Posted by: PTA on: May 20 2013 • Categorized in: Event,PTA
It was San Francisco Small Business Week this past week and the city was full of entrepreneurial energy. At the kick-off celebration, Flavors of San Francisco, last Monday the Cityview Room of the Metreon was filled with great food from over 30 San Francisco restaurants and catering companies. The room was packed with small business owners and supporters. I got a chance to connect and catch up with Mark Quinn from SBA,Gwen Kaplan of Ace Mailing, PTA AssociatesKen Stram and Monika Hudson, and Lisa Kirvin from Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center.
With Renaissance’s Lisa Kirvin at Flavors of San Francisco
On Wednesday, as part of the Small Business Conference at San Francisco State, I gave a workshop on Business Planning 101+ to a crowd of about 100 people. Things got off to a rocky start. (There always has to be a tech problem, right?) The PowerPoint presentation wouldn’t work so I got everyone on their feet for a little yoga… and a chance to get to know each other. Then, with a some help from the SBW tech staff and Renaissance’s Executive Director Sharon Miller, we got back on track.
I focused my talk on the basics of business planning and eight critical success factors for a small business launch (more on that soon). I also shared student stories from Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s 14-week business planning class, including Neil Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream, Judi Henderson-Townsend of Mannequin Madness, Zel Anders of Tomboy Tailorsand Lori Shannon of See Jane Run.
The room was full of people with small business ideas eager to take their business concepts to the next level. It was fun to share stories and help motivate them to take the leap of faith into small business ownership. The point is to s-t-r-e-t-c-h, focus, and make it happen!
At a recent Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association meeting, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener came to talk with us about his proposed mobile food truck legislation, which he introduced at a Board of Supervisors meeting last November. His goal with the new legislation is to make it easier for mobile food businesses to operate in the city, while also protecting the interests of brick-and-mortar restaurants who are negatively affected when food trucks (that don’t pay rent) park nearby.
People enjoying the Liba Falafel food truck in San Francisco
The current food truck regulations haven’t been working well for either side. If Supervisor Weiner’s new legislation is passed, it would prohibit food trucks from doing business within 50 feet of a restaurant but would also allow food trucks to operate in parts of the city where they’ve been previously banned.
At the PDMA meeting, Supervisor Weiner explained to us that that current rules have made whole areas of the city, including a large portion of the Mission, off-limits to food trucks. He wants to encourage more trucks to congregate in areas like SOMA and the Financial District. The bill would legalize food trucks on all hospital and college campuses and allow trucks to park closer to schools, decreasing the buffer from 1,500 feet down to 500 feet for middle schools and between 750 and 1,000 feet for high schools.
PTA has worked with and taught restaurant owners and food truck owners and we understand the challenges on both sides—the costs, the competition, finding the right location, scalability and market demand. Running a small food business—whether it is attached to one spot or mobile—is very hard work and it is important that our local legislators are listening to business owners’ concerns and supporting small business issues. I appreciate Supervisor Weiner’s efforts to move the conversation forward.
Posted by: PTA on: May 11 2013 • Categorized in: Event,PTA
On Thursday May 9th a very happy crowd gathered at the Marine’s Memorial Club in San Francisco for the Small Business Network’s Annual Awards Gala. Mayor Ed Lee was there at the start to welcome us all and emphasize his support for many new small business initiatives in the city.
I was honored to be one of the nine award winners, receiving the Small Business Advocate Award for my role as a small business owner and my involvement in the small business community for the past 30+ years. My business friend and long-term client, Kayren Hudiburgh, co-owner of The Good Life Grocery, was kind enough to introduce me and relate all the many years of our work together, both on her business and in the Potrero and Bernal Heights communities.
I got my start by owning and selling four businesses—a wholesale distribution company, two retail food businesses and a training seminar business. I then founded Paul Terry & Associates to help others start and manage their own small businesses. I see my role as an advocate—encouraging and supporting the passion and commitment of small business owners while providing tools and advice to create a sound foundation for success. I love working with business owners at every stage—teaching business planning to entrepreneurs getting ready to launch their businesses, and working with established small business clients through all stages of their business growth.
