I was honored and humbled to be asked to speak at this year's 'Thrive Creative Conference' (www.thrivecreativeevents.com). It was a jam- packed weekend with so many talented and successful creatives and I left energized and motivated to implement all the amazing things I was able to learn from all the speakers and even the attendees that I was fortunate enough to chat with. I encourage you to look this organization up on social media or online and plan to attend the next one.
The topic that I was asked to speak about was 'Scaling your Business & Growing your team'. I was on a panel discussion with a remarkable woman named Mica May of May Designs (www.maydesigns.com). You have to check her out! Her story is amazing! She started out making customizable notebooks from home, attended an event in which she met the host of Good Morning America, who gave her, literally, a 40 second pitch that resulted in 33,000 orders overnight! Yes, 33,000!!!!! It was inspiring to hear her story and learn how she made that jump and achieved enormous continued success. At this point, I was wondering why I was even on stage!
Either way, I'm going to go ahead and answer the questions they posed for me in a Q&A format to get right down to it. And feel free to ask any other questions you may have about the topic or related to it.
1) What specific thing happened when you knew it would be best for your business to hire someone? What point did you reach where you knew you needed to start growing a team?
We operated our business as lean as we could and did as much as we could do ourselves for as long as we could. My brother and I worked our River Oaks storefront for the first TWO years! That meant, that I was in the kitchen with batter all over me (it helped that the kitchen was located right there) and would also work the customer service retail side. I think this was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Sure, my time was worth more than hiring someone to work the storefront, but what we gained was the amazing relationships we were able to form and nurture. Getting to know our clients, and even business vendors was a great way to learn what we were doing right, and what they wanted. It wasn't until both my brother and I started to feel burnt out and lost the enthusiasm for describing what salted caramel was, that we decided to start looking to hire. And let me tell you how very hard it is to give your baby into the hands of someone else and hope that they are just as passionate as you are!
2) How do you translate your passion about your business to an employee? How do you show them what your why is so that they get excited about your why?
I think for our staff, seeing how hard we work, shows them how important this is for us. Because we are not a large corporation, the small business feel is translated by our actions. My family is very involved in the business and to this day my staff calls my Mom, 'Mom' and my Dad, 'Dad; which makes us all feel like a big family. Our staff will see us washing the bathrooms, mopping floors, delivering inventory, and even scrubbing dishes. Nothing is beneath us and we do it all. We have been fortunate to find staff that share that vision and contribute to our success.
3) Where did you look for someone to hire, and how did you know they were the right one to hire?
When we first started hiring, we would employ new graduates from the culinary/pastry schools around the city. It was a great way for us to find passionate and eager staff, whilst they received a lot of hands on baking experience with one of the most finicky pastries that exists. As time progressed though, we realized that even pastry students had their variances. After spending months and months training, spending lots of time and money to no avail, I realized that some just had the hand for it, while others were better suited to baking other delights and macarons were just not their thing. From then on, I could observe them for a couple of hours and know whether this was going to work or not and despite wanting to employ and keep everyone, I knew I had to follow my gut and instinct.
4) How did you know it was the right time to expand and spend money on the expansion?
In all honesty, most of our expansion and growth has happened organically. We've responded to demand and opportunities that were presented to us. However, there was a point in which we had an opportunity with a large grocer and based on that opportunity, we went ahead and built out a large commissary space in which to produce from. But, if anyone knows the construction process - by the time we found the right space and finished building it out, we lost the contract. And here we were with this giant space, and extra overhead. We were fortunate however, that other opportunities did present themselves and we expanded and gained other wholesale accounts that allow us to use every inch of that space now, but trust me when I say, we were petrified when the deal fell through. And that's just the nature of business. You can do all the planning you want, but at the end of the day, you have to be prepared and ready to accept the unplanned events.
So, there you have it. I hope I was able to add some value and give some insight into business growth and development. If you have any other questions related to this or anything at all, feel free to comment and I'd be happy to respond to the best of my ability.
Thank you to Breanna Pair and her team for putting together such a wonderful event. I'm looking forward to next year's already!
Photos courtesy of Kati Hewitt Photography (Insta: @katihewittphoto).