Business 04 January 2018
When you're diving into starting a business, you will quickly notice how every thought, every decision, and every conversation you have is driven by the product or service you are starting to build from the ground up.
You may find yourself skipping out on social activities so that you can hunker down and do research for your company. You may even decide to break your lease and move back home to your parent's house so you can use the cash you would normally spend on rent, on bootstrapping your new idea.
But one thing you might not be able to control is how much you find yourself talking about your start-up to your family members, your friends, your dentist, and even potential investors you meet at a networking event. It will become your favorite thing to talk about and phrases like, “Can I pick your brain" or “What do you think of this idea?" will flow out of your mouth without you even realizing what you are saying and who you are saying it to.
So if you're in the business start-up zone and you're looking to impress an investor, spill the behind-the-scenes of the company to a close friend, or let a first date know how much of a badass female entrepreneur you are, here are tips on how to refine your elevator pitch to meet your audience's needs.
Finding yourself standing in front of a table of investors can be a frightening and also empowering thing. Chances are you have worked your butt off to get a business plan ready, a product or service outline to present, and even some press surrounding your start-up to show off to them. It might be a groundbreaking meeting, but if anything, it is a chance for you to clearly explain your business idea and the impact it will have on your target audience.
For this, it's important to get personal while also staying on track. Begin the pitch with an anecdote of what drove you to start this business and how the problem your business is going to solve is something near and dear to you. Then go on with the answers to these questions, “Why you? Why now? Why this?"
Providing a short pitch, answering those questions first, will allow potential investors to understand why you're starting this business and what makes you quailed to lead it down the path of success.
When you're catching up with your close circle of friends, either over brunch, the phone, or a group text, people might share what they've been up to lately. If all you can think about responding is, “I've been up to too much stuff with starting this business," you might want to bite your tongue or erase the text and think of something more useful and practical to say.
It's okay to vent about the struggles you're having with your business to your friends, but don't forget to also boast about the positives and the wins you've experienced too.
If you find that you've already handed your friends your elevator pitch one too many times and got them excited about what your business is going to be, it's time to refine the pitch so that when you talk to them, you're providing them with updates on your business so that they can give you feedback and also help keep you motivated and inspired.
This pitch should include just one problem you've faced that week and then two wins or positives you have acquired so that you can get in the habit of celebrating success. By also stating those important things, you'll be able to help your friends better understand your business idea, why it matters, and how it's going to change the industry that you are breaking into.
3. A First Date
One of the most annoying questions for an entrepreneur on a first date is the question of, “what do you do for a living?" Perhaps you're working a 9-5 job, a part-time gig, or a handful of part-time gigs, while also creating magic on the side for your new business, and the answer to that question can be complicated.
Or, maybe you've recently quit your full-time job to pursue your own business and you fear that by saying that to your date, they'll give you a stern talking about how you're going to drain your savings and be out of the workforce for too long.
Either way, it's important to come at your date with a confident answer as to “what do you do for a living?" and the best place to start is with a quick elevator pitch for your business.
Unlike the one you gave to investors or friends, who might be the same demographic as potential customers for your business, your goal with this pitch is to excite and impress your date.
Start with a sentence or two about the problem you're looking to solve, the audience you want to target, and the unique feature of your business. Add in another sentence about your background and experience, so you're date can get a feel for how rad you are, with a final sentence about why you're the right person to start this business.
This pitch will not only eliminate your date's questions on whether or not you're a serious entrepreneur but will also get them feeling intimidated and certain that you are one strong and fierce female sitting across from them on this date.
It seemed like everything happened overnight because, well… it did.
One moment, my team and I were business as usual, running a multi-million-dollar edible cookie dough company I built from scratch in my at-home kitchen five years ago and the next we were sitting in an emergency management team meeting asking ourselves, "What do we do now?" Things had escalated in New York, and we were all called to do our part in "flattening the curve" and "slowing the spread."
