For Tina Meseck of Jefferson, Iowa, eating better food is a passion. You can enjoy healthier cupcakes or cookies when they’re made with dominant whole grains, quality starches and less sugar. At Better for You Bakery LLC, Tina single-handedly focuses on creating ready-to-eat granola, all-purpose gluten-free flour and mixes that are free of the most common food allergens, including gluten, soy and peanuts.
Over the past year, Tina and I have chatted numerous times about the challenges and triumphs of being entrepreneurs. Today, she’s sharing the inside scoop on launching, growing and balancing it all as a one-lady healthy food cheerleader who promises sweets can be good (or at least better) for you. Let’s go beyond baking tips and discover some business ideas Tina has for rising entrepreneurs in the food industry.
Mix It Up: Launching a Business
Making the leap to self-employment often sparks mixed emotions. Can you talk about the decision-making process that went into starting your own business?
I actually first started my business baking from home for a farmer’s market in 2014. Customers approached me during the market, looking for gluten-free options and information on where to get my products after the market ended. Their interest set me on a path from hobby summer fun to a full-time business. I did research on locations, additional license requirements [and] insurance, and asked my customers lots of questions as I began business planning.
Being viewed as a professional requires effort. How did you prepare to open your doors?
Since my business is in food, I met with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals for guidance on choosing a license and requirements for what I wanted to offer my customers. I attended different business seminars, met with Iowa Small Business Development Centers, talked to other entrepreneurs and took a ServSafe class to certify in Food Safety Management. I also did extensive research and education on the setup of my facility regarding food allergen policies and procedures for safety in shared settings.
Time to Rise: Growing Your Customer Base
Marketing and advertising are critical to a business. As a business-of-one, how do you let the world know about your products and services?
To be honest, this is an area that has been hard for me to figure out. It’s incredibly expensive to outsource. I primarily market on Facebook and talk to anyone and everyone I meet whenever the opportunity presents itself. Customers are the best advocates of my business. I’m currently trying to learn more about social media venues that will expand my reach to more customers, like Pinterest and Instagram.
Which promotional effort has given you the most return on your investment, either financially or in building relationships with your customers?
I’m not sure if this qualifies or not, but I’ve found that store demos and events are one of the best ways to reach more customers personally. There are so many gluten-free products in the marketplace that the ability for customers to try products before they buy and meet the owner of a business is a great way to build that first, lasting impression.
Beyond the Pantry: Keeping It All Organized
Give us a little peek inside your office. Which software, gadgets or business practices help you stay on task and meet customer needs?
I use Wave for all my accounting, invoicing and to keep track of the financial health of my business. Plus, it’s free — an added bonus! And, should I need it at any point, it has pay-to-use payroll options. When it comes to appointments and events, Google Calendar has been great for staying organized and keeping track of important upcoming dates. I deal mostly with business clients, so currently they email or call in their needs. But I’d like to find a system or have one built that businesses could use to more easily order items.
Sugar and Spice: Finding the Right Work-Life Balance
Being an independent contractor commands long days. What do you do to make time for yourself amid your growing to-do list?
I’m actually a bit of a work-in-progress in the area of work-life balance. Currently, I try to make time to exercise daily, read something that isn’t business-related and spend time with my family. Typically, I’ll sit down on Sundays and schedule out the week, organizing the work that needs to get done both personally and professionally into different days to break it up.
For readers who are considering launching their own business, what’s the biggest piece of advice you can give them?
No matter how well you plan, expect that it will cost more, take longer and be harder than you think. Go into it with those expectations and find a good support system that includes other small business entrepreneurs.