Oh Crap! We are Growing
Growth is a word that conjures up a lot of positive emotion. When you are young, all you want to do is grow. And then when you get older all you seem to do is grow…just rounder! We want to grow our business, our bank accounts, our influence, our power and our network. Growth! Sometimes, however, too much growth can be a bad thing. If one just looks to the 2008 financial crisis you can see a textbook case of too much growth and the aftermath that it can leave on a family, city, state, industry, country and the entire world. If you weren’t somehow affected by the 2008 crash you must have been hiding under a rock.
In the grand scheme of things Start Right is definitely the small fish in a very big pond. We started at the absolute bottom rung of the ladder. We had no knowledge of the food industry when we started and have had to learn things the hard way mostly. Screw-ups really are the best teacher after all. The first time my co-founder and I ever cooked our high protein waffles we worked for 8 hours and made 270 waffles. It was a stressful day but at the end of it we thought we had just absolutely killed it. Well it wasn’t long before we did the math and said this isn’t going to work. We have to scale and scale as quickly as we can. So, like any good entrepreneurs we rolled up our sleeves and did just that. We methodically went to work gaining new stores and becoming more efficient. Still doing everything by hand, in about 9 months we increased our production by 10 times our original amount. Even though it was a colossal improvement we still needed to get better. After two years of cooking waffles the old fashion way we decided to take a huge risk and design our own machine (Athena). We knew it would give us the ability to start going after much larger accounts, which was imperative to our growth. So in October of 2017 we made the leap and designed Athena so that she would still give us the handcrafted/artisan product and allow us to be versatile in the style and shapes we could make. Athena has been a great addition to the team and we are so glad we made the decision to spend the time and effort on her. We definitely had to work some kinks out in the beginning but we now have the ability in that same 8-hour shift to make 10,000 waffles. Bingo! So, in the last 12 months we have been meticulously working to grow our store count and fill the capacity Athena has given us. It is working and we are doing just that. Then comes the OH Crap We Are Growing moment. In May, we had just delivered the largest order we had ever filled to a retailer and that very same day they ordered again but this time it was even bigger. Great news but we quickly did the math and figured out we were going to have to work days/nights/weekends and any other time we had available to make it happen. Long story short, we did and it was only by feats of super human effort that we made it. We cut it so close that we had to rent our own 30’ reefer truck and make the delivery ourselves with my co-founder and I pulling a 41-hour day to make it all work. Luckily I have my class E license! It was fun, exhausting, nerve racking and completely satisfying all wrapped up into a neat little package.
From that experience we learned a lot about growth. It can be good but you have to be ready for it. Since that happened back in May we have been hard at work to improve our processes and our preparedness through forecasting, better inventory management and increasing communications to our distributors/retailers. I would love to say that we wont be in that situation again but I am sure we will. Next time though, we will be more prepared!