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HOW BIG ARE YOUR PROSPECTS?

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We all have a list of people or companies that we would like to potentially do business with. Sometimes when we look at these prospects it is easy to begin to feel as though we would have nothing to offer them. Or we think we need more experience to grow larger in order to be picked up on their radar.

In 2003 I started a small cookie company. At the time I had no idea what I would be up against. As a beginning I joined a networking group called The Massachussetts Specialty Food Association.I learned a lot at these meetings and from the people I connected with. For starters I learned that in order to wholesale my cookies I would need a commercial kitchen. At that time there was a shared kitchen in Jamiaca Plain. But to be able to rent a space there, you needed at least $400 per month for rent. On top of that they expected you to have professional brochures and a list of customers. I figured if I had all that I would not need them.

Then one day I had a conversation with a woman who had previously had a Hummus company. She told me that she began her company from a church kitchen. From there she grew her business and sold a lot of hummus. This gave me a great idea. I immediately called the church I belonged to. I asked the minister if I could rent their kitchen in order to wholesale my cookies. I knew I ran the risk of getting a negative reply. But it was worth the risk. He told me he would have to talk to the board of directors of the church and get their approval.

Three days later I received the call from the minister. I could rent the kitchen for twenty five dollars a day. What a blessing this truly was. the other kitchen’s were asking twenty five to thirty five dollars an hour. I began baking away making all twelve varieties of the cookies my family had come to know. But finding prospects to sell to seem to be difficult. Then one day, when I went to work one of my co-workers was talking about this great store she knew about. She said it would be a great place for me to sell my cookies to.

The problem was, the more she talked the more intimidated I became. She told me they had been in business for twenty five years and they only bough from the best bakeries. I started to think “What would they want with me?” She gave me a card from the store with the bakery manager’s name on it. It took me three weeks but I finally got up the courage and contacted the store.

I called the store around 10 a.m. I will never forget it. I asked for the bakery manager by name. This made me feel like I knew what I was doing. However, it was the bakery manager’s day off. Instead I was talking to an older man on the phone who identified himself only as Tom. I explained to him that I was new in business. All the while thinking this is going to be the kiss of death. Tom told me they loved having new products, and to be there the very next morning.

I arrived at the store promptly at nine the next day to the utter dismay of the bakery manager. He was out on the loading dock supervising the incoming shipments of refrigerated products. I apologized to him for arriving at a bad time. I then explained to him that I had spoken with someone on the phone and they told me to come at that time. With a smirk on his face he wanted to know who would have suggested such a thing. At this point I recounted the conversation I had the day before. As I was telling him that Tom told me to be there,Tom actually walked by and shook my hand.

It turned out that Tom owned the place! Three weeks later I made my first delivery! What a moment to see my product sitting alongside some of the most prominent businesses in the area. What I learned from this are two things: 1) It is always okay to be new 2) never underestimate the value of yourself or your product!