I don’t remember where I was driving to or from, but I remember the phone call I had in my car with my friend Emmanuel, who would soon become one of my business partners.
“Ah yes, the bars seem scalable,” Emmanuel had said. That was a key element to this: scalability. In our recent conversations, I had talked about the potential for becoming a consultant in the engineering sector, and Emmanuel would point out that, prestigious and lucrative though it may be, selling your time as a consultant isn’t scalable – there’s only one of you, and you can only be in one place at a time, no matter how exorbitant your “billable rate”. But with a novel product, you only have to invent it, design it, build it once. After that, you can make as many widgets as the widget factory can crank out. Need to make more widgets? Find a bigger factory.
Of course, running a factory isn’t cheap, and it isn’t exactly something that a couple of 20-something-year-olds a couple years into their corporate careers could easily pay for, let alone own, operate and manage. Emmanuel would often talk about IT being the ideal. Unfortunately, neither of us were software engineers or web developers. I’d hacked together a few simple software applications in my free time, but certainly nothing marketable. The question I’d find myself pondering after our early idealistic discussions was always the same: What can we make and sell that wouldn’t require us to go back to school for another 4-year program, and wouldn’t force us to wait several months or years learning a sophisticated new skillset? I had been making these chocolate energy bars at home for a while. Having given some to friends and family, the feedback had been positive. Why not try selling them? I thought. That’s when I decided to pitch the energy bar idea to Emmanuel and Justin (another close friend) as an entrepreneurial venture. We still couldn’t afford a big energy bar factory, but we had faith in the product, and that was enough for us.
After the phone call in my car, we started to get serious about entrepreneurship. We met in a coffee shop and spent an hour or two bouncing ideas off of one another for the company name. Finally we settled on Heaven’s Pantry – and shortly thereafter, the articles of organization were filed. Just like that, the three of us were founders of a company.
So what the heck do we know about running a business, you might ask. Great question. At the time we became a business, we knew nothing! After a couple years and a lot of hard work, I can confidently say we now know…slightly more than nothing. But you know what? At over a thousand bars sold at time of writing, that hasn’t stopped us yet. And though there is no detailed rulebook for exactly how to lead and operate a startup, that’s part of what makes entrepreneurship so fun and rewarding, although admittedly terrifying too. I always like to tell people that as entrepreneurs with no formal business administration training, my business partners and I have complete freedom to build an empire…or run this company into the ground.
Don’t let the world convince you that you need years of executive experience, or an MBA, or billions of dollars in venture capital to start a business. If you know how to do or make something that’s useful to other people, and you’ve got a passion for doing or making that thing, then you’ve got everything you need to start a company. Of course, money helps – but if you don’t have much of that, you’ll just have to start small. That’s what we did (we only just bought QuickBooks a month ago!). With nothing but a recipe, a vision, and whatever extra money we could spare from our full-time jobs, we started Heaven’s Pantry. So if you’ve got a useful skill and a little bit of cash stored away, and you’ve always dreamed of being your own boss, you might want to ask yourself: what’s stopping you?