Straddling the Line Between Inspiration and Reality: My Quest for Profitability

I’ve been delaying writing this blog post.  Well, not really delaying, just reluctant to commit to words the biggest struggle I’ve faced throughout this process: building a business that is financially sustainable.

For those new Little City Kitchen readers out there, I went on record saying this would be the most honest food blog you’ve ever read.  This week’s blog is a departure from the usual baby food-related topic and is more of a “day-in-the-life” of a food entrepreneur.

There’s a delicate balance that every entrepreneur needs to find between inspiration and reality.  You need enough inspiration and creativity to stay motivated, but not so much that you spend all day with your head in the clouds.  You need enough reality to stay grounded, but not so much that you become bogged down with everyday issues.  And straddling that line is tricky…

So where does that leave me now?  This leaves me in a precarious position, because <gulp> I haven’t figured out how to make this business profitable…

The Most Common of All Traps

I’ve fallen into the most common trap for new entrepreneurs: trying to do everything yourself in the beginning, getting burnt out in the process, and losing sight of your original purpose as a result.  Totally, and utterly, classic.  How annoying.

I came into this knowing that it takes a while for businesses, especially food businesses, to become profitable.  Becoming profitable (to the point of being able to support myself) is still certainly possible, but it requires a lot of growth, and I’m not sure that I’m motivated enough anymore to fully commit to that.

I’ve spent the last several months in a state of self-reflection trying to identify what I love about the business (and what I do really well), and what I don’t love about the business (and what I don’t do really well).  I’ve done everything from flip charts to spreadsheets, brainstorms to meditations.  My typical “Jill” approach.

The Result

The result: I love teaching and inspiring parents & other food entrepreneurs, building relationships with my customers, developing the recipes, and writing this blog.  Everything I don’t love (and therefore don’t do very well) has to do with manufacturing the baby food, and particularly cooking in large quantities.

In theory, that’s the easiest component to delegate, and while I’m working on some potential solutions for the production, it still doesn’t solve the bigger question I keep asking myself: is this still the right path & direction for me?

How’s that for honest?

I think it’s normal (healthy, in fact) for entrepreneurs to question their direction along the way.  You’re constantly making decisions, evaluating how well those decisions worked, and then comes the ongoing “tweaking”.  However, I’ve reached a point where this goes beyond needing small changes, and I’m faced with the larger question of where to go from here.

Here is what I know: something big has to change.  This could mean I develop a business partnership with someone who would manage the production, or possibly even stop the baby food production all together to focus on teaching.  It may mean that I go back to work in some capacity, or work more on another idea I have to help budding food entrepreneurs.  I’m considering it all.  The idea of stopping production is a tough pill for me to swallow.  Parents tell me all the time how much their kids love the food, and how good they feel about giving it to them.  The idea of disappointing my customers weighs on me constantly.

Part of the reason I write blogs like this is to provide a very real picture of what it’s like to start a new business.  Nobody talks about these things, which is a shame considering these are the realities that every entrepreneur faces along the way.  I wish more people shared this type of information with me when I was getting started!

In spite of all the struggles, and although I would do things differently now based on what I’ve learned throughout this process, this has been one of the best decisions and experiences of my life and one that I’m proud to have gone through.  I’m still actively working on a solution that will both personally & financially work for me, so continue reading about the recent changes in direction for Little City Kitchen Co.

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.



17 Comments to “Straddling the Line Between Inspiration and Reality: My Quest for Profitability”

  1. [...] a tumultuous few months for me and for Little City Kitchen Co.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the struggle to make this a profitable venture, and after several months of weighing my options, I’ve finally come to a decision: it’s time [...]

  2. Grammy Ruth says:

    Jill, you may remember that after reading your very first Blog I said they would eventually become a source for new entrepreneurs or a cook book for organic baby food new mothers. You have so various avenues to develop with your many abilities; you will find the right one. We are very proud of what you have accomplished so far. Much love, Grammy Ruth

  3. Jill, I have been watching you from the sidelines ever since you started. You have always been an impressive individual with guts! It really takes a lot to do what you have done, especially in today’s economy. Thank God I had an existing older business that has helped me cruise thru this recession. Nontheless, no matter what else you do, or what direction you take, your talent for writing will follow! I feel your pain as you write, and I laugh with you. You really are an inspiration to many. You are right, your next step will be big. You have a lot to consider. Sometimes if you don’t get lucky you have to make your own luck. Be persistent – because persistence trumps knowledge or money. I see a book in your future…

  4. Summer says:

    Jill, No matter what you decide I just hope you know that you have been such an inspiration for me. I truly regret that I have not been able to take one of your classes, but every time I read your blog or see a post I am inspired. It can be so frustrating with all the differing opinions out there. You have such a way with words. I have shared your blog with quite a few friends and they all love what you write! xoxo

  5. David Horton says:

    Do what is right for Jill Epner. Your customers will understand. All business should be mutually beneficial!

