Part of my (new) job as a roving mustard salesman requires me to visit the most amazing shops. This past Wednesday I roved North County (for those of you outside of SD, that’s how we refer to areas north of La Jolla – or for me north of I-8) making sales calls. The first place I visited was Tip Top Meats. This place has been there for over 40 years, though until this week I had yet to step foot inside. It’s part market, part deli, part full service restaurant, and part whole-animal butcher shop (there are not many of these left – most butcher shops get cuts of meat wrapped in plastic. Another amazing whole-animal butcher shop in LA is Lindy & Grundy.) There’s no mistaking that this place is German. LOTS of imported goodies, including a huge selection of German NA beer, a lot of which is actually quite good. They make all their own sausages, smoke all their meats, and don’t waste a thing.
Another place I visited was Baker & Olive. They have dozens of fustis (those stainless steel containers that hold the olive oil – realized I should have taken photos…) throughout the store holding amazing olive oils and vinegars. I had a lovely conversation with Marion, the owner. Interestingly, she and her husband are also wine makers. I’m excited to pick up a bottle at The Wine Loft, another North County establishment that I visited.
The coolest part is that, whether or not the folks become retailers of The Mustard, these are all shops I will visit again and shop in myself.
I remember the day when I was 8 years old sitting on the swings at the park that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t want to be an astronaut or a fireman like other boys my age – no, I wanted more excitement and thrill. I wanted to be a Roving Mustard Salesman! Ok, maybe that isn’t exactly how it went, but it’s how it is right now. As of Monday this week I became a full-fledged salesman – just me, some mustard and the spirit of Willy Loman out on the road.
James has been super supportive: “Go sell. I’ll take care of everything else.” Which is pretty much how it’s gone thus far. And this is necessary, as we’ve essentially been without revenue for the past 8 months (not including our kickstarter campaign). I’ve done sales one other time (when I was GM for Eclipse Chocolat) and was pretty successful. But now it’s different for some reason. Maybe because it’s my own. It was definitely awesome to make those first couple sales, but I’m also taking the questions and the “No’s” way too personally. Though it all rolls off and I keep making phone calls, keep putting mustard in peoples’ hands (and mouths). I know what I’m doing is right, and I keep pushing forward.
For the three of you who read this, can you do me a solid? The next time you are in Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or any other high end/gourmet grocery store, could you ask if they carry The Mustard by SoNo Trading Co? Maybe adding a little heat from the outside will loosen things up!
Wow. What an event! This past weekend James and I drove up to LA despite Carmageddon weekend to sell some mustard at Eat Real LA. It was full of fellow artisan food makers, food nerds and a crew of amazing volunteers. Held in the Helms Bakery in Culver City, this event was the second put on by the Eat Real women, and the first in LA. From the crowds that showed up to the feedback I heard from the other vendors it seems like it was a success!
Even though we stopped selling at farmers markets in December, once you put us behind a table to sell mustard it’s like riding a bike – we couldn’t feel more comfortable (If you ever need someone to stand behind a table and sell something, James and I are available for hire). Seeing as Saturday was set to be a pretty long day (10:30am-9pm) we brought in some help.
- My beautiful and amazing cousin Marlee and her very tall (and kind) boyfriend Conor rolled up in the afternoon, threw on our awesome new shirts and jumped right in. (see pic below)
- Sasha, my best friend, who has become a fixture at all of our LA events, sold the crap out of some mustard. He also brought his roommate Datar, who is a professional. Though he was only there for a short time, his MSPM (mustard sales per minute) were off the charts.
My favorite part of this picture is Sasha lounging in the back
The other part of this show that really made it worth it for us was getting to connect with all our compatriots.
- We were lucky enough to get placed next to one our original buddies, Cast Iron Gourmet. Rashida makes all things bacon, including many different kinds of bacon. Pork Bacon, Duck Bacon, Lamb Bacon. Plus Couch Mix (the antipode of trail mix), Bacon Chutney, Corn Nuts, and straight up Lard. We definitely had the best smelling spot in the place.
