Archive of ‘Blog Business Tips’ category

The Next Big Thing? or Should Your Business Be Trendy?

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I came across this article on Twitter talking about food trend predictions. I happen to love statistics/mathematics in practical applications in fields I also love (FOOD!), so this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It was also a thoroughly thought-provoking read and the inspiration for this week’s business blog post because it’s incredibly relevant given the recent closure of cupcake behemoth, Crumbs Bakeshop.

I am mostly speaking to my readers who sell ready-made food products – cottage bakers and small bakery owners. Food trends are important to follow in the blogging world, but the turnaround for a blogger is extremely short. A recipe can go from inspiration to concept, testing, photography, and posting in a matter of days. It takes a little more time for a baker contemplating selling an item to decide whether or not to bring it to market.

When Goodie Godmother was a registered cottage bakery in California (and not just a food blog), I had to evaluate each item on the menu to see how realistic it would be for “commercial” sale. All recipes were tested on a “larger than just for the family” scale. If I needed to source a special ingredient, I looked for a quality supplier, then priced out each item to figure out a cost per unit (taking into account ingredients, time, and packaging) so I could set a retail price, determine if that price was realistic given my market, and then test commercial viability with a small run, usually at the Farmer’s Market. I had my own little methods for predicting which fads would be a hit, and tailored my offerings accordingly. I skipped a lot of food fads and trends on purpose.

For the purpose of this post, I am adopting the Vox.com article’s definition of a fad and trend. A fad being a craze that arises suddenly and disappears almost as quickly, and a trend being a demand that builds slowly but steadily over a few years for a particular product and then fades into the background of mainstream culture.

To follow a trend or fad…

French macarons were a cornerstone of the Godmother menu and I developed an extensive list of flavors because I enjoyed making them. For most of the time I operated Goodie Godmother, there were only two places one could get French macarons in Santa Barbara County – Renaud’s Patisserie in Santa Barbara, and me. Macarons were already wildly popular in most major cities, but they hadn’t quite reached Central California and definitely not Vandenberg AFB. That area was just reaching the height of the cupcake craze (about five years after most major cities).

Because I liked making macarons and had done my due diligence on the business side to ensure they were viable for market, I was glad to be an early adopter for the trend in the area. As macarons became highly visible in mainstream media, demand grew, and my business benefited. But I recognized that fads don’t last forever, and I never focused 100% of my business on the tasty little sandwich cookies because demand is fickle. Now that they are no longer gracing the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings, the trend is over. It doesn’t mean macarons won’t be enjoyed and I wouldn’t still keep them on the menu, but it would have been poor business to make them my primary focus and expect a sustainable business model.

If you choose to follow a trend/fad, be sure it’s an actual “thing”

If a particular grocery store puts apples on sale at 75% less than every other store in the area, it is very likely the store will sell out and you will see a fabricated run on apples. If they keep the price incredibly low, they will show a higher-than-normal apple turnover (ha – get it?) consistently. This doesn’t mean apples are now a “thing”, it also doesn’t mean those apples are particularly special or even very good. It means a single store is stimulating demand artificially because people love cheap. Don’t be cheap (unless that’s your business model), and don’t be lured into investing your time and resources into cheap anything because you’ll find you end up taking a loss. Do your research and be sure that a trend is actually a trend and a fad is actually a fad. If it is, you’ll see it – maybe not in your market just yet (that’s good), but online or in your travels (better).

If you’ve already built a business on a fad or trend you see is fading, diversify!

Crumbs Bakeshop grew too large too quickly on the cupcake trend to allow for diversification quickly enough to save their business. Instead of going into yet another analysis of why Crumbs failed though, I’d like to share a positive example with you. This example comes purely from outside observation and not an internal working knowledge of the company and its operations.

Enjoy Cupcakes started as a tiny little cupcake stand inside a wine tasting room in Los Olivos, CA. As the name suggests, they only sold cupcakes to start – dozens of different flavors on a seasonal weekly rotation. The shop was wildly popular for not only their standard cupcake sizes, but the mini “flights” offered. The company at one point grew in the Santa Ynez Valley to include a stand-alone store in Solvang in addition to the booth. After some landlord challenges (from what the clerk at the store told me), that location closed. Recently, the cupcake shop opened a booth at the Santa Barbara Public Market – which is a nice stop if you happen to be in downtown Santa Barbara, by the way. We went to the SB Public Market a few weeks before we began our cross-country move, and I noticed something interesting about the menu at Enjoy Cupcakes… they’ve diversified. Now offering cupcake bread puddings, cookies, and even ready-made cakes (before only available by special order) at the booth. The cupcakes are still the company’s main focus, but they are choosing to adapt to the fickle public taste by offering items that are related, yet different, to their core product. Wonderful!

