What’s Your Business Mantra? And When To Commit to It

“Ready, Aim, Fire” or “Done is Better Than Perfect”?
Business and career coach Bill Jones first appeared on motivational posters in the 1920s and 30s.

Here’s the conventional wisdom, but does it still apply? (Business and career coach Bill Jones first appeared on motivational posters in the 1920s and 30s.)

WHY DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT, says the Etsy Blog title for the June 20, 2013 entry by Alexandra Ferguson. And then the art shows a cute cushion with the message, Ready, Fire, Aim.  As the originator of “‘Done’ is better than ‘perfect'”  (explained in an addendum to an earlier post to this blog), I like to think that in today’s conditions these mottos make more sense than they did in Bill Jones’s day.

Ms. Ferguson observes that many businesses get stuck in “paralysis by analysis” rather than going forward. Her own story is a case example that encourages leaping from the daydream stage into production and selling – in her case, selling her handmade cushions on etsy.com. Her first offering of message pillows she’d already made cost $1.60 in listing fees, a very low capital requirement to enter a business! No lease. No significant inventory. No staff. No equipment beyond what she’d needed for gift-cushion making as a hobby. Her launch served as a market test — and a commitment test. Was this really a business she could stay in? DUMBO-based etsy.com made it not only cheap and easy to get her product to market, but the market itself is global.

Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea help other artisan-entrepreneurs test themselves in the food business by providing venues and some basic disciplines. The Brooklyn Botanic’s celebration of hot chiles is another. Ample Hills Creamery founder Brian Smith took his unusual ice cream flavors to market via ice cream trucks and kiosks before committing to that first lease in Prospect Heights. Brooklyn’s growing network of co-working spaces and commercial kitchens keep equipment and production space costs thinkably low. Share-and-learn facilities like 3rd Ward  in Williamsburg can graduate their biggest successes to Industry City in Sunset Park.

Brooklyn Artisan Executive Editor Basia Hellwig reports in “Start Ups Aren’t for Sissies” on some entrepreneurial thrills and chills. Her stories provide mental preparation. BA Executive Editor Joy Makon’s look inside Alchemy Creamery gives another window into what’s involved. BA Executive Editor Phil Scott and Contributor Bruce A. Campbell have reported on Brooklyn’s Makerbot, pioneer of 3D printers. There’s venture capital out there to back some winners.

Tomorrow, Brooklyn’s first food and drink trade show, Brooklyn Eats, presents a new opportunity. It is sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and a host of corporations like commercial Citibank, Fairway, Whole Foods, National Grid, Verizon, and Acumen Capital Partners LLC and Jamestown Properties, as well as the Daily News and Edible Brooklyn as media partners.

The bright line between artisan and entrepreneur shines when the Alexandra Fergusons and the Brian Smiths of the world realize they’re not just creating cute cushions or unique premium ice cream flavors, they’re creating businesses. Should they move beyond bootstrapping? How much bigger can small-batch get before small-batch loses its edge? Sounds like it’s time for a serious, stage-two business plan. That’s when a trade show like Brooklyn Eats or a presentation to a venture capital fund really starts to make sense. It’s only been a very few years since Makerbot stepped up, after all, and it’s now valued at $403 million. Who’s next?

Brooklyn Artisan Editor & Publisher Anne Mollegen Smith was editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine when its circulation grew to 950,000.

Alchemy Creamery at Smorgasburg

DESSERT CAME FIRST. And why wouldn’t it? Last Saturday’s beautiful weather was a perfect excuse to hop on the NY Waterway East River Ferry and explore Smorgasburg in North Williamsburg. I’d made plans to spend some time talking with Giuseppe Maione of Alchemy Creamery, and of course had to sample some of his potions. It was easy to (temporarily) ignore all of the meaty, savory aromas that is Smorgasburg and dig in to the cup of creamy sweetness that Giuseppe offered me.

Alchemy Creamery's Apple Cinnamon with Caramel

Caramel Sauce topping Apple Cinnamon,
from Alchemy Creamery

Alchemy Creamery, started in April 2012, is a small-batch, non-dairy ice cream, sold through Smorgasburg and select retail locations in New York City.  All-natural coconut cream, unrefined sugars, and natural plant extracts go into the product, along with locally sourced flavorings. On Saturday, I sampled Apple Cinnamon topped with caramel sauce, along with Fixation—a dark chocolate chai. These flavors are developed, tested and produced at Organic Food Incubator in Long Island City in a leased, professional kitchen space used exclusively by Alchemy Creamery. The selections change based on season and ingredient availability. Currently 15 to 18 gallons are produced weekly by Maione and his two Alcreamist partners JD Gross and Jesse Goldman. Maione’s got the fantasy wish that he could clone himself, but until then, he considers his partners crucial to bounce ideas off of. He borrows his father’s pick-up truck to transport and deliver to Smorgasburg and retail locations.

Giuseppe Maione at Smorgasburg

Giuseppe at Smorgasburg.
Photograph by Vlad Weinstein

Giuseppe, 28, has found that getting to know and work with other Smorgasburg producers has helped showcase and grow his product. He prefers to source flavorings from his fellow vendors. The chocolate in Saturday’s Fixation came from Raaka Chocolate. Currently there are no plans for a brick and mortar storefront, as Giuseppe wants to market and sell through other sources, like Champs Family Bakery. He likes the idea of small-batch deliveries to other like-minded food stores, as well as picking up the occasional catering gig. He’d love to have a chance to create one-of-a-kind flavors for someone’s wedding. “Twitter and Instagram have been amazing marketing tools. The foodie culture is migrating to sharing what you enjoy,” says Maione.

Alchemy Creamery is no casual endeavor on Giuseppe’s part. It’s an outcome of a lifetime of learning about food and restaurants from his father and the family’s restaurants. Using dependable suppliers and resources, developing aesthetics, pricing the product, working with staff and customers—Maione encountered all of this working in the family’s restaurants, where he was the head waiter for 11 years.  “Food is complex and multi-layered,” says Maione. “On one hand, it’s about nutrition, but it’s also about comfort and pleasure.” And with that, Alchemy Creamery is being developed to keep health in mind (non-dairy) but also fun. One ice cream flavor, or two, is not enough. Maione experiments to create unique flavor mixes, so that one tastes one flavor at first, and then another, and perhaps yet another. Additions like caramel, or chocolate balsamic sauce, or salted walnuts—displayed in chemistry beakers—work to add texture and flavor.

Alchemy Creamery

Toppings, made from ingredients from fellow vendors, add flavor and texture to the weekly “potions.”

Giuseppe and I are colleagues at a retail store; like so many of us lately, he works part time to earn some money to fund the other interests in his life. He’s an incredibly warm, friendly person and takes pleasure when a customer smiles after tasting the flavor mixtures—potions—he crafts. At work, he’s known for bringing in tastings to the employee lounge, and we’ve gotten to taste Stone of Jupiter (a roasted red pepper chocolate chili powder ice cream) and Heart of Mars (Rooibos Red Tea). I’m waiting to taste Saturday Morning Cartoon (Fruity Pebble Tea). It won’t last long.

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