Many of us want to start our own businesses. Some are good cooks and want our own restaurants. Some are good bakers and want our own bakeries. Big dreams, but many of us never actually get anywhere.
A couple years ago, I met a chef named Abe at a dinner party he was hosting.
He’d been classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America and been cooking professionally for many years. If anyone might start their own restaurant, it would be Abe.
But he said he wasn’t ready. Instead, he started a company that created pop-up dinners and private parties.
Instead of worrying about all the details of opening an entire restaurant: financing, buying real-estate, industrial-sized appliances, inventory, point of sale/reservation systems; he used the tiny kitchens in friends’ homes and Paypal to collect money for tickets.
Instead, he worried about making awesome food.
My wife and I are cleaning up junk we’ve collected. She found my stash of mobile devices I bought years ago. I wanted to build a business helping database administrators manage their databases from phones and PDAs. I spent many months on it.
I was convinced lots of people would use this so it had to work on all sorts of platforms. I kept buying more devices and realizing my software wouldn’t work on all of them, so I’d toil away some more.
But, I never shipped anything; just collected this junk.
Today, I try my hardest to be a lot more like Abe. With Draft, I still have big dreams.
I want to change the world of copy-editing and learning to write better. Instead of all the people at your workplace sending around Microsoft Word documents, maybe they’ll send links to Draft.
But I start with things I can get done, and even sell, in a couple days.
I worried about getting one customer’s document copy-edited. The system would charge them, and send me an email. I’d have to manually send an editor another email. The editor would email me back. Then I’d email my customer again when it was done.
You’d hardly call that a system, but it was ready in a day, and I got one person to use it. Then, a few people each week. Then, an order every day. Then, a dozen orders a day.
Now, Draft has become quite a little business, hosting over 225,000 documents. But it started with just trying to get one customer.
I wonder why more people don’t do things like Abe and his dinner parties.
Why someone who doesn’t have a single customer yet, spends weeks worrying about saving 25 cents a charge in credit card processing. Why my friend, who wants to start a bakery, doesn’t first try to sell a dozen cupcakes to a single restaurant or bar to resell.
Last night, I got to see Abe again at another dinner party he hosted… now at his own restaurant.
The chef is Abe Conlon and he eventually evolved those dinner parties into Fat Rice, the #4 best new restaurant of 2013.
But first, he started small.
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