If this is your situation and you do plan to diversify, make sure you do it with thought. Don’t just throw things on the menu. Quality always trumps quantity.

Not to follow a trend or fad…

You don’t have to follow every trend, nor should you jump on every fad. In fact, you really shouldn’t if you are trying to build a long-term business. Fad followers risk being incredibly short-sighted and that’s not a risk a small food business can afford to take in a high-risk industry.

About 60% of the restaurants that open, close within their first three years of business per research quoted in this Newsweek article. The article was written in 2007, and I cannot imagine the numbers have gotten any better given the drawn out effects of the recession and housing market crash. These restaurants studied have a lease so most stay open at a loss until the lease runs out – I guarantee cottage bakery closures would make the numbers higher.

But I can make money NOW if I offer cronuts/cupcakes/pumpkin spice everything!

And if your focus is turning a quick buck, stop reading. Running a business is not for you. You will just frustrate yourself and annoy other entrepreneurs in your industry because chances are you will make stupid choices to sabotage yourself and others. It’s okay, there are other ways to make money that require much less time, trust me.

But food fads are fun!

I know. If you love a fad with a passion and must have it on your menu, do your research (quickly) and go for it! Have fun! Just don’t make it the cornerstone of your business. Cronuts (the croissant doughnut hybrid that seemed to enchant everyone a year or so ago) is a fun menu item, but by the time you open “Crazy for Cronuts”, the fad is over. As I type this, it’s already over. Fads are outdated as quickly as your computer or phone.

If it’s a trend that you’re looking to adopt, you have a bit more time because their lifespan is longer than that of a fad, but you need to realize that everyone else sees the same trend. So make sure that when you bring a product to market, it’s amazing – not just “good enough”. Unless you’re planning on the “it’ll do and it’s the cheapest option” marketing plan, but then is it really worth your time? Wal-Mart and other box stores can do the same thing. Going back to my earlier example, Enjoy Cupcakes makes great cupcakes – they made sure the backbone of their business, a food trend, was actually a quality product so that it would remain viable even after the trend has passed.

So what should my business do?

That’s up to you. The answer really depends on your individual business goals, structure, and operating procedures. There are very successful businesses who never introduce items based on trends or fads – they stick to their specialty/specialties and are loved for it – and there are businesses that can seamlessly incorporate fads and trends to their menus without losing the uniqueness that initially attracted customers.


The Godmother does offer freelance small business consulting services. To inquire regarding rates and availability, please e-mail.

 

Starting a Food Blog

You’re obsessed with making and talking about fabulous food??? ME TOO! Let’s talk. And eat. Just not exactly at the same time. Our mamas taught us better.

I plan to chronicle the growth of this blog for three reasons: 1. I found others’ posts on their blogs incredibly helpful and I believe if one is to be part of a community, one should always give back, 2. I am a huge nerd and I love to share the business knowledge I gain, and 3. I’d like to document what works and what doesn’t for me since this is a new venture. I have had blogs before – the blog on Goodie Godmother was actually officially started in November 2012 – but they have never been my primary focus. You’ll notice if you check dates between some of my early posts that the blog was more of a “when I have time” project.blog-42

So let’s start with the basics to get a site up shall we?

1. Pick a name, search to make sure no one else is using that name, and then register your domain name.

To me, this step comes before any decisions regarding design and branding. Once you find a unique name that speaks to you, it’s important you register the name on the off chance that someone else is inspired by the same name at roughly the same time. You can register you domain name independently from a hosting plan, but it’s usually a feature included with new hosting packages. You can start a free blog on certain blogging sites (wordpress.org, blogger, etc), but your domain name will read http://www.yourblog.HOSTINGCOMPANY.com. This is fantastic for a personal blog, but if you are looking to grow your blog, a self hosted, stand alone name is easier for people to remember and looks more professional.

There are many hosting options out there, I personally use Host Gator. A friend recommended them many years ago and I’ve used them for almost 5 years now for various sites and always had a great experience with their customer service, site up time, etc.

2. Pick a blog platform.

There are many different platforms on which to run your blog, I use WordPress. It’s easy for the non-tech crowd and there are thousands of custom themes available and resources online, some free, most at a very reasonable price. I like the option to choose both fixed and blog page templates for my site depending on the look I want for a particular page.

