Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Teddy Winslow, Owner of GoodLife Cafe and Bakery, located in Mendocino, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a bakery espresso breakfast & lunch cafe featuring local organic housemade everything, freshly baked pastries, bagels, and lots of gluten-free. We also have a seasonal farmstand on site and see local arts and crafts throughout. We pride ourselves on being the local hub of our village.
Tell us about yourself
I was a waitress, a mechanic, a masseuse, a yoga teacher, and many other things before I decided I wanted to try to brave the doing-it-myself thing, and the local cafe went up for sale, and I decided to hold my breath and jump. I offered them basically nothing up front and a small amount to be paid off over the next 5 years if I was to succeed. I jumped in as a waitress, and over the past 11 years, I guess I’ve earned a college degree in business ownership. I have plenty to learn still, but what feeds my soul and makes me keep going is having folks thank me and tell me they love what I’m doing and how it makes them feel to see my happy staff and real beautiful food on the plates and smiling faces and a bustling local vibe.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I took a business that had been losing money every year to a thriving full of life bustling cafe. I love being able to give my community a place to call home. We have a loyalty system that gives discounts for frequent visits, and we have a venue for our local farmers to sell their food on our farmstand as well as our kitchen. It feels good to be able to donate to all the local charities and fundraisers with the business, and I’ve had folks tell me they decided to move to Mendocino because they loved the vibe so much at our cafe, or they come every year and celebrate at GoodLife. Also, I bought the cafe when I was 7 months pregnant and raised my son there. Feeding him from the cafe meant stocking food I wanted to feed my family, so I am proud of our effort to stay organic and local as much as I can.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Being responsible for the livelihoods of a staff of 30 people is a lot of stress, also, COVID was a whopper. And in general, just second-guessing my decisions when I have to make big ones that affect so many, it’s a lot of pressure, and we don’t always know what the right move is, but we have to pretend we do. It’s really hard. Also, we get all the responsibilities, all the feedback, and negative reviews which we take on personally, most likely as a small business owner; it’s my baby they’re talking about, so it’s hard when we get the rare negative review about our implementation of gratuity through COVID, or the birds outside on the deck, or the size of our tiny ancient bathroom, or things I can’t fix, but they blame me (us) for, that’s hard. Also, having to justify the prices of things is hard, the cost of everything is up, labor, rent, supplies, food, and our prices as well had to go up, and folks have a lot to say about it, but what can I do?
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Be careful, have some savings, be prepared to have a lot of unforeseen complications, be good at pivoting and troubleshooting and multitasking, get a business advisor, make a business plan, make partnership agreements through a lawyer unless you’re on your own, and then be realistic, don’t expect to pay yourself until at least the second year possibly, and only do it if you love it, business ownership is not for the faint of heart!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.