Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Elena Rosenblum, Vice President at Union Kitchen, located in Washington, DC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our business is Union Kitchen, a DC-based Food Business Accelerator and investment fund. We have been serving the community for over ten years, working with food entrepreneurs to build their businesses from launch to national scale. Our goal is to empower food entrepreneurs through our ecosystem of Kitchens, Stores, and Distribution and provide them with the tools and resources to create a high-quality and sustainable business built to last.
Nationally, less than 3% of consumer packaged goods brands grow beyond $10m in value. We want to turn those odds upside down and believe we can do so with the right structure and partnering with the best founders. Businesses through the Union Kitchen Accelerator achieve $10m+ valuations at a rate 2.5X the national average, and we look forward to increasing that number even more.
We work with a diverse set of entrepreneurs that come from many different backgrounds. Some are serial entrepreneurs, and others have spent several decades in the hospitality space. Regardless of the starting point, all the founders we work with share a deep passion for food and a belief that we can manufacture better food by owning the full process.
Tell us about yourself
What I love most about food and the work at Union Kitchen is how tangible it is. I get to wake up each morning and see the full cycle of our ecosystem, from the food entrepreneurs manufacturing products in our shared kitchens to the customers buying the products in our stores. We are collectively building an ecosystem that manufactures better food, creates jobs and inclusive wealth in our local community, and celebrates our diversity and vibrancy in the food we get to enjoy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
When you first start, you never know how things are going to work out. You have an idea. You have a mission, strategy, and set of resources. But at the end of the day, you just don't know what the market truly wants. You don't know if what you are solving is a large enough problem with enough customers to support a sustainable business. Should you spend more time on this or that? Is this really something that people want? This can be particularly difficult when you look at something with a longer time horizon, like an accelerator. All of that has made it even more rewarding to watch the businesses we started with years ago now achieve national saturation, open their own facilities, support growing teams, and achieve millions of dollars in sales.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Every day includes some amount of uncertainty and change. As a leader, it is weighing the uncertainty, gathering what information you can, and making decisions regardless. Complete information is not a thing, and no decision can often be far more detrimental.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Learning is everything. There are so many ways to learn. It can be listening to a five-minute podcast or asking a question. People often feel like they should already know the answer and that hesitation to ask prevents the growth ultimately needed to be successful.
- Lead through uncertainty. As I mentioned above, there is no such thing as complete information. Conditions and variables are constantly shifting and will forever be shifting. It is your job to make the best possible decision for your team, given the information you have, in a timely manner. And then learn from the decision you made for next time.
- Build a team with people who are equally passionate about learning. Especially early in a business, everyone needs to do a little bit of everything. Surround yourself with those that are open to growing and want to support others around them.
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.
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