3. Pick your look!

We’ll definitely go into the basics of branding more later, but everyone has a look they like. Your website is your “home” and you want to decorate it to express your personality and welcome visitors to stop by for a while, maybe sit on the porch, sip some mint lemonade. You can go as simple as picking a few of your favorite fonts and colors to use on the site, or have a custom logo designed to use on your favorite template, or even have the entire look created by a graphic designer.

My logo was designed by Heather, a Santa Barbara based artist. She was able to take the very broad hopes I had for the logo (clean, elegant, fun) and create a fantastic logo that fit beautifully with everything I envisioned for the Goodie Godmother “calling card”.

For the current incarnation of the website, I’m using a template I purchased on Creative Market from designer BluChic, called Lynette. I also considered the Isabelle template. Creative Market has templates from a lot of different designers and a huge assortment of fonts, backgrounds, design images, etc. It’s like etsy for the design world, I dig it. They also give away free downloads each week from different vendors if you’re into collecting.

I also consulted with A Walking Kind of Bird (on Facebook here). They are a full-service “mom and pop” design firm based in Lompoc – everything from websites to social media management, promo videos and email. Very chill and great to work with, and if you ask nicely, they may send you pictures of the adorable goats they get to play with in their off hours.

Once you have the framework set up you will need to…

5. Create FABULOUS content!

This is the fun part! Share your passion, fill the pages with anecdotes, pictures, ideas, anything that will convey your message to your readers. For food blogs, this means lots of playing in the kitchen to come up with new recipes, test, and photograph. Please don’t “borrow” recipes off other websites without providing at least inspiration credit and a link to the original post. There are only so many ways to make certain dishes, so your recipe may end up similar to another posted just because, but if it happened because you read something on another site and just added your own spin, please give credit where credit is due.

6. Take pretty pictures

I’m working on this. Most of the current pictures on the blog are iPhone 4 photos. If I was feeling snazzy, I’d edit in Instagram. In the crowded food blogging world, that just doesn’t pass muster. I recently invested in a Canon 40D SLR, a 100mm macro lens, and a standard lens (28mm-135mm). I’m still learning how to work the camera settings as it’s quite a dramatic upgrade from my phone. You don’t need to invest in a DSLR, a quality point and shoot will probably do just fine to start.

The mind “eats” first through the eye. If you want your recipes accepted by sites like FoodGawker, and pinned on Pinterest, you need to submit appealing pictures. It’s a lot more challenging than it looks… I think my current favorite resource for improving my food photography is the ebook Tasty Food Photography. I purchased the book one night after having a near meltdown over working with my camera (see the dark photo in the first business blog post and the blurry pictures in the corn dog post to see why). It’s become my go-to reference for learning the basics to create my own food photography “style”, something I’m working on as I keep practicing and getting more comfortable with my camera and it’s gajillion settings. To check out the book, click here to visit Pinch of Yum.

7. Be Social!

Get on social media! You didn’t put all that work into creating something delicious not to share it. 😉 Get on your favorite social media networks and set up your business profile or page. Goodie Godmother has a Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter (links to all in the sidebar).

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I think this is a pretty solid introduction to starting a blog. I’ll be sharing more as I continue building the Godmother blog.

I’d like to add a disclaimer that some of the above links are affiliate links. This means that if you click on the links and make a purchase, you help support Goodie Godmother at no additional cost to you. Not all are affiliate links, but every. single. one. is for a product or service that I myself do or have used. It’s important to me that I only ever feature products on this blog that I myself use. Look for a post in the future talking about affiliate links.

Faith, Trust, and a Whole Lot o’ Work! – Business Tips from the Godmother

Hello my dears! I’ve decided to launch a new section of the blog dedicated to my entrepreneurs, mompreneurs, second career professionals, and free lancers. My dreamers and kindred spirits who make Main Street happen.

Besides baking, my other passion is business, particularly small business development. Since this website is dedicated to sharing my passions with you, it would be a huge omission to not have a business section. Here I will post articles with practical advice and inspiration to help you grow your business, and a Q&A as I receive questions. I also plan to chronicle the growth of this blog as being a full-time blogger is new to me.

All the information is drawn from both my Masters in Business Administration and practical knowledge gained through my own entrepreneurial experience.

Have a question? E-mail me and I’ll answer it anonymously if you’d like, a la “Dear Abby”, or give your business a shout out with a link in the post! I want this to be a valuable resource and learning place where I can help you through your challenges.

Welcome to business school, Godmother-style! 7-8-14 Blog Pictures and Test 215

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