We’ve been incubating a fantasy in my house for the past few months.

Ice cream entrepreneurs

Let’s open an ice cream shoe; somewhere in Brighton, in a few years time.

My kids are 11 and 13 so, along with their friends, represent an obvious supply of willing labour – but not yet. For now it’s fun to play with the idea, and it means we have an excuse to put in lots of very important research, testing flavours and never walking by. Best job I ever had!

It may be a fantasy but it highlights some of the man traps that often catch entrepreneurs.

  • Don Quixote – an impossible dream?
  • You have an idea, but innovation happens in the market – is there a need, will anybody care?
  • Ok, so they care, are they prepared to pay for it?
  • Does anyone know what you’re up to?
  • How do we get there and where is there anyway?
  • What was I supposed to be doing again?

Going down the list, it’s entirely possible that we’re tilting at windmills – it’ll never happen and it’s just a good excuse to experiment with outlandish flavours. Lot’s of people waste a lot of time and money dreaming about starting their own thing – very few get out of the drive. Assuming that’s not us, that we’ll get off our collective arse, what about the the other risks?

Is there a market? Another idea my daughter has is elbow rests – something that would swing out from under the table so she could rest her elbows without someone telling her giving her a hard time. It may be a good idea but I imagine the market is limited to one eleven year old, I could be wrong. The simple answer here is to ask. Ask your market. Do they want it?

Yes? Ok. Do they want it so much that they’re prepared to take money out of their pocket and put it into yours? Sadly, just asking this question may not give a reliable result. Sometimes you have to try it out for real. Test sell.

Get past that stage and it’s time to make the product. In order to sell it you have to tell people about it which is why ice cream vans play that jangly music. It’s no good sitting around waiting for the ‘phone to ring, marketing is the thing.

It’s around this time that the day-to-day can make you lose sight of where you’re going. The problems might be in product development, too many sales, too few sales, too many specials. None of which should be a problem for our little shop – but guaranteed they’ll be an endless stream of daily demands that blur the horizon. Keep to the plan.

The final risk is the worst. We set out to make the best ice cream in the world so how come we now spend 87% of our time sorting out muffins, coffee, biscuits, sandwiches, cheese and those little pots of marmalade made by your best friend’s aunt? Stay focused.

There’s a lot more to running a successful business – these are the biggest risks that I see from my side of the table. Assuming we can steer our way through, what will our little shop be like? Best inspiration so far is Amy’s in Austin, Texas (which you can find here).

Now that’s ice cream!

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