Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with W. Kyle Smith, owner of Gorman & Smith Beverage Equipment, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I help brewers make more beer at a higher quality with lower costs. The majority of my customers are craft brewers, but I do have customers in wine and spirits, food, and pharmaceuticals. I've even gotten a phone call or two from Tesla!
Tell us about yourself
I taught myself how to make beer while being in school for chemical engineering. After working at a brewery for several years as the head brewer, I transitioned to brewery equipment to use my degree more. I joined a start-up steel fabrication shop and was there cradle-to-grave. A lot of my previous customers still needed my help, so I formed Gorman & Smith in 2018. The average craft brewery does not have the resources to keep an engineering major on staff, but they still have technical issues that need solving. I set up an eCommerce platform in order to take care of the smaller parts so that I can tackle the larger projects. I still do a little dance every time an online order goes through.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
That I'm still going! There's an old joke that starting a business is a 3-5 year sentence, and there's a gem of realism in that punchline. I keep telling myself that it is always worth the first pint, and after saving several facilities from bankruptcy, it still holds true. It wouldn't be possible without my brilliant customers and suppliers; they have put an exceptional amount of faith in my methods.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I think the hardest is knowing when to ante in and lay the chips on the table. Every decision has a degree of risk. I've had ideas that were supposed to be brilliant but didn't quite work. I've also had silly ideas resonate well. Knowing how to measure that risk and reduce the liabilities for your company is one of the largest responsibilities a business owner has.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Know what you are going to offer your customer; do this with research, research, and research. Reading is a whetstone for the mind and keeps it sharp.
- As the owner, you are your company's greatest asset and largest liability. You have the ability to shape that company based on how and where you want to work. I had already set up an excellent office at home thanks to Shopify prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, allowing me to focus on physical and mental health when it mattered without neglecting my responsibilities.
- Don't be afraid to start with either a full-time or part-time job. It is a lot easier to make clear decisions if you're not worried about how you're going to pay for rent and groceries. It is also too easy to lose your schedule without some stability at times.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Go and find your local small businesses! They will know your needs far better than the large multi-national companies will.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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