- Erika and Amelia (and the rest of the crew) of Lindy and Grundy moved their ENTIRE butcher shop to the show for the weekend. They brought it all in their refrigerated van, or “Refer” as they like to call it. I may or may not have taken a quick break to cool off in the van. They had a “meat valet” so people could pick up their purchases on the way out. They are the only whole animal butcher shop in Southern California, and their meat is truly the best meat you can buy. Erika participated in a butchering contest, in which there were two full steers hanging from about 30 feet up and two teams of two went to town while being judged in categories including speed, technique, and presentation. We traded tshirts with them too!
- JD and John from All Spice Cafe were slinging their spicy creations across the room from us. We made a strategic trade for some of their sauces. Sunday night we cooked a killer pork loin which we marinated in their Caribbean Spice Sauce along side some fingerling potatoes rubbed with our Champagne Garlic Mustard and olive oil.
We also made some new friends:
I found this bottle in a thrift shop in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and had to have it, for obvious reasons. I just love this guy’s enthusiasm! For conversation’s sake, let’s call him “Barry”. Barry is eating his big ol’ plate of what-looks-to-be mashed potatoes with his right hand and has his squeeze bottle of mustard ready in his left hand to mustard each bite (I imagine each of our customers eating this way with The Mustard). He even has on a full apron just in case he mis-squirts. Barry looks hungry too; he’s leaning into those squashed spuds with intent, one might even say aggression. And that expression on his face? I’m going with maniacal, but I’ll also accept deranged, murderous or bat-shit crazy. In any case, Barry likes his mustard. And so do we. And we hope you do too.
I was having a conversation with someone the other day, telling him about our business and how we got to where we are. And during that discussion I realized that my emotional investment in this business is both my biggest liability and my biggest asset.
It’s a liability because I often make emotionally based decisions or stick with an idea or plan because I want to do it, not because it makes sense. I wrote about this a while back in my How (not) to run a small business post.
Mistake #2: When things aren’t working, don’t change them.
The reason we/I didn’t change things was because of this emotional attachment. I loved working the farmers market in my neighborhood (North Park) – it’s MY neighborhood for Pete’s sake. But we were consistently loosing money (sometimes barely breaking even) for months. But my stubbornness and emotional attachment was difficult to break. And it’s not that by doing that market our business was brought down – we just spent a lot of time selling things but not making money, which is not how it’s supposed to work. And sometimes you do do things strictly because you WANT to, and that’s how it should be. But if you want to run a business, you also need to make money.
My emotional investment is an asset because it’s what motivates me everyday to get out of bed and work (sometimes for 18 hours a day, many, many days in a row – and I still love it). James and I joke that when we’re out socially that our friends take bets on how soon it will be before we start talking mustard. And when I’m hanging out with friends who are also business owners, we inevitably talk about our businesses. And I guess this is natural – people with kids talk about their kids because that’s the majority of their lives. Right now, this business is the majority of our lives. And, for now, that’s exactly the way I want it to be.
I drove to my friend’s house the other day, and as I approached every intersection the light magically turned green – I didn’t have to stop once. It seemed appropriate as it feels like many pieces of our business are falling into place right now: Our Kickstarter project completed (raising over $15,000!), we’ve found (and ordered!) a supply of amazing brown mustard seed, and we have four wholesale clients!
Previously, I wrote about brick walls – the barriers that pop up and challenge your desire and passion for what you are trying to accomplish, forcing you to find creative workarounds to get where you want to go. And all that’s good – it challenges you, strengthens you, pushes you. But man, there’s nothing like when everything works out!(You always plan it this way, right?) It reminds me of being a kid, when I would just go about my business – playing the mud, running through the woods, swimming in the lake – and I didn’t worry about whether things would “work out”. They just did. And over these past 6 months as we’ve set up our wholesale business, I’ve recognized that the ebb and flow of challenges and successes is just how business goes. And I could get REALLY EXCITED when things work out, and I could get REALLY UPSET when they do not, but instead I just enjoy them for what they are, knowing that, either way, they will soon change.
