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Elderberry Syrup and Aroniaberry Syrup: Bottling Day as Date Night
Over the past eight years we’ve learned a lesson or two, not least of which is one of the keys to a successful bootstrap startup: convince yourself things are what they aren’t. Like looking at problems as features and opportunities, rather than as bugs, the ability to consistently put lipstick on pigs through year after year of 80 hour weeks enabled Farmer Bob and me to stay the course, stay together, and provide a semblance of normal home life for the Sisters of Anarchy. Which, as it turns out, was great practice for the events of 2020, and why Elderberry and Aroniaberry syrups came to be.
“Yeah, this is going to really suck”, Farmer Bob said on the phone back in April as I provided him the list of 2020 events that announced cancellation that week. By the end of the month, nearly 200 of our 250 scheduled New England engagements had gone away; almost all were canceled by July. The largest component in our 2020 cash flow plan, up in smoke.
“Okay, great, now we can finally concentrate on getting the elderberry and aroniaberry syrup business up and running”. See? That’s lipstick.
In June, despite just having signed a year-long contract, a key employee gave her notice. “Okay, great, now we can find someone who’s a better fit for this stage of our growth plan.” Growth plan? More lipstick.
“Hey, come with me to do the first hot-fill bottling run. It’ll be fun, like Date Night.” How romantic. Spending the day in a hot, steamy, industrial setting, doing something mildly dangerous and physically demanding, with a voice in the back of my mind saying over and over, don’t screw this up, don’t spill the elderberry syrup, don’t mess up the aroniaberry syrup recipe, don’t break the bottles or we are sunk, we lose the farm, the Sisters of Anarchy go to an orphanage and Bob Marley gets fostered to cat people.
“Okay, great! That was fun, we really knocked that out fast! The bottles need to cool, so let me take you to lunch ….” Blarney, blarney, blarney. At least the soup was good.
So the three new products – elderberry syrup, aroniaberry syrup, and a combined elderberry & aroniaberry syrup – are bottled, labeled, and available. We completely reoriented our operations and re-invented our product line over the course of eight weeks, and as of the end of this month we will exceed our total 2019 gross revenue. So Coco Chanel was right, as usual: “If you are sad, add more lipstick … and attack!”