First Taste of Success
There is a feeling that comes after you first achieve something you’ve been tirelessly working toward. For some, that feeling marks the end of journey and the successful culmination of a body of work. For others, that feeling is just the tip of the iceberg, the first indicator of the potential success that lies around the corner. This summer I experienced my first, brief taste of success in my entrepreneurial endeavors, which has only sparked my appetite for more.
The name of the start up that I am working on is Marshfillows. It is based on a patent that I hold for a chocolate-filled marshmallow. When I tell people about this patent, the most common response I receive goes something like, “I can’t believe that hasn’t been done before, that is so obvious.” I make no claims to be a creative genius here because I’m sure countless people have stuffed their marshmallows with chocolate before, but evidently no one else thought it was cool enough to patent the process for doing it. Secondly, the innovation is obvious if you follow some simple logic. If chocolate is good, and if marshmallow is good, then chocolate inside a marshmallow is better! With this foolproof logic in my arsenal, this summer I have embarked on a quest for entrepreneurial glory: to convince someone that my patent for an “obvious product” is worthy of shelf space in a retail store. I’m pleased to say the mission was successful.
On Sunday July 20, 2012, Marshfillows LLC received its first product order for a retail store location. Through a family connection I was introduced to the owner of the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee KOA (Kampgrounds of America) campground, which has a small convenient store on the premises where campers can buy a variety of camping essentials including marshmallows. Although I was told that the owner was friendly, I was nonetheless very nervous as I drove to the campground. This was my first real pitch to retail client, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had worked to make my homemade Marshfillows look as professional as possible given that they were manufactured in a hotel kitchen by a 21 year old, but would the storeowner be satisfied with their legitimacy, or would I be laughed out of her office? Additionally, I didn’t exactly have a Plan B if this connection proved fruitless. There were certainly other campgrounds in the area, but none at which I had connections, and few in such a prominent location as this campground. I wanted this one.
I had 6 sample bags of my Marshfillows prepared and I was ready with my product pitch and price point. I walked into the store and exchanged pleasantries with the owner. It turned out that she was even nicer than my contact had indicated. As I warmed up to pitch my product, and before I even had a chance to field any questions she might have, she had already asked me if I had any product she could put on her shelf that day. I was pleasantly stunned. I immediately gave her the six sample bags that I had, and then asked her if she would like to make an order for additional bags. Again to my surprise she proceeded to order 24 bags and wrote me a check on the spot. I was so excited that I said I would deliver the currently non-existent bags by tomorrow without taking the time to consider if that was even possible. We ended our meeting with her telling me I should strongly consider attending the November KOA National Convention as a product vendor. She was convinced that my product would be a hit with the 400 plus other KOA locations around the country.
I left the store totally energized with that small spark of a 24 bag order, My first order!
But suddenly, and for the very first time, instead of worrying about sales, I was beginning to panic about my supply capabilities!. (see next installment for how I handled it.)
Cornell Class of ’13 Dyson School
Founder/CEO Marshfillows LLC