My original inspiration to open a specialty foods retail store, offering legal sweet treats to calorie- and carb-counting dieters, came at a time when the weight-loss marketplace was ripe with dieters looking for sugar-free and low-carb foods. I soon learned that low-carb could also include gluten-free, and in no time I was selling a wide assortment of products for this population, too.
During the next two years I listened to my customers, adding hundreds of products to the inventory and building on my knowledge about food allergies. In-house resources grew to include information for allergy testing, a roster of regional medical practitioners —traditional and alternative, and a monthly recipe club for those dealing with special dietary limitations.
When supermarkets started responding to the demand for allergy friendly foods, I took notice, but was not terribly worried. I knew that they could not compete with the personalized service available in my store. In time, however, it became clear that the chain supermarkets had recognized and were responding to a lucrative opportunity with wide selections and great prices.
As I watched my business sales level off, I began to evaluate my own business options. One idea was to expand with a café featuring gluten-free prepared foods, but calculations indicated a minimum of at least five years before realizing a return on my investment. Closing the store began to look like the most reasonable option. Was it time to shake up the proverbial puzzle pieces and construct a new plan? What elements of the existing business could I take into a new venture?
I have begun to think of the past two years as a learning curve and a natural part of the business evolution process. This makes it easier for me to let go of the initial business plan.
Letting go of one dream has allowed me to embrace new possibilities. And I’m still the independent entrepreneur that I was when I began offering diet-friendly sweet treats two years ago. I hope I’ll continue to keep a keen ear to the drumbeat of the marketplace, riding with the waves of progress and change, while maintaining a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit.
© 2006 Lisa Allen.
You can read a related blog post on business plans and their purpose, necessity and flexibility here.