How Not to Start a Business

I was going to write a series on goal setting the last week of the year. And I will get to that tomorrow.  Today I felt inspired to write about a small business that just failed near me.

It’s kind of sad. And I have to say I don’t know exactly why it failed. But I have my suspicions.

I sincerely doubt they did their homework before opening up the shop.  It was a small bakery that specialized in allergy free products.  So no nuts. No gluten. And no customers. So now it’s stripped bare with an eviction notice on the door.

There was a heartfelt plea at the end of November on an online community forum for people to go support a local business. And how yummy the food really was.

I don’t have food allergies. So I never felt like it spoke to me.  Plus, I don’t eat many baked goods.  Honestly I’m more of a deer. Waive some pretzels or chips in front of me and I’m a goner.

Don’t Be Negative

Anyway, when this store opened, they highlighted all of the gluten free and nut free and how it helps people with food allergies.  They had banners and signs and handing out samples extolling the allergen-free-ness of it all.

When talking with my husband, he pointed out that it’s negative. They kind of excluded a lot of people who didn’t have allergies. They should have focused on delicious baked goods.  Oh and it’s healthy.  Oh and it’s allergen free.  But first, hook people in with something positive.

It is good to have something unique to stand out.  And that’s something your business and marketing plan will cover. But if you’re trying to go head to head with the supermarket bakery next door and the Starbucks baked goods at the end of the strip mall, you need people to immediately think “Yum” not how healthy it is.

Don’t Ask Friends

I suspect that it was someone who learned to bake for their family. And then had a friend or two who said “Oh these are so good. You should open a shop.”  Anthony Bourdain mentioned this syndrome in one of his books. And it was in the chapter on why most restaurants fail. Just because you bake good things that your friends like doesn’t mean it will work as a business.

Plus, friends won’t be truly honest. I had a client who was working on a liquid vitamin business.  All of his family swore they’d buy if he made it.  Well, he invested $10,000 in product and filing for a copyright and setting up a website, etc. etc. etc.  Being a good marketing consultant, I recommended talking with stores where it would be sold.  He didn’t.

And sure enough, his family reneged and no one bought any of it.

Do A Real Marketing Study

You need to find out if your target market really will buy from you.

One program I’m a part of is Internet Business Mastery Academy.  You can listen to their podcast on iTunes. I’ve been listening to them since 2005 and have learned so much.  But I digress.

Jeremy Frasden talked about a friend of his who spend thousands of dollars making yoga mats. And then was astonished when no one bought them.  He designed what he thought would be the ideal mat. But he never asked the people if they would buy it.

Asking people also helps you identify your price point.  Maybe a yoga mat is worth $100 but no one would ever think of spending more than $40 at the local studio or gym.

You also need to find your partners as well. .Who will refer customers to you. In the case of the specialty bakery, I would think about partnering up with nutritionists and doctors. (I mean, if they can pass out free samples of medicine, why not pass out coupons for food which is nature’s medicine).

Know Before You Need to Know

I’m a huge follower of Michael E. Gerber and the EMyth. He just released a new book which I’m about 1/3 of the way finished. But start with the basics with the EMyth Revisited. I enjoy my Audible version for when I’m walking. You can find it for free in your library, I have no doubt. It’s a well known book.

Then there’s the Emyth Mastery which goes into a ton of detail about what facts and figures you need to put together.  But by the end you’ll have a solid plan. You’ll know what people are willing to buy and for how much.

Also if you want to open a brick and mortar store, learn from the big companies. You can’t buy into a franchise unless corporate is certain it is in a good market.


  1. Really know your customer before you open your business
  2. Don’t rely upon negative advertising
  3. Understand that it’s a business and the rules are different

I suspect the former owner of the bakery wouldn’t have opened it up. Or perhaps she would have known better ways of finding customers. I won’t know personally. And I doubt I’d ask.  When I was actively looking for marketing clients, I found that most people wanted to do everything themselves and really didn’t like someone coming in and asking them questions about how things were going. Despite what a lot of sales training tells you.

I hope she keeps on baking. She could publish a cookbook. And have a website with an email autoresponder to generate revenue. She could publish baking classes on Udemy or Skillshare.

We’d all be stuck in the dark if Thomas Edison hadn’t been afraid to keep failing.  Just because the initial idea doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you should give up the dream.

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