There is an old saying: “pioneers often end up with arrows in their backs.”
Being the first offering a new concept or being the first mover sometimes isn’t enough.
The key is finding a solution that marries an idea with a market need.
One owner, Ricky Eisen - President and Founder of Between the Bread, learned the lesson well and now has one of the top corporate catering and event planning companies in Manhattan.
One entrepreneur went to Italy, saw a restaurant concept she thought would work well in New York City.
“My husband and I traveled to Italy and, while there, I was completely fascinated with the cute, little cafes that boasted healthy foods and a trendy design. It was a concept I wanted to bring back to New York, and thought it would do very well here.”
“My first problem was overestimating the response and acceptance to this new, revolutionary café concept. It was an unusual idea and getting people to understand the value of this new business was tough. Additionally, since the in-store volume wasn’t there, it was difficult to meet overhead.” Eisen now says.
“We have implemented simple yet innovative concepts to pursue growth. We now recognize further opportunities for growth in our retail, as opposed to catering and operation. We are also growing our company by introducing new technology and products to make our workflow more efficient. On the other side, we’ve seen challenges in the market, such as over-saturation which is presenting us with increased, and constantly growing competition.”
“We have to compete with both major international food chains, as well as mom and pop delis, in addition to our direct corporate catering competitors. It is becoming difficult to differentiate and constantly innovate our products and service,” she continues.
“My first problem was overestimating the response/acceptance to this new, revolutionary café concept. It was tough to get people to understand and value it, because it was unusual at the time. It was also tough to meet overhead – in-store volume wasn't there,” Eisen now says.
This reality moved her to identify another niche in the food market – catering and event planning.
“We realized that in order to expand the market, we needed to cater and take food out elsewhere, as opposed to having all customers come to us,” she says.
But it was not enough for her to be just another catering service.
“Once we were able to reach a great build out, which helped contribute to a fluid operation, we experienced tons of success and unprecedented growth. It was a game of constant problem identification, or opportunity identification, and adaptation,” she adds.
Eisen says she did a lot of marketing and research on who her most suitable client was and targeted efforts on matching their needs in the corporate marketplace.
She decided that specialization and maintaining positive direction were always key.
“It is always important to try to objectively analyze, and even scrutinize, your own company from a macro perspective in order to gain insight into what you need to modify to be more successful. That in we maintained a consistent corporate motto. We grew Between the Bread, and maintained its success throughout the decades through hard work, uncompromising quality and consistent good service. Our reputation is our mainstay.” she adds.
One key element were the employees she hired.
“First and foremost – I look for passion. Certain things can be taught, but love for what you do is the most important asset to any employee in any business. Between the Bread is focused on creativity and innovation so I appreciate a candidate that can show me something about themselves or their work that is out of the box during the interview process. A positive attitude and friendly personality is also a must. One thing that is said constantly about Between the Bread is that our customer service and attention to individual client needs is second to none. We take our role as providing the best customer service possible, very seriously,” she espouses.
But just being successful is not enough. Small businesses need to continue to grow and expand. Eisen is no exception.
“We now recognize further opportunities for growth in our retail, as opposed to catering, operation, and are pursuing all opportunities for growth. We are also trying to grow our company by introducing new technology and products to make our workflow more efficient. Impediments include market over-saturation, increased (and constantly growing) competition.”
“We have to compete with both major international food chains, as well as mom and pop delis, in addition to our direct corporate catering competitors, and it is becoming difficult to differentiate and constantly innovate our products and service, she continues.
Eisen has this advice for other small business leaders. “Above all else, you must start with a good idea. Everything that follows will depend on the strength of your original concept. Once you find a "good idea," you have to find the twist that will make it uniquely yours. Your concept should be novel and have its own personality, one that differentiates you from the competitors in your industry. And make sure you are passionate about it!"
For people thinking of opening a new business, Eisen has this advice. “Before investing any equity in your concept, you have to do a boatload of market research. Before you ever enter your first meeting or send your first proposal, you should know: where your ideal location will be (office or retail/factory), what your price points need to be to be profitable, who your client base is and how to reach/locate them, who your competitors are and how much capital you will realistically need to start the business.”