If you’ve always wanted to test the commercial market and see if anyone would buy your homemade granola or your Grandma’s cinnamon cookies, now you can…and do it legally. You can cook at home and do not need to rent a commercial kitchen. However, there are some low hurdles to step over and then you can be ready for your first steps to food business success!
In January, 2013 the California Homemade Food Act was signed into law, making it legal for people to sell “low-risk foods” produced in their home kitchens. A food entrepreneur who wants to qualify as a Cottage Food Operation must meet a few criteria:
Have gross sales this year of $35,000 or less (by 2015 this will go up to $50,000),
Complete a food processor training course, and
Have product labels that meet state and federal requirements.
There are more details of course. Note the two categories of cottage food operation:
Class A operations can only sell directly to the consumer (which can include at community events, farmers’ markets and through CSA subscriptions) and can register with a self-certification compliance checklist.
Class B operations must be inspected to receive their permit but can then sell to restaurants, retail food stores and food trucks.
Before this legislation became law, you needed to use a commercial kitchen or food processing facility (such as Eclectic Cookery) to legally sell your food product (or join a kitchen incubator, like La Cocina). For many entrepreneurs who are just starting out, testing their food business ideas by renting a commercial facility is cost prohibitive. Now there is a way to start small at home legally.
The success of the now-closed Underground Market in San Francisco is a clear sign of how many people will be able to benefit from this new law and also how many people want artisanal food. With a pick-up in the economy, there should be more customers for a good product… if it is sold effectively and meets the considerations of the target market. It is a great time for micro businesses and home-based entrepreneurs to really test their products, their ability to do the work and their commitment to be small business owners. There’s a lot of new energy out there to support small food businesses and new policies like this Homemade Food Act to stimulate the growth of the industry.
Posted by: PTA on: April 26 2013 • Categorized in: Event
On Wednesday night, Anchor Brewing hosted the annual Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA) member celebration. Anchor provided the beer and food was donated by local businesses. About 150 people came together to celebrate our community of neighborhood businesses and get to know each other better.
I invited four local business owners to attend so they could meet and network with fellow merchants. Networking can be hard to do if you haven’t done it much before. Often it takes getting out there and meeting people two or three times before you develop any lasting connections… but it does work. By putting yourself out there, sharing who you are and what you do, learning about other people and creating new connections…this is how we build a strong, local business community.
I’ve been a member of PDMA for the last three years and currently serve on the association’s board of directors. Joining this group and actively participating in neighborhood business meetings and events has been a great way for me to engage with the neighborhood and other business owners. For me, community service and advocacy is a key part of what it means to be an active local small business owner. If we can strengthen the small business community neighborhood by neighborhood, the entire city benefits.
I hope you are getting out there, too, and making new connections in your community. If you need a place to practice pitching who you are and what services or products you have, let me know. I may be able to direct you to a group that can help you do that. Be in touch!
When I owned a cheese store in San Francisco in the 1980’s I felt like we were in the middle of a food revolution—there was so much energy around “back to the land”, natural gourmet food, vegetarianism, food buying clubs and food cooperatives. We are now in the midst of another food revolution. This time it’s a food and technology revolution. There is a resurgence of small food businesses that are focused on craft, sustainability and supporting their communities, and at the same time the internet is completely changing the way food is being distributed and sold.
cupcake from Black Jet Bakery
There are many new internet tools to support small businesses and many are being created specifically for food businesses. This includes a crowd funding platform specifically for food entrepreneurs (YumSpring), a search engine for food industry jobs (Good Food Jobs), a new entrepreneurial education and online community for mentoring food start-ups (Local Food Lab), an online wholesale service (Buyer’s Best Friend), and a new portal to market and distribute food products directly to consumers (Good Eggs). It is an exciting time to be starting and running a food business!
For new food businesses, this type of publicity and connection to potential customers is invaluable. Access to markets is key for any small or micro business. Setting up an online store or trying to get into a local retail outlet can be a daunting or competitive proposition.
juice from Sow Juice
But if you can prove there is a market, satisfy the marketplace with good services, and build a following through these new online platforms, you just might prove your business model, make it into the mainstream, and develop a sustainable business.
These new internet tools are making it easier for small food businesses to get support, find community and connect with the markets they need to be successful. May they take root and flourish!
