Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the road again

This last week, my husband and I took a road trip from San Jose to San Diego for a business meeting.  Before we left, I researched several young companies for consideration in this blog. A list of young companies (less than five years old) was created using web searches and local press.  My plan was to visit the companies during the road trip, meet with owners and managers, and gather information about their strategies for success.  This time, since a girl has to eat on the road, the list focused on bakeries.  All in the name of research.

What surprised me most wasn’t the fantastic companies that will be discussed in future entries.  It was actually the companies that were taken off the list.  Let me clarify something here. I don’t get paid to visit companies or write about them.  The products sampled are usually purchased by me, unless I happen to be on the factory floor and sampling is part of a tour or something.  Objectivity is paramount.  What you get here are my observations on what makes start-ups succeed and examples of potential weaknesses.   

For example, a bakery near San Diego has a recipe for success with a perfect location and a lot of foot traffic.  However, the product that I had was, quite honestly, inedible. (I am not one to throw away food, but I couldn’t finish that cupcake to save my life.)  Additionally, the menu was remarkably limited with very limited product on display, and the hours were short. On the one hand, just because a company exists doesn’t mean that it is successful.  On the other hand, there are many factors that I did not observe.   

Another bakery had a decent amount of press and a great website - two items in the plus column.  In contrast with the other bakery, the central coast had a huge range of products, um… if you like donuts.  Fun donuts of all flavors from traditional old fashioned to maple bacon logs - three items in the plus column.  But in no way, shape, or form does one appreciate flies on food.  Nope.  My co-pilot almost ran for the door.  Undaunted, I got a couple of things that looked the least likely to have been visited by airborne insects.  After missing lunch, I tried one of the donuts.  Unremarkable.  Ok – I liked the chocolate frosting, but the donut itself was just there.  We tried the other one.  Not even unremarkable.  As hungry as I was, I put away the pastries.  (In the end, they ended up in the trash.  Don’t tell my mom.)    
Just like our judgment of food, success is subjective.  The customers of the donut shop may love the crazy flavors and maybe I was there on an off day.  To the locals, this place may be hugely successful if it is revitalizing a neglected neighborhood or building community by bringing people together.  To the owners, it may be a success if it is not losing money.  To others, they may expect the next Dunkin or Krispie.  It is all relative.  So – your question for the week…  

What do you consider success?

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