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Purveyors of The Mustard

How (not) to run a small business

Good times. The last year plus has been quite the ride. James and I spent the better part of last year at farmers markets selling our mustards (and sandwiches, pickles, and a few other odds and ends), in addition to catering a number of events around San Diego. We definitely learned a lot and made some fantastic friends, and as we are about to enter into our next phase of business -wholesale – we have (hopefully) learned from some of the mistakes we made last year.

Mistake #1: When starting a business (especially your first business), try to do FOUR things, not just ONE really well.

We were essentially operating 4 separate businesses, plus working other jobs. By trying to do more than one thing, we spread ourselves very thin and, as a result (other than stressing ourselves out), were not able to fully establish any one part of our business in a financial sense. Some parts of SoNo made a little money here and there, and others definitely took it hard. Now don’t get me wrong, everything we did was FUN, but not necessarily financially viable. (This is why, when you’re disappointed that a business has discontinued your favorite flavor of something or phased out a particular aspect you really loved, the business owner shrugs his or her shoulders and says “I’m sorry, but we just weren’t making any money from it.” And no matter how FANTASTIC you think that thing is, we all have to pay the rent.) So we stopped the farmers markets and catering and secret underground dinners (I feel safe mentioning those because no one is really reading this) and are focusing all our efforts on our mustard business (while still working other jobs, of course).

Mistake #2: When things aren’t working, don’t change them.

Emotional attachment is hard to break. This is as much true in business as it is in relationships (at least when it’s your business). We worked a number of farmers markets at a loss before we finally decided that working for -$5/hr just wasn’t smart. Sometimes it took us over a month to decide to stop. Now, to give our high hopes some credit, there might have been a week or two when we made it into the black (~$1-$2/hr), but as you might be thinking, “Really? REALLY?!” Really.

Mistake #3: If things are not working, work harder.

Not only would we keep working at something that wasn’t going the way we wanted, but we would also often work harder at it. I can’t speak for James, but I got to the point that if I were not working 90+ hours in a week, I felt I was letting the business down. (Crazy talk – I know!) And then one day in December I had a moment – the closest thing I have ever had to an epiphany – when I thought, “What if only work 60 hours this week? What if I only work 40? Will the business suffer?” And my answer was a clear No. We were spinning our wheels so much that pushing harder was not getting us anywhere. In fact, it was more productive to pull back and look at the mess we had made and figure a way out.

We’ve made plenty more mistakes, but three feels like a good number at which to stop. (I gotta keep this on the up and up)

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Current State of affairs in Mustard-landia

We apologize to all of you who have come to our site to purchase mustard from us but have found that there is none to be had. Believe you me, we would love nothing more that to sell you our mustard. I promise that we are not doing this to just to create a disparity between demand and supply, though that may be something we try out in the future….

In fact, we are in the process of switching over our production to accommodate our move towards wholesaling our mustards to stores, at first regionally, then nationwide.  We will have product in hand in 3-4 weeks, complete with our fancy new labels (we had to drop the “Mostly Organic” name for, let’s say, bureaucratic reasons).

If you are in dire need of slaking your mustard fix, please email us (trade@sonotrading.com) and we will see what we can do for you. Plus you’ll be the first to know when the mustard hits the streets!

Stay fantastic!

Zach and James

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Artisanal LA, take 2

We just returned from another amazing food show in LA. Artisanal LA brings together a select group of Southern California’s best artisan food producers (it’s mostly LA, but we got a pass cause our shit’s the bomb.com). This was the second show Artisanal LA has put on, and both have attracted a wonderful crowd. We sold a ton of mustard (well, slightly under but rounded up to the closest ton). Lot’s of cool vendors were there. Check out anyone you might have missed here: http://artisanalla.com/participants/participating-vendors/

LA has been mustardized. Done and done.

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Cranberry Mustard!

Announcing (to the six of you reading this) a seasonal edition to our line of mustards! Welcome Cranberry Mustard! We made this in limited quantities available just through Thanksgiving, so grab a jar while it lasts. We plan to make this each fall, though as always, if this becomes wildly popular (as my friend Steve did in high school) we may add it to our regular rotation.

We put this in a larger jar for the purpose of sharing. It’s in a 10.5 oz jar (vs our normal 6oz jar). I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to turkey sandwiches slathered with our rosy colored Cranberry Mustard!

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La La Land

Whew! We just got back from our whirlwind weekend in LA slinging our mustards at the Artisanal LA event in downtown LA. We sold every single jar of mustard that we brought! We met some great folks, made some new friends and tasted some wonderful products. A good time was had by all.

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And it begins…

Hello!

Our website is almost completely functional! My lovely sister, who just 6 weeks ago had a beautiful baby, has been working diligently on getting our site up. Today, James and I are in Los Angeles for Artisanal LA, a food show featuring some of the region’s artisan food makers. Check it out and stop by our booth this weekend. http://artisanalla.com/

We’ll have a couple good friends with us helping us out. It should be a good time!

-Zach

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