I started working towards the launch of Three Little Birds back in January, when it became apparent that I needed something to be excited about. I love starting businesses and all of the challenges that come along with making something from nothing.
In a lot of ways, starting a company is like developing a formula for a recipe. In cooking, once you learn the basic fundamentals of food preparation, the recipes are general guidelines. Learning which foods compliment each other and which pairings to avoid is equally as important as learning proper cooking technique. After all, even perfectly cooked, no one likes tuna & banana scented creme brulee, right?
So, once you learn and master the techniques, and then you figure out which ingredients come together to make the perfect dish, it's a lot of interpretation after that. The possibilities are endless because you know the framework within which you must work. Anything after that is controlled trial and error, theory, and careful and thoughtful execution.
The other important thing in cooking that many people don't take into consideration is that knowing your audience is incredibly important. I learned this after a very irritating experience a few years ago. My family is not a "food" family. My family does not love, like, or appreciate what I would consider "good food". Let me clarify. When I say, "good food", I understand that could be very subjective.
I, personally, have an appreciation for fine dining, having the extensive culinary background and working experience that served as the foundation of my early career. However, I don't LIKE fine dining. To me, fine dining is like fine art. I don't get it. I just don't get it.
Fine dining always leaves me feeling like I'm missing something incredibly important, forcing myself to like something I really don't like, and searching for a reason that I should like it. After a multi-course micro-meal, I feel disappointed and let down. Sure, foam and food cooked in a vacuum is neat, but, where is the substance?
I stopped doing fine dining when I realized that everything I made was something I wouldn't want to eat.
So, that being said, to me, "good food" isn't fine dining, but to someone else, that may be the case. To me, "good food" is whole, carefully and thoughtfully prepared, properly cooked and seasoned. It's approachable and natural (I'm not into processed foods and fake ingredients). Good food is satisfying on an emotional level, as well as the ordinary satisfaction derived from satiating your hunger.
When my brother turned 30, I made him a birthday cake. It was a vanilla chiffon cake, filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, strawberries and blueberries, finished with vanilla bean buttercream icing. I was VERY excited about this cake. It was a labor of love from start to finish.
It was, to me, the perfect birthday cake. He, however did not see it that way, and was disappointed that I did not bring him a "Fun-fetti" cake. No lie. Guess who never got another birthday cake from me ever again?
So, knowing your audience is important. If you're "fine dining", that's awesome. Just make sure that your audience likes "fine dining" too...and that there are a lot of them Or, they like to eat this way almost every day of the week. Otherwise, you've got a problem on your hands. And, hint, when I'm using "fine dining" here, I'm not referring to food, I'm referring to a business model.
So what does any of this have to do with granola? Well, a lot actually. My granola isn't for everyone. It's not inexpensive. It's actually a lot like the birthday torte I prepared for my brother. And, at the risk of sounding like a total b*tch, Three Little Birds granola is to other granola brands what my torte was to "fun-fetti". BOLD statement. But, like Kid Rock says, "it ain't braggin', motherf*cker, if you back it up".... (pardon the crude lyrics).
Anyway, I'm approached by a lot of people who want to start their own food businesses, and they ask me for advice. I'm sure that after my start-up reality check, they wish they hadn't asked. There are a lot of reasons NOT to start your own business, but, they don't outweigh the reasons to forge ahead.
Do your homework and do a reality check of your own. There are a lot of fun aspects of owning a food business, like making your product, designing packaging, logos, and websites. There's a lot of really not-so-fun details that suck up a lot of your time and money.
If you're short on people who will give you a reality check, you can always call me. It's now my second job... and, actually, it's a lot of fun, too.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds