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.

Joy’s Best of Brooklyn for April 6 and 7

A short list of weekend openings and events
John Singer Sargent, Villa di Marlia, Lucca: A Fountain, 1910. Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund. At Brooklyn Museum, now.

John Singer Sargent, Villa di Marlia, Lucca: A Fountain, 1910. Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund. At Brooklyn Museum, now.

caption here

Maker + Materials: tree house architect Romero. (Photograph, Caroline Voagen Nelson)

A Tree House grows in Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Wood from reclaimed trees felled by Hurricane Sandy is showing up in many uses and locations. Reclaim NYC, with designs implemented out of Sandy debris, will be exhibiting at NYCxDesign in May. Opening Saturday, tree house architect Roderick Romero is constructing a new site-specific installation using trees downed by Sandy. This promises to be part artwork, part open-air classroom, and will certainly be fun to view and walk through.

New exhibition, “That Perfectly Arranged Mouth,” paintings by Katharine Colona Hopkins. At 440 Gallery, Park Slope.

Inaugural exhibition, Next Generation, by Park Slope artist Lori Nelson. At Ground Floor Gallery, Park Slope. 6pm-10pm.

Inaugural exhibition, “Next Generation,” by Park Slope artist Lori Nelson.
At Ground Floor Gallery, Park Slope. 6pm-10pm.

GO: New exhibition, “John Singer Sargent Watercolors,” plus Target First Saturday. Brooklyn Museum.

Great for kids: Spring Seed Celebration & Swap, an annual celebration of making things grow. At Old Stone House and Washington Park. Park Slope. 10am-4pm.

Lumpia Shack’s return to Smorg

Lumpia Shack’s back @ Smorg

Return of Smorgasburg! Over 100 vendors in a new location in Williamsburg, at East River State Park. 11am-6pm.

Smorg vendors I’m seeking out: Brooklyn Piggies, Bolivian Llama Party, ISH Premium Horseradish, Lumpia Shack…let us know what you recommend.

Jazz Healing Force of The Universe. Saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett does two sets at Sistas’ Place Coffee House, Bed Stuy. 9pm and 10:30pm. Part of the month-long Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival presented by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium. For the 14th year, this longest running grassroots festival features more than 500 artists performing in 50 venues throughout Brooklyn.


Whether at Smorgasburg, above, or at a Food Truck Rally, food always seems to taste better al fresco.

The food trucks return to the Park with a Food Truck Rally at Grand Army Plaza. Every first and third Sunday of the month will give everyone the chance to dine in style at Mike’n’Willie’s, Milk Truck, Rickshaw Dumplings, plus a dozen more vendors. Afterwards, you could run or walk it off around the Park’s 3.35 mile loop. Prospect Park at Grand Army Plaza. 11am-5pm.

Return of Smorgasburg! Over 75 vendors are back at the historic Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO. 11am-6pm.

Recycle easily and safely: Spring NYC SAFE (solvents, automotive, flammable, electronics) disposal event. Here’s a one-stop way to get rid of potentially harmful household products. Depending on the product, materials collected will either be recycled, blended for fuel, or sent to licensed hazardous waste treatment facilities for safe disposal. Prospect Park, corner of Parkside Avenue and Prospect Park SW. 10am-4pm.

fifthTasteW E D N E S D A Y, April 10

Purchase tickets soon for A Taste of Fifth at the Grand Prospect Hall. We’re liking that $20 of your $45 ticket will go to a non-profit Fifth Avenue BID member of your choice. This is a chance to try some of the most talked about food and drink from places you never seem to get to, such as Fleisher’s, Campo Di Fiori, Leske’s Bakery, Pork Slope, lots more. The Grand Prospect Hall has to be one of the more ornate party places in the area—can you name a film it appeared in? Park Slope. 6:30pm.

2todoNOTEJoy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to brooklynartisan@joymakondesign.com

The New Corner Grocers

Day Ten 12 Tastes of Brooklyn

Charcuterie and cheese plates, often with products from small local grocers, are offered up at Brooklyn’s wine and brew bars. This one at Brooklyn Winery.

dec15WITH SO MANY ARTISANAL FOOD MAKERS in Brooklyn, it’s good to also find some wonderful small grocery stores where you can buy their small-batch products. These are the anti-supermarket—you really want to call them shops because they often conjure up the feeling of a village shop where customers and proprietor greet each other by name. The selections in these diminutive stores are carefully chosen (dare I say curated?) from producers that the proprietors often know personally. They’ve tasted the cheese, or the salumi, or the sauces or pickles and they like them! And they want you to have them (for a price). I was on the hunt, recently, for salumi and cheeses and meze for a holiday gathering.

d-coluccioI’d already bagged my baba ganoush at Sahadi’s and some soppressata and Italian cheese from D. Coluccio & Sons (above), a store and importing/wholesale business that’s been around for half a century. (Like Sahadi’s, it has been an anchor in its neighborhood bringing hard-to-find artisanal and specialty products to a discriminating audience.) Now I’m ready to explore some of the small grocers.

Beth Lewand and Chris Gray opened Eastern District two years ago to bring their favorite beers and cheeses to Greenpoint. The shelves are stocked with plenty of local products, but the store sources farther afield too. The cheese selection will keep you there for half an hour trying to decide.

Mmmm....what to take? Great choices at Eastern District.

