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.

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BROOKLYN ARTISAN’S 12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Starting at the Grand Gateway to Prospect Park

Day One  12 Views of Brooklyn
The arch at Grand Army Plaza lighted for the holidays (Photo by Joseph Caserto. More: Who’s Who)
  Photograph by Joseph Caserto; see our Who’s Who.

dec6THE SOLDIERS’ AND SAILORS’ ARCH at Grand Army Plaza, lighted for the holidays. Built in 1892 to mark the entrance to Prospect Park, the arch was modified three years later when bronze statuary was added. Originally Prospect Park Plaza, the circle was renamed Grand Army Plaza in 1926 as commemoration for veterans of the Union Army of the Civil War. In 1975, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. At the nexus of Union Street, Eastern Parkway, Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Park West and Flatbush Avenue, where the 2/3 trains stop, it is an imposing backdrop for the popular Saturday farmer’s market and food truck meet-ups. (Be warned: This is the busiest traffic circle in Brooklyn, and though recent efforts to address the safety and preferences of pedestrians have yielded improvements, not all problems have been solved.) 

Brooklyn Makers at Martha Stewart’s American Made Show

THE DETAILS: A huge American Made sign in Grand Central Station gets
a going-over by Brooklyn Artisan inspectors. (Photos for BA/Mollie Ann Smith)

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNDERGROUND BUZZ about Martha Stewart’s big Grand Central Station event is literally that – underground: in the food court, where I am buying a quick chicken caesar. Something (the Brooklyn Artisan tote bag over my shoulder?) must’ve tipped off Maria who is taking food orders at Tri Tip.

Martha Stewart's American Made was a big event for Maria, working at Tri Tip.

In the food court, Maria is excited that Martha Stewart’s upstairs.

“Have you been up to the Martha Stewart exhibit? It’s really fun,” she confides. “I made a key chain and I’m going back after my shift to make a necklace.” Usually she knits or crochets, but she says she has gotten a bunch of new ideas from the show. No, Maria didn’t see Martha Stewart in person, but to know she was there was…a good thing.

Up in Vanderbilt Hall, one long line snakes around to the silkscreening of custom tote bags, another waits on the food tastings, and a third crowd will attend the next class session in a screened off area behind the silver Toyota. Toyota, Westin Hotels, and JCP (as in James Cash Penny) are among the event sponsors. The craft tables are on the eastern side of the hall along with the UPS and Avery sponsor/information tables.

Foxy & Winston towels designed by Jane Buck, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s Red Hook is the creative home of Jane Buck’s whimsical designs. (BA photo: Joy Makon)

Brooklyn is well represented at the craft tables. Red Hook’s Foxy & Winston display, for instance, shows tea towels, children’s aprons, pillow covers, wispy neck scarves, and letterpress cards printed with whimsical designs by Jane Buck: artichokes, hedgehogs, paddleboats, tugboats, peacocks.

Jane tells us her designs are printed in India on Indian cotton, and then the bolts are cut and the pieces sewn in the USA. She herself is an import, she mentions. As an art history and fashion student in London for five years, she was making a living by waiting tables. She met and was courted by a New Zealander. When his English visa ran out, he had to go home, and the closest spot to her he could find to live was New York. He is a wine importer. They traveled back and forth and then made the leap: 13 years ago on October 1, they were married in Central Park. It’s a love story that stretches halfway round the world and ends up in Brooklyn.

Jane Buck set up her design studio in Red Hook and opened a little retail area in the front. Now through that store and other outlets, her business has enough volume for her to afford an assistant three days a week. “Before that,” she says, laughing, “‘I’d be working in the back and when someone came in, I’d have to pop out from behind the curtain: ‘Hello, may I help you?'” [Read more…]

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