store. The product alone won’t get you there, find resources for marketing.
- Be passionate yet flexible with your dream. When the sisters opened their first store, they had a plan. They planned to do the bulk of their business through advance order for weddings and special events. Once they opened their business, they found that that wasn’t the business they were doing. Instead, customers were walking in to buy cupcakes. They changed their planning and business practices to accommodate that reality.
- Rethink all parts of the customer experience. Sophie and Katherine spoke passionately about what it meant to visit a Georgetown Cupcake location. From the pink box you take the cupcakes home in to the training the employees receive to the flavors of cupcakes available, they have thought through what happens when a customer walks through the door to a location. When asked about the possibility of franchising their business they rejected the idea of ceding that kind of control of the experience.
- Love your work, but don’t expect it not to be work. One of my favorite moments in the presentation was when Katherine mocked the adage that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. Let’s get serious, when you start a company, no matter how much you love your business it is work! I suspect whoever first said that was either kidding himself or not working very hard. Which leads us to the last item…
- Work hard. The value of a great idea is the implementation. If you want to be in SoHo in New York, find a dilapidated location and work hard to clean it up. If you want to succeed, work very hard.
With all that in mind, I will sign off here so I can work very hard on my little endeavor. Thank you to Sophie and Katherine for a great presentation!