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DECISION-MAKING

5 Things You Can Learn About Running a Business From Your Own Kitchen

Even making jam is a business model that makes sense.
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Home canning has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and my friend, Nancy, is part of that trend. She fell in love with the process the very first time she brought home a flat of strawberries and spent a steamy afternoon mashing, boiling, ladling, and boiling some more. The results were heavenly. Now that summer is here, she finds herself drawn to the kitchen, a place where she does not usually spend much time.

Not being much of a domestic goddess either, I wondered why she felt such an instant affinity to this homeliest of pursuits. That is, until I realized that successfully making jams is exactly like running a successful business. Don't believe me? You should--and here are five reasons why:

1. Understand the basics; know your business from the ground up.

A good business, like a good preserves, depends on your knowing the fundamentals of your craft and understanding why certain rules are unbreakable. Jars of jam that do not seal properly can do a lot of harm to those who consume the contents. Not paying attention to the proportions of ingredients can lead to under or overbuying--and potentially a lot of waste. Before laying out the capital to fund your jam-making/business expenses--understanding the manufacturing process from start to finish.

2. Timing is everything.

Overcooking results in a rubbery jam and under-cooking in a runny one: timing the moment you pull the pan off the flame is crucial to the perfect final product. The right timing for bringing an idea, product, or service to market can make or break its success. You need to be alert for the smallest of signs that can signal a big change in consumers' habits and preferences.

3. Your product is only as good as what you put into it.

No amount of sugar will make cottony strawberries taste good, just as over-promising results will not improve the end product if your efforts are not up to par. It takes more than a lot of sweet talk to convince a customer that he should choose your business.

4. Use your creativity to produce unique results.

Experienced jam makers who have internalized the canning process can begin to experiment with flavors and combinations of ingredients that may lead to a sensational new taste experience. It's their experience and knowledge that gives them the jump on competing cooks when the public demands a specific flavor.

5. Patience is a virtue.

Jam making is an act of, well, preservation. You can enjoy the fruits of your hot summer afternoon in the dead of winter. Many kinds of preserve even improve as they age. No startup is ever an instant success. It takes time to learn the fundamentals, find your audience, and learn the scope of your creativity. But if you start small and stick to the best principles and the best materials, you'll find that your business is just a bowl of cherry...jam.

Last updated: Jul 15, 2014

DEBRA KAYE | Columnist | partner, Lucule

Debra Kaye is a Partner at the innovation consultancy Lucule and a former CEO of TBWAItaly. Her book, Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections that Lead to Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, was The Washington Post's Leadership Book of the Week. A frequent commentator on American Public Radio's "Marketplace," she also writes for Fast Company and is a sought after speaker at venues such as SXSW.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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