It's two weeks into the New Year and I realize I am already behind. I wanted to have a clear sense of what we had accomplished in 2009 in a sort of "report card" kind of way, and a clear view of what we want for 2010. We've been meaning to have a "board meeting" (Paul and Suzanna talking over a meal at a restaurant without kids) since before the New Year, but it's easier to solve the rubix cube than to get a night out alone. So here we are blindly slipping down the road of the future once again.
Just off the top of my head, here are some of the things we accomplished in 2009 that perhaps we should give ourselves some credit for:
(1) our gross sales were 25% higher than our projection, and more than triple our 2008 sales (not to mention that our projections were put together before the economy tanked);
(2) I think we passed the break even point, although I have to talk to my accountant to know if I'm right about that;
(3) we established relationships with three different distributors and are now in at least 3 states, with more to come;
(4) we initiated conversations with Whole Foods that could lead to placement in their North Atlantic region stores in the next few months;
(5) we probably doubled the number of stores that we are in (but we don't really know because distributors sometimes don't want to share that information);
(6) we landed a couple of really great bulk dough food service accounts (i.e., Ben & Jerry's in the University Mall);
(7) we had a productive conversation with a co-packer about the possibility of working with them to automate the production of our cookie dough in the future and feel really good about that option;
(8) and perhaps the most important accomplishment is that we are still afloat, both in business and personally!
On the other side of the report card, in the "needs improvement" category:
(1) we need to reduce or at least control our expenses to maintain a better margin;
(2) cash flow became a huge challenge in the fall when the cash sales for the shop diminished and accounts receivable increased;
(3) we still feel like we're fumbling in the dark when it comes to having a firm grasp on business finance;
(4) we have no more capital with which to expand;
(5) we still can't really pay ourselves, which is taking its toll; and
(6) our website is not really paying for itself yet, so we need to put more effort into making that work for us.
Our business will turn three this year. A number of people have told me that it's "normal" for a business not to turn a profit until the third year. Is that true? I don't know. All I know is that this is what it looks like when you start a business with whatever you have in your savings account, and then beg and borrow money from family and friends as you grow.
Here are some things we'd like to make happen this year:
(1) We'd like to create an advisory board. We have already received amazing help from other entrepreneurs in the food industry, but we'd like to formalize some of those relationships and create some new ones.
(2) I want to revise our business plan so that I have a sense of what it is going to take for us to grow to the level that we would need to in order to enter into a relationship with a co-packer.
(3) I want to develop one or two new flavors to add to our product line, and I want to introduce our scones to the market.
(4) We want to jazz up The Love Shack with better signage and more merchandise.
(5) We want to put real effort into marketing our website to make it profitable.
(6) We want to increase our press exposure.
(7) We want to triple sales again.
Pie in the sky? Who knows? I thought my 2009 projections were out there, so hey, anything is possible.
Here's looking at you 2010!