By Jahna Eichtel
The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
When my fledgling organic foods company, House Of J, got it’s start, my priorities were 100% focused on my family and my brand was a fun, incredibly easy and an inexpensive side business. By business, I mean I gave lactation cookies to my mom friends.
I soon realized I had a product that was unique and started to take things a little more seriously. At the time, the only options nursing moms had were lactation cookies made using low quality and genetically modified ingredients.
Nursing mommies needed more choices, and I wanted to give it to them.
My focus was on quality, health and taste. I wanted these cookies to be all inclusive. Organic, non-gmo, grain free, packed with nutrition for both mom and baby. That message must have resonated with nursing mothers, because House of J grew into a budding local foods company almost overnight. I had orders going from NY to Australia, and it was awesome.
I hit the ground running and started mailing free cookies to bloggers to get the word out. I worked hard to give plenty of samples to new mothers with the age-old, bait-and-hook method of local marketing.
While building a local presence through events and farmers markets after moving to a new city, I decided that I wanted to expand. Along came granola bars, granola, brownies and other confections with the same goal: to provide organic, healthy and delicious foods.
I went wholesale and started dealing in invoicing and all the ups and downs of pitching to retail. On came a new, more professional packaging design and other details that were both exciting and extremely consuming of time and money.
The costs associated with bringing a small, niche foods business to market is almost unconscionable. You’ve got:
#2. Commercial kitchen rental fees
#3. Ingredients (ORGANIC!)
#4. Packaging and labels
#5. Display boxes
#6. Credit card processing
#7. Shipping and/or self delivery
#8. No-sell buyback
This list is the cost just for doing it all on your own and does NOT include the options of hiring employees or paying a distributor to package for you. This is also before you factor in the cost of doing business, like stocking office supplies, advertising, PR, and everything else that goes into any small business.
Before I knew it, I was burnt out. I had too many product variations for any one single person to handle, retail stores with long overdue invoices and minimal working capital to keep investing. I knew a change had to be made, so I put House of J’s wholesale accounts on hiatus and took a few months to reconsider my passions. I was not a professionally trained chef by any means, as my background is in marketing and sales (which was my favorite part of the business). Incredibly, the baking was and is my least favorite part.
When I asked myself the purpose of my business, my short answer involved the marketing and sales related activities, and not the baking. It became obvious that I was forcing a business model that I wasn’t passionate about on every level. While I will always LOVE the breastfeeding community, and care deeply about maintaining a healthy, nutritious and GMO-free lifestyle, I do not need to be the one providing this on a bulk distribution level. For me, the baking allowed me to market and sell my brand, which was why I kept it going at such an intense level.
Maintaining passion for your business is incredibly hard work. When you realize what your passions and purpose are, your business has a better chance of long term survival.
The lesson learned?
Just because you do something great doesn’t mean you’ll be happy doing it as a business.
A little more than 3 years later, I am continuing to define my purpose in business. I am not involved in the organic food business any longer, and that is okay. Now, as a serial entrepreneur and multi-business owner, I am able to evolve and grow without feeling stifled. My passion for music and multimedia is thriving in our family business, Higher Ground Rehearsal Studios. My passion for GROWING businesses allows me to help other businesses to create and define their purpose through my business strategy and branding company, The Creative Agency.
I can’t promise that these will be my only business ventures for long, as I feel I am just getting started. I encourage you to explore your purpose and pivot your business if it will lead to increased happiness and satisfaction. You won’t regret it!