From Dave Smith
My Foreword to Finding The Sweet Spot by Dave Pollard
[To counter the efforts of those who would foist The Masonite Monster Mall on our community, we need young entrepreneurs to galvanize new local businesses at the potential Masonite Transition Park. The intended gathering of Big Box Dinosaurs and other chain and franchise stores to force their way in, feed at our community trough, and leak their ill-gained revenues and profits to parts unknown, rather than allow small locally-owned businesses to thrive and re-circulate our money locally, will leave our community with lasting scars. If they overrule local citizens and government through their big bucks purchase of the initiative process, and the zoning of the Masonite site is changed adding $30 million to its value, then you can kiss local small business opportunities here goodbye for a generation at least. It’s highly doubtful, for many reasons, that a mall will ever be built. But by keeping the zoning industrial, we will keep the property price within reach of local appropriate technology startups, with good paying jobs, rather than having some retail monstrosity imposed on us from outsiders. Recessions, with great changes upon us, are opportune times to help create the next world of business. Because credit and investment capital is tight or non-existent, businesses will have to be started on shoestrings. This is good. It focuses attention and requires great tenacity. The choice is ours. This book is a key business how-to manual from Dave Pollard for budding entrepreneurs. And here is my Foreword. -DS]
3/27/09 Ukiah, North California
A couple of stories, one a “business failure”, the other a “business success.”
During the seventies, with high unemployment and energy shortages a fact of daily life, some friends and I started and ran a very successful natural food cooperative in Menlo Park, California called Briarpatch Natural Foods. It was created to fill a real community need, following the age-old business adage of “find a need and fill it.” People had time on their hands, and natural foods were expensive, so by working 8 hours every three months, members were able to purchase healthy foods for at least 30% less. Three of us co-managed the store, and the work of unloading trucks, stocking shelves, buying fresh produce at the produce terminal, running the cash registers, and everything else needed to operate a small grocery store was done by members. At one point, there were over 350 families on the waiting list.
Because labor is, by far, the largest expense of doing business, taking most of that cost out of the expense statement created not only cheaper food but an enormous forgiveness for the obvious inefficiencies of volunteer, untrained labor and the lack of basic business skills by its enthusiastic and smart, but woefully unskilled management. What fun we had playing store!
It eventually proved to be unsustainable long-term for the simple fact that business is cyclical and when Silicon Valley exploded into runaway growth and success, no-one had time to play store, and the store didn’t adapt quickly enough to the rapidly changing times that did it in. All vendors were fully paid, all member investments were fully returned, and the graceful ending of a beautiful success left us only fond memories. By our current business standards, it was a failure because it didn’t grow and make its “investors” a ton of money. By those of us most intimately involved in the daily business of running a community cooperative, it was one of our most beautiful, successful business experiences.
On the other hand, Smith & Hawken, the $100 million garden company I co-founded is considered an enduring entrepreneurial success. I disagree, and here’s why.