Small specialty food in jars.

In her book, Good Food Great Business, Susie Wyshak starts the first chapter off by asking – are you ready to be an entrepreneur? And if so, 12 good reasons to get into the food business…and 3 bad ones.

I’ll let you check out the book to dig deeper into all of them, but I want to talk about the ones that I thought would resonate with most people.

So, here they are.

7 Reasons to start a Specialty Food Business:

  • I have a family recipe that I want to take to market

  • I want to preserve and/or restore a tradition.

  • I want to re-do a popular food in a way that is healthier, or just modernized

  • I want to work from home

  • I want a career that is more fulfilling

  • I want to create something for a specialty, niche diet

  • I’ve always wanted to make and sell a food item and be involved in the foods industry

Those weren’t her exact words, but the gist is very similar.

For myself, I would say my reasons to get into the specialty food market
would be a mix of several of the above. The others, while very interesting, either weren’t applicable or practical (for me).

My Secret Family Recipe…

If I had a family recipe that was worthy of marketing, I would be all over that.
But I don’t come from a family of cooks (no offense to anyone in my family – they have or had, other interests!) and nothing was passed down. My late Grandma Ruby was the only one I can think of that had any kind of real interest in the kitchen. She lived in Iowa, we lived in Seattle, kitchen visits didn’t happen.

Stonewall kitchens syrups and specialty food.
From selling jam at the Farmer’s Market to a multi-million dollar business

Preserving Tradition and History

I love tradition and foods with a past. That’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to the ceremony of Afternoon Tea and all the trimmings that go with it.
So, preserving a tradition or re-discovering a lost baking or food art, is quite enticing to me.

My love of history is another reason, why, if I could do any food/bev industry thing in the world, it would be to have a winery. I don’t think I would be the vintner, but as an owner I would be involved in everything else (and I already make wine labels, so there is that). Unfortunately, you have to either be born into that world, or have a whole heckuva lot of money to start up that kind of business.

Domain Weinbach was established in 1612 by Capuchin friars.

Wine has such a rich history, and many of the older vineyards have what is called a heritage brand. It means a brand or company that goes back, sometimes hundreds of years. If you have a heritage brand, you’re in luck, your business story is already written for you. If you’re one of those with a family recipe, even if you’re just beginning your business, the heritage angle is a possibility. Everyone loves a good back story.

Though the atmosphere of a winery is a dream environment – the smell of slightly chilly, barrel-filled cellars, the manicured rows of grapes…in all honestly, I’m probably more in love with the romanticized version of a winery than what the business really is. But I’ll choose to remain blissfully ignorant.

Moving on…

Re-creating a classic

I don’t have any plans to re-create a popular food, though I do think it’s a good idea. There’s a kind of nostalgia that creates an instant marketing step-up for these kinds of items. And the fact that they can be re-made as a healthier alternative is never a bad idea.

My friend Melanie and I were talking about TV Dinners we remember having when we were little. No doubt they were filled with 3 parts junk and 1 part mostly-bad-for-you ingredients, but we both remember loving them; the packaging had little games to entertain young diners and it really made eating fun as a kid. Obviously, today there’s Lean Cuisine etc. but I think there’s room in the market for more.

Working from Home

I want to work from home (I do that now) and I would add that I would always
want to be my own boss.

Working from home is popular. If a person has kids at home, it’s especially appealing. But even for others, who don’t want or need to pay rent for an outside space, having a business that you can conduct from the comfort of your kitchen or home office is great. Doesn’t mean you’ll stay in your home kitchen, but it does allow you to get started much less expensively.

The Cottage Food laws have made using your own kitchen to produce foods much easier, albeit with limitations on what kinds of foods you can make and how and where they can be sold.

There are a few downsides to working from home;  you’ll find it hard to disengage. And if you’re the sole employee, it can get lonely.
Oh, and one other thing – and it’s even more so with a kitchen-based, business -sole employee situation. Due to lack of co-workers, you may find the refrigerator becoming your BFF. 

Do I want a career that is more fulfilling?

Well, yeah. Duh.
That’s not to say that my stationery and paper design business isn’t, but it involves a lot of computer time – as does this blog – and I find it peaceful to do something that is not driven by a keyboard and mouse. Cooking and baking can be therapeutic. Although, I do understand that cooking as a business is much different than spending a lazy weekend baking scones for your family. Still, I think any break away from the screen is always good.

And if your food business helps others, even better. Support for small farms and local businesses are an opportunity to not only back other community businesses, but they build relationships too. If you’re working from home, by yourself, it’s a chance to get out and about, and mingle with other like-minded food folk.

Developing a specialty food for a niche diet

I don’t ever go on specific diets because I’m of the mindset that moderation is the key. Year after year, I see diets come out and something is completely removed or there are severe restrictions, etc. – and it’s hailed as the be all and end all. Then a few years later, we come to find out that something about the diet was bad for you. That’s a generalization, but you know what I mean.
The only ‘diet’ I would say that I kind of follow, but not strictly (at all) would be a Mediterranean Diet, since it’s mostly based on fresh fruits, veggies, etc.

That said, for people who are gluten-free, or with some sort of allergy, I can definitely see the appeal of a niche food product. I think if it’s based on a diet rather than an allergy, it could have the potential for short-lived success as it depends on the diet’s popularity, but for a specific need, it sounds more reasonable.

specialty food and beverages
The food business encompasses not just packaged foods, but physical spaces too.

I’ve always wanted to be in the food biz

Yeah, I can understand this.
I can’t say I’ve always wanted to be in the food business, but I can say that I have always had a special feeling of happiness and comfort when walking into gourmet food shops. Did you ever see that movie, It’s Complicated with Meryl Streep?

The thing I loved most about that movie were the scenes in her bakery/shop. There were just a few, but it’s exactly the kind of place I feel so at home in. The whole atmosphere of beautiful baked goods and the smell of excellent coffee…kinda like a winery, is intoxicating.

Maybe for you, it’s a different food experience. Maybe you’ve always known it was something you wanted to do, and if so, that’s a pretty strong incentive. I say, ‘got for it.’

So there are the good reasons now….

What about the 3 bad reasons for getting in specialty food?

Well, it’s the same ones that plague any other business –
Because you want to get rich quick.
I mean….how often does that really happen? From what I see, the only ones getting rich are the people selling you whatever it is you need to get rich quick, according to them.

Because everyone says you should do it.
Just because you’re super good at something doesn’t always mean you enjoy it. Maybe math comes naturally to you – doesn’t mean you have to, or want to be, an accountant.

If you find something you’re truly interested in, beyond just making money, you’re work life will have such a better chance of being happy and fulfilling. We spend most of our waking hours working – if you’re working just for the money, it doesn’t matter how much you make, your life will not be rich unless you can make so much that you only have to work part-time and you have lots of hobbies;)

Because I want to work less.
Ha,ha,haaaaaa! Anyone who has ever had a business knows what a joke this is! Unless you don’t need to make money from your business, you’ll not be working less…but you’ll most likely be much more inspired.

The Entrepreneur question…

Lastly, what about the entrepreneur question? Are you ready for entrepreneurship?
This post is getting long, let’s discuss that in the next one.

You can find the book, Good Food Great Business, by Susie Wyshak on Amazon and on the IndieBound book site.

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