The governor had declared that all restaurants immediately close to the public. All non-essential businesses were also closed, and 8.7 million New Yorkers were quarantined to their tiny apartments for the foreseeable future. Things like "social distancing" and "quarantine" were our new 2020 vernacular — and reality.
What did that mean for us? Our main revenue source was the retail part of the business. Sure, we offered delivery and take-out, but that was such a small portion of our sales. I had built a retail experience where people from near and far came to eat edible cookie dough exactly how they craved it. We had two stores, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, which employed over 55 people. We have two production facilities; an online business shipping cookie dough nationwide; a wholesale arm that supplies stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments with treats; and a catering vertical for customizable treats for celebrations of all sizes. And while business and sales were nearly at a complete halt, we still had bills. We had payroll to pay, vendors we owed, services we were contractually obligated to continue, rent, utilities, insurance, and none of that was stopping.
How were we going to do this? And for how long will this go on? No one knew.
As an entrepreneur, this certainly wasn't my first-time facing challenges. But this was unprecedented. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Certainly unplanned. This control-freak type-A gal was unraveling. I had to make decisions quickly. What was best for my team? For my business? For the safety of my staff? For the city? For my family and unborn baby (oh, yeah, throw being 28 weeks pregnant and all those fun hormones in there, it's real interesting!). Everything was spiraling out of control.
I decided to take the advice I had given to many people over the years — focus on the things you can control. There's no point worrying about all the things you have no control over. If you focus there, you'll just continue spiraling into a deeper, darker hole. Let it go. Once you shift your perspective, you can move forward. It's not going to be easy; the challenges still exist. But you can control certain things, so focus your energy and attention on those.
So that's what I did. I chose, for the safety of staff and customers, to close the retail portion completely — it wasn't worth the take-out and delivery volume to staff the store, open ourselves up to more germs and human contact than absolutely necessary.
I went back to our mission and the reason I started the business in the first place — to spread joy. How could we continue to bring happiness to people during this uncertain time? That's our purpose. With millions of people across the globe stuck inside, working from home, quarantined with their families, how can we reach them since they can't come to us? So I thought back to how and why we got started.
Baking, for me, has always been a type of therapy. I could get lost in the mixing bowl and forget about everything else for a moment in time. Sure, I have a huge sweet tooth, but it's about the process. It's about taking all of these different ingredients and mixing them together to create something magically sweet and special. It's about creating and being creative with the simple things. It's about allowing people to indulge in something that brings them joy — a lick from the spatula or a big batch of cookies.
It's about joy in the moment and sharing that joy with others. So my focus is back on that, and it feels good.
We could still ship nationwide, straight to people's doorstep. So we are making it easier and less expensive to send the ultimate comfort food (edible cookie dough) by introducing a reduced shipping rate, and deals on some of our best-selling packages.
In a way for us, it feels like we are going back in time… back to our roots. When I first started the business, we were only shipping nationwide. There were no stores, no big team, no wholesale. It was just me, a small crew juggling it all, and we made it work then. And we'll make it work again. We have to leverage our online business and hope it floats us through this time.
We are focusing our digital content strategy on sharing recipes, activities, and at-home treats with our engaged, amazing social following so they bake with their families and stay busy at-home. We started live baking tutorials where our fans can bake-along with me and I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years with them.
I've leveraged the cookbook I published last year, Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share, to come up with fun content and additional things to do at home. We started shipping it and our at-home baking mixes for free to encourage people to get busy in their kitchens!
And as a business, we will continue to connect with our community to bring them joy and focus on what we can control, including our attitude and outlook first.
During times of uncertainty, which this certainly is, you should do the same. Identify the things you can control and focus your time and energy on those things. Distract yourself with the positive. Force yourself to stop asking and worrying about all the what-ifs. Do what you can for the moment and then the next moment. Make a list, and take it day-by-day.
It's going to be okay. You will be okay. We will all be okay.