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Real Life Advice for Small Businesses - U-LUV Foods

Real Life Advice for Small Businesses

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" -- Benjamin Franklin

Statistics show that roughly 80% of start up businesses fail by year 3. Now that number might seem staggering (and it is), there could be some underlying variables that lead to this sky-rocketed number, much of which revolves around planning. 

We at U-LUV Foods had to learn some of these lessons the hard way. Listed below are a few pointers and lessons learned in starting a small business and/or planning to do so. 

  1. Have a clear and well-defined business plan: This will help you to stay focused on your goals, identify potential challenges, and create a roadmap for success. The saying goes; "if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. At U-LUV foods we develop cookies free of 14 allergens. At first we really didn't understand the food allergy market. Those with food allergies typically have more than one allergy. Allergic reactions range from minor to life-threatening. This posed several challenges in developing allergen-free cookies and the associated production processes to ensure our cookies are allergen-free. Having a well-defined business plan would have spotlighted these requirements and prevented several wasted cycles associated with product rebranding, re-packaging, production controls and marketing. 
  2. Know your market: Research your target audience, understand their needs and preferences and tailor your products or services accordingly. At the outset of U-LUV foods, we didn't understand our customers needs and eating challenges. Without this we weren't able to target concerns of our customers and convey how our healthier cookies address their concerns. We also had to overcome market stigmas that healthier cookies don't taste good and have an undesirable carboard-like texture. Even though we consistently received 5 star reviews for the taste and texture of our cookies, acceptance in gaining new customers was slower than expected. We had to find ways to overcome the stigmas associated with a healthier cookie.  We used targeted marketing, education and product sampling to overcome these stigmas. Knowing your market up front and focusing your efforts on identifying and meeting their needs, will improve product adoption.
  3. Create a strong brand: Develop a unique and memorable brand that communicates your values and sets you apart from your competitors. We went through several brand iterations prior to landing on U-LUV foods. Creating a strong brand is something that is really heart felt and needs careful consideration and vetting with potential customers to determine if the brand is relevant to them and communicates your values. Using your salsa recipe passed down through generations doesn't guarantee success. A good product and strong brand are a better recipe. 
  4. Focus on customer service: Provide excellent customer service to build loyalty and encourage repeat business. It takes much more time, effort, and resources to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one.  Think of how you can outperform your competitors by delighting your customers. Their postive reviews will pay dividends in gaining loyalty and attracting new customers. At U-LUV foods we respond to customer inquiries with a sense of urgency. It's important to take action to address customer issues in a timely manner and communicate what you are doing to resolve them. 
  5. Keep your finances in order: Keep track of your finances, create a budget, and invest in accounting software to help you stay organized. The main thing here is to keep track of income and expenses.  At U-LUV foods we started by using spreadsheets. As we grew, we began using accounting software, along with on-line tutorials and commuication with our tax accountant to become better educated on accouting principlals and practices. 
  6. Stay agile: Be willing to adapt to changes in the market, adjust your strategy as needed, and embrace new technologies that can help you grow your business. Use analytics to monitor company performance. By so doing, you can take a proactive approach to negative trends and course correct before they become a problem.  At U-LUV foods we intially made gluten-free cookies and quickly realized that people with a gluten allergy oftentimes have more than one food allergy.  We adapted by developing cookies free of all 14 major allergens.  However, our cookies had to taste as good or better than traditional baked cookies to address the taste and texture stigmas tied to healthier cookies. As you stay agile, don't shift from those key requirements necessary to maintain your customer base.
  7. Network and collaborate: Attend industry events, join local business groups, and collaborate with other small businesses to build relationships and increase your visibility. At U-LUV foods we like to engage with our local community by attending local events and our national community by staying active on social media sites. Through curating posts from external sources, that convey similar interests to your product, and by using affiliate marketing you can effectively network and collaborate with other small businesses while engaging your customers.
  8. Hire the right people: Hire employees who share your values and have the skills and experience needed to help you achieve your goals. As a small business, many employees must wear several hats. Understanding each employees strengths and weaknesses allows you to direct their strengths to those areas that can benefit the company and allow the employee to excel and enjoy their work.
  9. Focus on growth: Set realistic growth targets, measure your progress regularly, and invest in marketing and advertising to help you reach new customers. This is key to growing your business. You need to determine the marketing channels most effective for your product, albeit; on-line, retail, and/or service sectors. Next, determine how the channel performs considering associated costs and returns. Direct your marketing and advertising efforts based on performance.
  10. Never stop learning: Stay up-to-date with industry trends, attend conferences and training sessions, and seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support.

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