Have you ever been so overcome with excitement you couldn’t talk? In May, 2013, entrepreneur Emma Bates, who founded Courser Farm Kitchen, opened her email to discover a message from New Hampshire Magazine that Courser Farm Kitchen’s granola had won Editor’s Choice Best Granola.
About this heart-in-her-mouth experience, Emma writes on her blog: “I started jumping all around and screaming. My kids had no idea what was going on but they joined me in the jumping and screaming anyway. We all calmed down eventually and I was able to tell my family the big news.”
How did she reach this gratifying moment of success?
She had given up her book-binding business (yes, she had prior entrepreneurial experience) because it just wasn’t compatible with staying home and caring for her young children. She was making gluten-free and vegan baked goods for her family, and her aunt and uncle suggested she sell them in their coffee shop in Warner, New Hampshire. Because she needed a kitchen license she decided to branch out into farmers’ markets. Her muffins and cookies went over pretty well, but then one fateful day she offered granola. Customers wanted that!
Pretty soon the demand for her delicious, specialty granola (with enticing names like Mocha Chip, Cashew Chai, and Northern Berry Harvest) was so large that she didn’t have time to make anything else.
And that’s how gluten-free, vegan granola became the niche product of Courser Farm Kitchen. Customers loved it and they spread the word. She got so busy she needed to hire help, word spread and a regional distributor picked her up. Don’t you just love a good success story?
So, you’re thinking about getting into the baked-goods business? Emma has these points of advice:
- Food is easier to sell than crafts. Even in hard times, people need to eat. That’s good news. But be aware that profit margins are low in the food industry. Crunch your numbers, to make sure you can make a profit.
- Go to Farmer’s Markets and talk to vendors. You’ll find incredibly helpful people. Ask questions–how many people show up, what they buy, what it takes to succeed in this community. Research your local market before you jump in.
- Pick a targeted niche that meets a need. Cookies and cupcakes are commonplace. Offer something unique that people can’t find on every corner, something no one else is doing.
- Know that running a business takes time. It’s going to be a full-time job. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, that means you’ll be sacrificing family time (usually on evenings and weekends) while your spouse takes care of the children so you can tend to business.
- Great product merits word of mouth advertising. Give your customers what they want, and they’ll not only be loyal to you, they’ll promote you.
Is it worth the time and effort? Emma says she loves what she’s doing, although she’s not getting rich quick (remember that point about low profit-margins in the food business!) For her, as for many entrepreneurs, the intangible rewards are more important than the money. She says,
” I enjoy having something that’s mine. Stay-at-home moms often feel like nothing in their lives belongs exclusively to them–everything has been taken over [by your family’s and children’s needs]. In my business, I get to make the decisions. I’m in charge!”
She adds that one of her greatest rewards is the satisfaction of interacting with people who appreciate the work she does to fulfill a need for them. A local-food business is all about building personal relationships with customers, and she enjoys that.
So, in answer to the question of whether it’s worth it, I’d ask you this:
When is the last time you were so elated by your success, you simply had to jump around screaming for joy? Really, when?
You can order Emma’s scrumptious granola online, just click here. And check out her new grain-free, Paleo-friendly Western Cocoa Cayenne.