Steps to Starting a Business:
By Joe Selzler
Have you ever heard of Orville and Wilbur Wright? They made history on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, by being the first men to achieve man carrying, sustained, powered flight. Man had been trying for centuries to fly, and with their flight of 120 feet they launched man into the era of aviation. A fact that may not be known by many of us is that they spent four years preparing for this flight, building various prototypes. Their very first attempts at flight were with models and then with larger kite gliders. Finally they developed man carrying gliders to test various principles of flight before attempting their powered flight. Thus, powered aviation was not born by one leap, but by the systematic approach of two brothers to prove that their idea would work. We can take this same systematic approach Proving the Idea of our new business.
The First Little Steps
Before we take the step of going into full production in a business, it is a good idea to do as Orville and Wilbur Wright did and experiment with a mini version of our idea. Lets say, for example, that we wanted to start a fresh pasta business. We have seen by some simple research that there is a need for this type of business in our area. (See the article in the last issue "Finding an Idea") We do not know much about making pasta, so we are not sure where to begin. We have a good idea that in order to be profitable at this sort of business, we will need to produce a fairly large quantity. However, to jump into a large factory with expensive machinery and a number of employees is very risky even if we had a good knowledge of making pasta. To enter into a commitment of this size without any knowledge of pasta making would be dangerous. At this point in business development it would be better to take a few small steps in order to learn about making pasta and to prove if there was enough demand to warrant a factory.
Learning to Make Dough
If you have made pasta before you do not need to repeat this step, but if you have no experience, you need to learn how to make pasta before you can sell it. It is true that modern pasta machines will make the dough for you from scratch so that you do not need to have the knowledge yourself. However, the more you know about making dough the more readily you will know if your machine is producing dough of good quality. A good way to learn would be to buy a book that teaches pasta dough making.
You could practice making pasta until you are satisfied that you have a good product. Then perhaps you could have a few of your friends try your pasta and offer their comments. After all, they represent the public that will someday buy your pasta, so their comments will give you valuable information to develop your pasta expertise. This is also a good point at which to experiment with various ingredients to see which ones give you the best product. You could determine if different flours improve the product, or if more eggs are better than less.
Processing the Dough
There are a number of smaller machines on the market today which could help you develop a small production run to experiment with manufacturing. A few weeks ago I purchased a small one from Italy that makes 1400 grams of pasta at a time. It's easy -- you just put flour into a mixing bowl, add eggs or water and flavouring and then let it knead. After about six minutes it is allowed to pass through a shaping device and then it is cut to size. This takes about 20 minutes total time to produce. So in about four hours, you can produce about 10 kilograms of fresh pasta. With this kind of quantity you could service one or two chefs or a small delicatessen. This would offer you the opportunity to see if your pasta is commercially viable before you invested a larger sum of money in a factory.
By experimenting with any new product or service on a smaller scale first, you can obtain valuable data that will make a larger investment less risky and more likely to succeed. It will also keep the pressure lower because you won't be trying to learn while at the same time keeping the banker happy. Of course, there will be more to learn as you increase the size of your business, but you will have laid the groundwork for success in your "mini factory".
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