Our kickstarter project, launched 29 days + 23 hours ago, is one hour from wrapping up. When we set our initial goal of $4000 thinking that it seemed like a doable amount and that we might even be able to exceed it. But neither of us imagined that we would be pushing 400% of our target! This experience has been quite exciting, and if anyone out there is thinking of launching a kickstarter project of her own, we’d love to share with you any insight we may have learned throughout the past 30 days. Just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again to the 243 people who have backed our project so far! (there’s still a few minutes to go)
This is truly an unfair battle. Goal setting is an uncertain, esoteric, and often anxiety inducing task, while beer drinking is a very defined, goal oriented and relaxing project, if you will. Yesterday I charged myself with the intention to sit down every day for the next two weeks to write out my goals – life, business, you name it. Spend everyday editing, changing, shifting those goals so at the end of two weeks I will have honed my general and possibly superficial goals down to more specific and deeper meaning goals.
On Friday, since it was so nice out, I planned to go to the park and sit there for an hour writing out these goals. But instead I started to fill in my time with other, more menial tasks in a passive avoidance of this goal setting session. Was it fear of the uncertainty that stopped me? Very possibly.
After finishing said tasks I had the opportunity to engage in my goal setting venture. But, and this is a big, ghetto-style ‘but’, our new office is right next to a the newly located Mission Brewery. I happened to be leaving the office and thought, “Boy, this would be a good time to stop by and meet our new neighbors.” A tasting flight + one beer later, I had exhausted my time window to go set those goals as I had to meet some friends for dinner. Beer drinking wins again.
What is it that keeps me from spending the time to set goals? (besides beer) It’s a very subconscious thing, but I have become quite the master at this. Let’s see how this week goes…
I went to a seminar the other day hosted by a fellow named Aaron Keith. I’ve attended one other of his seminars before, and both times I have come away with a very positive outlook on my business. That’t not to say I didn’t have a positive outlook before walking in, but the seminar definitely boosted that viewpoint.
Aaron is a business coach. He holds these (very affordable – $35) seminars once a month on a range of topics, from goal setting to marketing to finding balance in your work and life. They are intended for business owners, and much of the time is spent working in small groups discussing the topics and specifics to each of our businesses.
After the first session I attended I described to Aaron the brick wall we ran into with our original mustard seed supplier, and the solutions I was attempting to find. And when I saw him this week he asked about it, and I regaled him with the new brick walls we’ve since run into regarding our original production facility and now another supplier. He shook his head and laughed and said, “But you still have a smile your face.” And sure enough, I was grinning ear to ear.
All of these issues that come up, though they may be unique in themselves, every business is confronted with major issues, often at the most inconvenient times. It’s just part of doing business. And that’s why many people don’t own their own businesses, because it can be an emotional roller coaster that some people, understandably, don’t want to deal with. But for me, and for James, we get off on this stuff. It excites us. These challenges push us to find new, creative solutions, to make new connections and ask the questions that we might be afraid to ask. If we spent the time focusing on the problem we would never get anywhere.
We even laugh at our “problems”. We may struggle to find the proper mustard seed, but we don’t struggle to put food on the table. Our business has the possibility of going under if we things don’t work out, but our domiciles have not been destroyed by tornadoes. We may run into problems that don’t seem like they have a solution, but we’re still doing all right.
What’s a Mustard Party? I’m still trying to figure that one out, but regardless we had a blast! We celebrated our kickstarter campaign at The Station Tavern last Friday night. Thanks so much to Sam and the rest of the crew there who made the night a great success! We had mustard on all the tables and people had options to order the mustard right on their burgers. This could be the beginning to a wonderful relationship. I definitely enjoyed talking up everyone and letting them know that, whether or not they knew it, they were at a mustard party. And people seemed stoked to get to try the mustard. Plus, one person even recognized me from the previous night’s interview on the news!
Also, I still cannot express how thankful and grateful we are to all our amazing and wonderful friends who keep showing their support for us. To everyone who showed up, to everyone who was there in spirit, and to everyone who has told us that he or she is inspired by what we’re doing, THANK YOU!
Now it’s time for SINGING HORSES!