recession proof business

The best thing that ever happened to me during my 20 years of owning a local service-based business was the recession of 2008-2009.

During that time I was ten years into my journey of owning Cookies by Design, a gourmet gifting company, I was in the middle of a 5-year lease, had 10 employees, and up until “The Great Recession”, business was humming along quite nicely. We had some great recurring corporate accounts, I had a manager running internal operations and I got to spend my time networking with local businesses and passing out cookie samples. It was fun, it paid my bills, paid me a little salary, and gave me time to be home with my three kids and husband.

The Turning Point: Embracing Innovation Amidst Crisis

Then one day, all of a sudden, it wasn’t fun. Business wasn’t humming along anymore, daily sales were lacking, my cash flow quickly dried up, my internal fear became very real and if I needed a reminder I could see the fear in my employee’s eyes that they too were uncertain about their future.

I will never forget the day I looked at my manager and said “We have to do something, we are going to create cupcakes”.

Cupcake by Design: Crafting a New Legacy

The good news was during this time a little yummy individual dessert known as a cupcake was becoming very popular, a trend in the baking industry. Food Network TV was launching a show called Cupcake Wars that soon became a national phenomenon. I did a quick competitive analysis and found out the only cupcakes you could get in my market were the grocery store kind, you know the ones that are a little bland, swirly frosting that leaves an aftertaste in your mouth and blue teeth.

That was the day Cupcake by Design was born. Of course, our first signature cupcake flavor was Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough after all we were a cookie store. My manager was a genius at creating luscious, moist, gourmet cupcake recipes and I took my visionary skills and created a brand. What happened next was amazing, we started selling cupcakes fast, we attracted a new clientele into our business, we had to adapt and build new bakery cases to house the cupcakes, move the bakery around to accommodate for more production, and we starting featuring our product in weddings.

My business tripled from this invention which led me to take the brand national and franchise it so that other Cookies by Designs could offer cupcakes as well.

Reflecting on Growth: Beyond Comfort Zones

The question becomes, why is it human nature to wait until our back is up against the wall, our stress levels are off the charts, our bank accounts are dwindling, or an external threat such as a recession or pandemic to innovate and adapt to create something new, to improve to grow?

It starts with human behavior, God wired us for fight or flight, and our brains are looking for safety and comfort. If our basic needs are met, we feel safe, then most of us are good, we tell ourselves things like “I don’t need a bigger business”, “I am content with what I have” “Who am I to take this business to the next level”

Pathways to Improvement: Strategies for Sustainable Success

What if we challenged ourselves to think differently, to look at your business with fresh eyes, innovate before you have to.

Instead, of do more, how can you do it differently? Improve slightly? You do not have to create a whole new product line or brand but can you:

  • Look at your processes, technology, and systems. What improvements can you make that could positively impact your profitability, save you time, and save you inventory?
  • Look at your product line or services for opportunities to add more or even take away the ones that might be draining you financially or emotionally.
  • Pay attention to your customer journey and look for improvements to create a customer experience to increase referrals and customer retention
  • Create a survey asking your customers for feedback to continue to improve product or service selection as well as their experience
  • Research your industry, your community, and your competitors for the latest trends. Is your business still relevant, attracting new customers daily
  • Pay attention to how you can position your business in your community to attract more customers, what do you need to do to be seen as a leader? An expert? Is your marketing messaging stopping the scroll and turning into leads?
  • Create a video for social media, the algorithms are telling us this is what we need to do, so why is it I see so few owners doing it?
  • What do you need to let go of, either as an owner task or product or service that might be draining your energy, time and finances? I love the question my business coach used with me “what are you tolerating”?

The list goes on and go, the point is if you want to build a thriving business that will continue to increase in revenue, improve your profits and pay yourself more it starts with how you position yourself both mentally and physically every day as the owner and creating a blueprint for growth.

I will 100% say that if it wasn’t for the recession, I would not have created a cupcake brand. I was a busy Mom of a 4, 10, and 13 year old at the time. Our nights and weekends were filled with soccer games, t-ball and dance. I was just trying to feed my family and get my kids to bed at a decent hour, the last thing on my mind was what new product or brand can I create today?

Final Thoughts: Cultivating a Forward-Thinking Business Mindset

Adopting a mindset of “Grow your business before you need to” will change how you operate your business and create progressive forward thinking. Progress builds motivation, which in turn creates action steps, belief, and confidence and ultimately gets you results. The more frequently you experience that sense of progress, the more likely you will be creatively productive in the long run.

If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith and created that brand, I would not have experienced progress, tripled my revenue, paid off my debts, positioned myself to sell my business for a much bigger profit, saved the jobs of 10 employees, met so many great people in my community, created something that received national recognition and attention, been featured on the local news and business publications and I wouldn’t be the business coach I am today.

My passion is helping locally-owned businesses grow so they can become an important part of their community, compete with online retailers, and improve their profitability so they too can pay themselves more and continue to positively impact their communities.

Let’s challenge the theory “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, instead fix it anyway” What hidden opportunities are you not uncovering, and if you did, what would this mean to the bottom line of your business?