Mmmm….what to take? Great choices at Eastern District.

Salumi comes from such respected producers as Olympic Provisions in Seattle, Creminelli in Salt Lake City and Charlito’s Cocina in Queens. I sampled Charlito’s salumi earlier this summer at Smorgasburg. Charlito (Charles Samuel Wekselbaum), who was raised in a Cuban-American household, draws on the curing traditions of Spain and uses 100% pasture-raised heritage breed pork. (Check out his fig salumi, too.) Each week, there’s a different cheese/beer pairing at Eastern District, with rotating beers on tap (and growlers to take some home).

When you open the door of Bedford Cheese Shop, the pungent aromas of cheese hit you. This is a good thing. The cheese descriptions are witty, the staff helpful (they’ll always offer tastes). Salumi comes from small-batch producers.

Brooklyn Cheese Shop, established in 2003

Bedford Cheese Shop, established in 2003


The whole shop is inviting, with shelves stocked with the best of Brooklyn and beyond. At a second branch on Irving Place in Manhattan, Bedford Cheese now offers classes. Next up, on December 19: whiskey styles and their cheese counterparts.

A.L.C. Italian Grocery is a gem of a store in Bay Ridge that has been open less than two months. Owner Louis Coluccio grew up in the specialty food business (he is one of the sons in D. Coluccio & Sons). Now, for his own store, he aims to combine “the best of Italian products and the best of local products,” he told us when we visited last week.


The selection is meticulous and beautifully displayed. You’ll find Parmacotto Salumeria Rosi and smoked pancetta from Leoncini (both Italian) as well as Brooklyn Cured and Mosefund Farm meats.

Italian and Brooklyn products share the shelves at A.L.C. Italian Grocery.

Italian and Brooklyn products share the shelves at A.L.C. Italian Grocery.

Tastings happen often, sometimes twice a week; today was prosciutto—“Genuine prosciutto is made of only four ingredients: hand-selected legs of premier pigs, salt, air and skill.” A.L.C. Grocery is also working on some evening classes at the shop with select producers, which they hope to announce in early January.

Eastern District
1053 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint

D. Coluccio & Sons, Inc.
1214 60th Street, Borough Park

Bedford Cheese Shop
229 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg

A.L.C. Italian Grocery
8613 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is American Typewriter, by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan, ITC, 1974.


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.

Business Is Cooking at Smorgasburg

ImageTHE LAST DAYS OF THIS YEAR’S SMORGASBURG food fair are going to be here before we can possibly get our fill (November 17 at the original Williamsburg site, November 18 in DUMBO) so we thought we’d head over while the weather was still beautiful. What better excuse than a houseful of guests last weekend (from France! from Canada!) hungry to sample the wares of Brooklyn food artisans they’d heard so much about. (The New York Times has famously called it the “Woodstock of Eating.”)

To avoid going underground on such a sunny fall day, we took the East River Ferry from Manhattan and looped our way to the Brooklyn side of the river, past the Long Island City and Greenpoint stops, down to Williamsburg, getting a few peeks at old industrial Brooklyn along the way.

Once we landed at Smorgasburg, we were hit by irresistible smells and sizzles, but before diving in, we paused a moment to take in the stunning Manhattan backdrop to this outdoor market. Location, location, location indeed.

The 75+ vendors at Smorgasburg are wildly diverse—and not just from a culinary point of view. For some, the food fair, started by Brooklyn Flea last year, is a launch pad for bringing a new product to market. In the beginning, it may be a business’s sole distribution point. For a brick-and mortar establishment like Porchetta, the East Village shop where Chef Sara Jenkins sells her “drop-dead delicious” Italian street-food sandwich, it’s an additional sales outlet and marketing vehicle. For others, it’s one of several distribution points: You’ll find Kelso of Brooklyn beers at Smorgasbar (a roped- off drinks area introduced in the middle of the food fair this year) as well as at bars around NYC (especially Brooklyn). Grady’s Cold Brew coffee, available at Smorgasburg, is also sold online and at Whole Foods in NYC and beyond.

How does this distribution puzzle fit together? Finding the right channels—and getting access to them—is always a challenge for small food producers. We look forward to talking more to Brooklyn artisans about what works, what doesn’t and hearing about lessons learned they’d like to share.

Oh, and the funny thing: After circling the market and winding back and forth, all five of us landed up on line at Landhaus.

ImageMaple bacon on a stick—how could my Canadian heart resist?—and a juicy lamb burger, perfectly cooked. It was BLTs for the boys (maple bacon slab included). Plus Kelso’s Belgian Pale Ale and Sixpoint’s Crisp Lager, capped off by BiteMe mini cheesecakes and Alchemy’s Dark Chocolate vegan frozen dessert.

Even after the November closing dates, Brooklyn Flea assures us that 10 hot/prepared food vendors and about 7 to 8 packaged food vendors will be at Skylight One Hanson, Brooklyn Flea’s winter home. They’ll all be on the lower level of the market toward the back.

Smorgasburg: 8 Weekends Left!
11 am to 6 pm
Saturdays on the Williamsburg waterfront between North 6th and North 7th St., at the East River
Sundays (except September 30) on the DUMBO waterfront at the historic Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park
                                        Basia Hellwig curates the Food/Drink category for Brooklyn Artisan.
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