Starting a Business = Being a Circus Performer
You know the guy at the circus who somehow manages to spin multiple different plates on his fingers, nose, kneecap, and elbow all at the same time? That might be the best metaphor for small business startups that I can imagine. I’ve realized that, though my previous jobs have been in some ways multi-faceted, the scope of those job descriptions are nowhere near as varied as what we’re dealing with now as we get our business off the ground. Luckily, I spent two years in clown college, so everything is going okay. Here are our current spinning plates (cue Radiohead soundtrack):
The Law – Not a plate you want to drop. Federally speaking, we finally received our Federal Alcohol Permit from the TTB at the beginning of December. That was an awesome day, and I think we celebrated by sending a series of emoji-laden texts back and forth for several hours. Our state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission permit is under review at the moment, and once we receive that, we can actually produce and sell cider legally! As soon as that paper comes back, we start our first large(r)-scale test batch on-site.
The Finances – Closing on loans, securing the last bit of private investor money, making sure our budget is on track, trying to anticipate money-pits in advance…fincances are another set of plates that can’t be dropped. The reality is that there are probably about 20 finance plates going at once, and we already know some will drop, but which ones, and when, and can we maybe catch them before they hit the ground? This keeps me up at night.
The Product – The product keeps Aaron up at night. We have our suppliers, we know what equipment we’re going to use, we have great recipes that we’ve made dozens of times on a small scale, but will it all come together when we’re using new equipment in a new environment? We’ve had great reception when we’ve shared our ciders at events over the last year, but everyone loves free alcohol! Will people actually leave their house, drive to our tasting room or to a bar with dozens of beverage options, choose ours, and pay for it?
The Facility – Some pieces of equipment have a six-month lead time. Others you can go buy at Lowes. The rest fall somewhere in the middle. We don’t need all of our equipment to get started, but will need it eventually, so when should we order it, and in what order? Plus, the building is under construction. What if the tanks we ordered in July ship before the new concrete floor has been poured? Where will we put them? Does it really matter if our cinder-block walls are cleaned and painted? Does it $4,000 matter? Should the ADA bathroom go here or there? What grade of insulation do we need, and what grit of epoxy should we put on the floor? Stainless steel floor drains, right? How do we get a sign on the door? Should we get barstools with backs or without? And where will we put the purse hooks (purse hooks matter a lot to women at bars)?! Honestly I could go on forever with the kinds of minute decisions that need to be made Every. Single. Day. I have a whole new respect for anyone who opens a brick and mortar anything.
The Nameless Plate – “I KNOW I’M FORGETTING SOMETHING HUGE BUT WHAT IS IT?!” – me, almost every minute of every day.
So there’s a bit of insight into our lives at the moment. It sounds fear-laden, but it isn’t. It’s invigorating, with a tiny bit of fear and a pretty large dash of manic energy mixed in. And neither of us could be happier.
PS, I didn’t actually go to clown college.