Ever since I assisted my mom with her cottage industry baking company (Heidi’s Whole Wheat Honey Bears) by selling products door to door in the 1980’s as a six-year-old, I’ve been possessed by the entrepreneurial spirit. I use the same innovative spirit in my work as a religious leader, but I have always dreamed of a way to engage my entire congregation in an entrepreneurial project. After a 2015 youth pilgrimage to Father Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, I made plans to launch a social enterprise.
One of the resources that kept me engaged was the NPR podcast, How I Built This, which features conversations with industry leaders and entrepreneurs, giving the behind-the-scenes story of how they launched their enterprise into the world. Each episode details just how fragile and tenuous these projects were at their inception and nascent development. The host Guy Raz invites his guests to reflect on the difficulty in the near catastrophes that always prove to be a significant learning experience.
I knew to expect such problems as we launched Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits. After a summer of steady sales and few logistical problems of vending at the Jamestown Public Market, we launched the website and a mini-marketing campaign around the annual Feast of Saint Francis, when congregations gather to bless animals early in October. We had recently upgraded the mixer we use to bake the biscuits to increase our production capacity. So emerged our first real learning. The enhanced velocity of the new mixer created a strange emulsification between the peanut butter and milk, which drastically decreased the shelf life of the biscuits to a few days. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as we had free promotional orders shipping out to churches around the country. While we said our prayers and hoped for the best, the vast majority of the biscuits arrived moldy. I had expected to have many difficult learning curves, but I didn’t expect our first failure/learning opportunity to be so public and so soon! We have since revised that recipe, and our shelf-life is back up over a month.
I was glad to have listened to so many episodes of How I Built This to know that we were in good company. I’m sure there will be many more learning opportunities along the way. I am glad for conversation partners and our customers who allow us to dare greatly. I invite you to check out How I Built This. You might just want start this conversation between Guy Raz And Brene Brown about the importance and benefits of vulnerability while building a team: https://www.npr.org/2021/08/11/1026786185/live-from-the-hibt-summit-brene-brown