  6. Leah says:

    Hey honey, thinking of you, and able to relate with all you write. I think that it bodes well for your business that you take these questions seriously, and have the guts to look at all of the options that are open to you, and the creativity to explore all of the ways that your dream may come true! Many business owners get caught up in the pattern of, “Well, what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working for me, so I’m going to keep doing it but HARDER!” :*) That can lead to many nights of frustration and banging one’s head up against the wall. I love reading about the process, because what others are saying is true- no one talks about this part of owning a business- even in business arenas, too many people are afraid to say, “Hey, this is difficult,” for fear that it might make them appear less than successful. In my mind, writing the way you do just adds to your path of success. Many hugs!

  7. Devorah says:

    You have changed how we think about baby food and we are forever grateful. We wish you the best in working out your tough decisions. On a side note (and part of the business thinking?) we would buy a cookbook from you in a heartbeat! Broken down by approximate age, with guidelines about transitioning from bottles/formula to food and quantities/timelines, full of your fabulous recipes… a great way to maintain your passion for great food for little ones without the ‘manufacturing’ side. Wishing you success.

  8. Dominique says:

    Good luck Jill. Hope something changes for you and that it is what feels good to you. You’re a great cook and inspiring to moms who want to provide good meals for their babies and toddlers. Buena Suerte.

  9. Ericka says:

    Jill, I’ll be honest i’m not as avid blog reader of yours anymore, now that Noe is already 2.25. But I always look at the title and too read the onles I find interesting. Needless to say I read this one. I’m proud of you. You should be too. (i’m sure you are). This was so honest and raw and real. good luck to you. no matter what you decide or how it turns out. You rock. i’m so happy Noe and I were part of the original baby tasters, and to watch you along your journey. you inspire me.

  10. Ami Jampolis says:

    Jill- As a new mom & solopreuner, your blog really hit me hard today. I have been in the fitness industry for a LONG time, but am really struggling with my business right now too. I appreciated you sharing so openly about your struggles and made me feel less alone. I wish you the best in this journey & look forward to hearing what you decide!

  11. Kathleen Poston says:

    Jill, Thank you for such an honest blog – your bravery in this entire endeavor has inspired me than you can ever imagine. I’m always cheering for you, no matter what your direction or decision.

  12. Jill Brandenburg says:

    Great blog posting Jill – if only more people were as honest as you. That is what connects us (the readers) to you and why you have such a following.

    The last 12 months has been such valuable learning for you and is only getting you closer and closer to your real calling. Sounds like deep down you already know what that is – it is just a matter of making it happen.

    I know there are so many tough decisions you have to make but it will all be worth it. Your friends and customers won’t be disappointed if you have a slight change of direction. We know you will still be in the food arena in some shape or form and can see you doing great things with all that knowledge you have gathered. Don’t forget to keep having fun along the way.

  13. Wendy Roe says:

    You are amazing, gifted and a brave soul! Being an entrepreneur is challenging on so many levels and your honesty is inspiring. Whatever happens, know that I think you’ll be totally fine and have become a better, stronger person because of this. Love you sis!

  14. Oh Jill, Rayne (my 15month old) and I LOOOVE you. You helped to kick start me into being able to start my own journey of making baby food for her, confirm my ideas of helping her to be healthy and a “good eater” without all the “junk” food. She completely enjoys your creations and your awesome blends/creations help inspire some of my own unique creations. I’ve been battling with my own career issues and I try to keep things real on my own blog because others need to know about “real” life and not ideal life.

    Email me, I’d love to know what type of business partnership for production you are exploring. I am passionate about what you do and agree with your baby food ideas (we’ve talked at length in the past together), so I feel like we’d be great together. Although financially, I’m not sure what we can do but maybe we can at least talk and explore options together! Hang in there Jill, you are doing a great job!

  15. Gigi Siemsen says:

    Jill, you are amazing! Keep up the fight…I know you will do the right thing…I think you should write a book your are a fabulous writer and I enjoy all your blogs!! Miss you…love gigi

  16. MaLanie says:

    Jill!! I’m so proud of you for putting this out there. I know your testimony will help a lot of other people that are struggling with similar dilemmas. Will keep you and LCKC in prayer, for certain! I am confident you will find the right avenue! XOXO

  17. Kathryn says:

    I almost cried reading this post in public. I relate with “the Jill approach” & how so very long it can take to come to these seemingly simple realizations. Whatever you choose, or whatever happens, I know you will be at peace when the right path falls into place. Looking forward to your next steps!
    Love to you!

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