The week is designed to offer a series of educational and networking events to educate, connect and celebrate the small business community in San Francisco. This year’s festivities will include a conference with 50 free workshops and seminars for small business owners (I’ll be speaking about business planning), a gala called Flavors of San Francisco, and an awards ceremony hosted by the Small Business Commission, the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors to recognize exceptional small businesses from each district and city-wide.
Here’s my interview with Small Business Week…
SMALL BUSINESS WISDOM FROM PAUL TERRY
Small businesses in San Francisco have a wealth of opportunities to access wisdom and technical assistance from a variety of small business experts who provide one-on-one counseling, technical assistance, and instruction through neighborhood and community-based nonprofit agencies. The San Francisco Small Business Week Committee is pleased to share wisdom from these experts who help the small businesses that shape our communities to succeed.
Today we hear from Paul Terry, business planning coordinator at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, who believes that one of the keys to success is making a life-long commitment to education.
What role do you play in supporting San Francisco’s small businesses?
I’ve supported small businesses for more than 25 years as an independent business consultant and owner of Paul Terry & Associates with skills that I developed from launching my own food, distribution and training businesses in San Francisco. I am also the business planning coordinator and primary instructor at the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. I was one of the initial developers of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s entrepreneurship program, business incubator, and business support program.
The role I play in supporting small businesses involves teaching, empowering, and encouraging entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. The training and consulting helps people build their confidence and access the resources they need to be successful in business.
As a small business consultant in private practice, I work with 25-30 businesses each year to facilitate growth and transition, to build effective partnerships, and to implement strategic planning solutions. Over the years, I’ve taught 7,500 entrepreneurs, and I’ve supported over 600 small businesses.
In your years of working with entrepreneurs, what has emerged as the greatest challenge to a small businesses success?
One of the biggest challenges relates to maintaining balance. New business owners need to recognize that their entrepreneurial skills – their ability to get the business up and running – need to be in line with the complexity of the business model. They need to hone their skills, tap into their confidence and develop the scale of business that makes sense for who they are at a particular time. New skills are then required on an ongoing basis as the business grows in size and complexity.
Another challenge facing new businesses involves joint ventures and business partnerships. If the business partners fail to clearly define the relationship at the early stages, problems quickly emerge and often create disruptive conditions as the business grows.
A third challenge for a new business occurs when the entrepreneur attempts to transition from a full-time job — working for someone else — to working in a business that is not immediately profitable. People need to be realistic about the appropriate amount of capital they need launch and grow to profitability.
The common thread – and the reason people come to me – is that they are stuck. They need a better framework for making educated decisions and they need access to the appropriate mentors, advisors and associates for advice and direction.
In your experience, what is the biggest key to long-term success for a small business?
Businesses that have been around for a long time survive and thrive because they provide very good services to established clientele with fair terms and conditions. Long-term success also requires being nimble enough to adapt to new markets, emerging trends, and new technologies.
There are macro and micro competitive forces that can undo a successful business. It is key to make a life-long commitment to education, strategic thinking, and new skills development.
What are some of the most important ways in which small businesses shape communities in San Francisco?
Small businesses define the character of our neighborhoods in San Francisco. The appropriate mix of small businesses enriches and energizes a particular area, which attracts tourism and inspires residents to shop locally. Small businesses invest in their communities by hiring locally, engaging in local politics, donating to nonprofits, building parklets and other community spaces, and doing all the critical things that make our neighborhoods more enjoyable. Small businesses are the advocates of local development and define the flavor and culture of this city – with “pop-ups”, food trucks, trunk shows and an involvement in the local areas where they live, work and play.
Being in business is challenging. You can’t be in business without running into conflict at some point… your landlord raises the rent, your largest client reduces your hours, your reliable vendor is three weeks late with inventory, your wait staff calls in sick at 5:00pm and/or your key employee gives notice. Wow! What to do?
Perhaps the answer is to quit…start a new business or…as we all say to ourselves at one time or another, “I need to get a job!” Most of us don’t go and get a job. Sometimes we try and go through the motions of an interview and think this will resolve all the conflicts…but then realize that’s really not what we want. Working for someone else does not resolve or eliminate conflict. It is still there and now we don’t have the “power” to implement a change!
