Tuesday, August 6, 2013

evolution of an entrepreneur

this is a sweet story.

it begins several years ago, in 2011, when diana first sold her baked treats at "the yummy brownie" during the woodland main street sidewalk sale.  it was a rousing success.  we made the brownies together and i hung around with her as she sold the treats to passers-by in front of our favorite store, sweet potato pie (boy, we sure do miss alice & barb).

lessons learned:
  • being asked to participate can be a sign of the respect that people have in you because of the relationship you have built over time.  reputation matters.  a good one opens doors you didn't even know existed.

  • giving back is just one of many ways to recognize and appreciate those who have given a helping hand.  in this case, she donated a portion of her profits to the business association that organized the event.
fast forward to 2012, when she was invited again to participate in the annual sidewalk sale.  she performed a song-and-dance routine to attract customers and handled transactions on her own.

yes, this is the same outfit from the year before, her "uniform"

she did get some tips, i think

lessons learned:
  • getting to know your fellow vendors is a good business practice, and it's plain good manners.  meet someone new, help each other out, build your community.
  • you can sit back and wait (and hope) for the customers to come or you can increase your visibility by smiling and making friendly conversation as people walk by.  more than once, people walked by her, saying, "no, thanks" but then turned around and came back to make a purchase.  and she got repeat customers.

later in 2012, she set up an "olde time yum stop" in front of our apartment during woodland's stroll through history.  for this occasion, she paid for all of her ingredients and materials and added homemade beverages to her offerings.  she also spontaneously acquired an employee (neighborhood friend) who came over as the sale began and volunteered to help.

lessons learned:
  • having another person (or people) to work with requires either pre-planning or on-the-spot flexibility.  trying to coordinate with a co-worker can throw one off one's usual game in excellent customer service and quick calculations.  quick thinking can allow for task assignment so you don't trip over each others' toes.
  • profit sure is affected when one has to purchase one's own materials instead of relying on mom to fund the endeavor.

in 2013, the timing of our move to virginia meant that we would miss her annual sale date in california.  she was determined to continue her business, though, and after deciding that acquiring a business license and storefront property in reston might be a little pricey and premature at this point, diana determined that our townhouse "cluster" would be a good starting place.  the park/playground is in our home's line-of-sight and perpetually shaded, thank goodness, on hot summer afternoons.

she planned big:
  • a three-day sale
  • flyers, personally taped to every door in the cluster a week prior to the sale
  • business cards
  • frequent-buyer punch cards
  • original and gourmet flavors
  • a stuffed mascot, designed and constructed on her own
  • a printed t-shirt (daddy helped with the iron-on)
  • scheduling time in the family calendar and kitchen for baking and sale prep
she bakes everything from scratch by herself.  i do help with the cleanup.

his name is roland. the extra touch on the eyes makes me swoon. and he's so very soft and plushy.

open for business

buy seven, get the eighth free

bliss comes from the lovingly drizzled chocolate sauce

browniescotch delight contains butterscotch chips instead of chocolate, plus caramel sauce. sweet enough to put anyone into sugar shock.  soooooo good.

the gourmet brownies come on a plate and with a fork. because ooey-gooey mess.
ander is nearly always her first customer of the day. especially after she lets him lick the batter spoon.
lessons learned:
  • it pays to advertise. neighbors knew where and when she'd be selling, and made sure to come by.  the signs she posted in the neighborhood helped, too.
  • just because you run out of product doesn't mean you have to stop selling.  one couple came right at the end of her saturday sale, missing her last brownies by one person. they spoke with her (and me) for a while and suggested that she set up her stand at the same time as their planned yard sale for the following week.  they agreed to jointly advertise in order to increase foot traffic for each other.  (the gentleman is a financial planner and asked when she would be accepting credit cards for her orders.)
  • accommodate your customers.  a brand new neighbor came by just as diana sold her last brownie on a different day.  she let him know she'd be happy to bake a special order batch if needed.  he ordered and prepaid for a gourmet batch to be delivered the next day, as he had visitors coming.
  •  it feels good when you price and plan things well enough that you sell everything you've made and still pull a little profit.

she's sold twice more since that big sale, once during the aforementioned yard sale, and once during the 4th of july when she expanded her business.  it's now "the yummy brownie" bakery, which still has her signature brownie at the forefront, but she's included other baked goods in her repertoire.  for the holiday, she created sugar cookies, patriotically fashioned using some of her newly-acquired cake decorating skills.

so what's next on the to-do list for this young entrepreneur?
  • website.  she's already started on it and has plans to expand the content and features, hopefully applying her coding skills.  she'd love to add her calendar and a simple order form.
  • commercials.  she has a youtube channel and has been working with neighbors to create commercials.  she's got the jingle already.
  • bling.  maybe t-shirts, roland-themed keychains, that sort of thing.
  • gift cards/certificates
  • reusable signage construction
  • gluten-free options
  • more special-edition recipes
  • automated systems for determining optimal ingredient purchasing, pricing structure, and tracking frequent buyers
so stay tuned, folks.


  1. love this. so great, and i say that as one entrepreneur to another.

    can’t wait to share this with a few other pbh kids who are baking and selling!

  2. Awesome!

    And you are such a good mom to encourage and not give all the reasons it shouldn't be done, ( like I did when Dale wanted to sell baked goods!)

    Can't wait to see what develops. XO Lisa

  3. I love this. Especially this bit:

    "profit sure is affected when one has to purchase one's own materials instead of relying on mom to fund the endeavor."

    Good luck with the business and I'll look forward to purchasing some one day :-)