5 Tips to Create Start-up/Side Hustle Momentum
“You’re making what?” It’s a question I fielded a lot when I first shared that I was making mustard made with chickpeas. Not only was it a far cry from the lane my educational background had put me in, it wasn’t even ‘normal’ mustard. With no culinary background, no MBA in my tool belt, 1,500 miles from family and friends, I chose to create. On a random Tuesday afternoon in the foothill of Colorado in 2013, I decided to make mustard, with chickpeas. The no name mustard came out of my mini food processor and I jarred it up in 1.5oz Hobby Lobby flip top jars and handed it out to friends. For me, this crazy food concoction allowed for my creative juices to start to flow again.
After a year of handing it out for free, I decided, at the urging of friends, to sell it. Created a free website to start taking orders. This was no large scale mission. I was producing in my home kitchen about 50-80- jars per run and that would take me about three days to get everything cooked, jarred, and labeled. I spent more money on wrapping the jars to ship than did making money but it was a hobby, a release, and I had no grand plans for its growth as a legitimate business.
A move back east brought a lot of changes and Kiki’s Flustered Mustard was put on the back burner. For the first six months after the move I didn’t even make it. But then a burning sensation would rise up in my brain, I missed it. I dove back in to making it not only for my selfish desire to create again, but it had been continuously requested. I unpacked my mini food process to move the needle of my life forward instead of staying in a rut. I used the emotion of the upheaval of contentment to shift my dynamics and all that lead to personal growth.
Since then, Kiki’s Mustards has grown. LLC created a year later, new flavor added in 2017 and then a second flavor and rebranding in 2018. This is not a labor of love because I truly enjoy making people happy with something I make, it is a privilege. Looking back and unpacking what it took to to go from Hobby Lobby jars to acquiring an actual distributor, and what emotional and mental fortitude it takes creating and then presenting to the world a business or project of your own and fingers crossed, watching it grow, well deep breath! Here are my Top 5 tips for moving the needle of your dream into reality!
Start doing, stop overthinking.
Sounds easier that it actually is, but I’m sure as you read this is, you have at least three awesome ideas, but haven’t done anything about them. Dive in, sort through each and see where your passion is drawn. Someone once said if you have to flip a coin, see what answer you are hoping it lands on and that is the direction your heart wants to go. Once you’ve decided, DO. We can make lists all day long, but it is the action, the calls made, research done, and then steps taken that make the dream start to become tangible. Overthinking, overanalyzing will only wayward your progress. The moment you make that first phone call in regard to your project is the moment the train leaves the station.
Be comfort with “No”.
A “no” always means “not right now”. Recognizing that your business or project or food will not be for everyone helps to fortify your precision. It allows for you to narrow down your target market. Easy to get more replies to a mass email if you are sending it to the right people! When you get the rejection letter, the call to let you know the loan wasn’t approved or that they won’t be adding your product to their shelves, before you allow defeat to wash over you and take the wheel, take a moment of self reflection. You’re thinking, “yeah right, it’s not that easy”, and you’re right. It’s painful and hard but it’s harder to let those be the moments that define you, your project, your character, and your self worth. It’s a more expensive life bet letting the house not only win, but take part of your soul as well. So, take control back. Reflect on the situation and note the places that you can learn from, see what needs work and move on. Learning from perceived failures and “no’s” allows us to not drown in them, it enables us to take the power back.
Be willing to fix what’s not working and know when to hire help.
This is a hard one but incredibly important for forward movement. If you are not seeing conversion, if you are not seeing growth, if people you have on your team are not happy, all is for not. When getting started it is important to do some self reflection. I knew I couldn’t grow by making the mustard myself. I had to find a co-packer. That in and of itself was a mission seeing as have never worked in the packaged food space. After I found the right fit, and although money had to be put out, it took the stress off my plate, gave me back time to use to market and sell, and it make a more consistent product. I knew what was in my wheelhouse and what was not. Graphic design I had to farm out, along with labels and website creation. If you can’t or don’t know how to do something, find someone who does. Alternatively, when something is not working you have to change it. The fear of change in any business or pre-launch model is daunting; however, just staying the course out of fear will not make it better or magically correct itself. Making hard decisions, finding new team members, changing course, all difficult. It is in those changes though, be them great or small, that growth will comes. I promise that if you reassess where you are right now you will see places that need change. Change is Necessary. Evolution is mandatory!
Flex your relationship muscle with empathy and authenticity.
No matter what project you are looking to build or what business you may already be in, it is always about building relationships. Creating and fostering relationships with others is key. Connecting to other people, seeing what their interests are, truly listening to them and sharing of yourself authentically makes all the difference in the long run. In every order of Kiki’s Mustards I write a personal note on the packing slip and add a compliment card. Yes compliment, not comment. These cards range from saying “Your face is like sunshine” to “Let’s be honest you must have an overseas fan club” Making people feel good, feel heard, and appreciated is what it’s all about. Sharing of yourself, your struggles, wiping off the false shine makes the vast majority of people feel like they can safely and without judgement, connect. Be bold. Be unapologetically yourself and others will find a kindred spirit with you and your business. Will everyone? Never. But as long as you are honest with your audience/customers, you will never be wrong. The Kiki’s Life Over Brunch Podcast focuses on women in the food space, but has branched out to all women founders in order to give back to my audience and to support others in their fields. In building these relationships, in giving back seeking nothing in return, you will find people gravitate towards that kindness.
Celebrate the tiny wins.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Starting, maintaining, or growing a business or project or movement is going to take work. It’s also going to have setbacks. But, it will also have wins. Wins take all shapes and forms. Even when you think it’s no big deal, CELEBRATE!! The printer was fixed in the nick of time, win. Your article was published, win. You got an email from a woman in South Dakota telling you how much she loves your product, win. When a day goes well choose to look at it as a win instead of “well not much happened today”. We tend to fixate on the negative. No hole is harder to get out of than one of dwelling. We’ve all been there. Shifting our sights to the wins, both large and small, fosters a wonderful state of positivity and in that positivity comes momentum! You will feel more productive, and therefore become more productive.. A win, is a win, is a win.
You are worth believing in yourself, your project or business, and the more you believe in you, the easier navigating the start-up life will become! Don’t aim for perfection, aim for being authentic, self-aware, and striving to add value to those around you. Celebrate the tiny wins and you will surely see a shift not only in your perspective, but also in the forward movement of your business!!
Kristen "Kiki" Langan is the creator and President of Kiki's Mustards. Hailing from Scranton, PA, her unique condiment creation came to life while she was living in Colorado in 2013. Having a BA in Communications and Masters in Education, a culinary feat was not in her per view. From this small hobby, a move back east and requests from family and friends, Kristen grew the brand and created another two flavors along with a rebranding of her labels.
Now available in 11 stores in PA, 4 in New York, and newly in Chicago, Kristen is working on extending the distribution of Kiki's and has a new non-mustard flavor in the works. She also is involved in the health and fitness community and has been since 2008 as a trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutrition counselor. She has been booked to speak on topics related to creating and growing momentum for small businesses, how to get out of your own way in business and in life, and becoming true to the real you.
She and her Swiss Mountain Dog, Lincoln, live in Pennsylvania and they can be found traveling for Kiki's related engagements or just fun!