The idea is not to instigate conflict or prolong it, or try to win the argument. The process of running a business is to minimize conflicts and if a conflict arises, to face it and try to resolve it. The owner has to build the business, take care of the employees, satisfy the clients or customers, and create a balanced life for themselves.
There are solutions to the conflicts. Sometimes it is a genuine transparent management style; at other times, it is direct conversations with key employees; or it could be recognizing the error before the client or vendor sees it and suggesting a solution before there even is a conflict. (When I ran a gourmet food business, I noted right after the holidays that we did not sell all the extra inventory that we had bought. I called the vendors immediately and negotiated a 6 month payout plan…before they noticed we were late with payment and got upset with us.)
To find the right solutions we can look to supportive mentors or professionals who can listen and advise, talk things through with key employees, meditate on the right action, and then forge ahead and explore new approaches. If you run your business with integrity, honesty and transparency and confront your stumbling blocks head on, you can make it through. But if you don’t resolve a conflict…guess what comes back for you another day? So, resolve conflict!
Winged Wisdom, part of Presidio Habitats, a site-based exhibition created for the Presidio of San Francisco
A common assumption is that word-of-mouth promotion for small business means encouraging customers or clients to tell other people about your business, either directly or through online review tools like Yelp. This is important but another key part of word-of-mouth promotion involves your own word-of-mouth efforts—attending events, meeting new contacts, talking with others and sharing who you are and what you do.
It’s great to attend events that directly relate to your business or industry and it’s also incredibly valuable to just get out there and make contact with people. We need to be out in the public—be it a street fair, holiday event or home-based party—and connect with others.
Even at gatherings that aren’t “officially” networking events, try to put yourself into the mix and in your own way, “work the room”. It’s okay to have an agenda in mind. You can be ready with a critical question to ask or some simple information to share about you and your own business. Travel with a business success story or a lesson learned, and always be on the lookout for good resources and leads for other business owners you know.
In conversation with PTA Associate Andrea Baker, Owner of Baker Consulting
The key to building a good reputation may simply mean being a person ready with a story to tell, good resources to share, and the ability to listen and ask questions in all conversations. Every encounter is a potential business opportunity—even if you don’t know what the benefit will be to you and your business in the moment! It is in the company of others that magic can happen.
Before you start a new business or expand into a new marketplace, it’s always essential to “test the waters”. This means doing some simple market research. The intent is to find out as much as possible about potential customers or clients before taking the plunge and/or repeating a marketing effort!
Shoe leather approach Market research can be as simple as asking casual questions, comparing prices, walking around your neighborhood or attending a trade show. I call this “shoe leather research” even if you don’t do it by walking around. You learn by keeping your eyes open, your ears to the ground, and paying attention to what you notice.
Casual and informal research can also be called situational research. Basically, it involves getting a feel for the industry, the general marketplace, and/or the specific targeted market that you think is right. The process can include informal conversations with potential customers (“I’m thinking of opening an online pet helpline. Would you use something like that?”), direct competitors (“I wonder if you could help me as I’m thinking about opening a shop like yours 50 miles away.”), and potential suppliers (“Can you tell me how much inventory you usually sell to stores that carry your line?”) Sometimes this informal style of research generates enough information to build your confidence and help you get a new business started. Other times, this approach will help an existing business to identify and carry a new product line.
Formalized Primary Research
Shoe leather and situational research can be very helpful but more formalized research may also be needed when trying to determine if your business approach is the right fit. This can include careful observation (watching, counting, recording), interviewing someone relevant to your business area (by phone, in person or online with carefully chosen questions), or preparing a survey to administer to your potential customer base (by mail, in person or online using free software like Survey Monkey).
It can also be very helpful to do secondary research—getting information from trade journals, census reports and other industry references. There are online services based on Google key words or specific industry data. This form of research is easier in a way (you just go online and ask some questions) but it isn’t always relevant and may be too general for your market. A combination of primary research (done by you to acquire original data) and secondary research are BOTH valid and need to be part of your business planning.
Making the Time
The most important factor when selecting a market research approach is to determine if you have the time to do it and if you will actually compile and use the data. Your research should help you minimize the risks related to the venture you want to undertake, so make the effort to talk to people, gather information from the industry, watch competitors and record your impressions. Testing the waters (even at the shallow end) will make your plunge into business much more successful!