Sunday, April 3, 2016

Entrepreneurship and Taking out the Garbage

Entrepreneurship isn't all pitches and parties. It can be, sometimes, and that is fun. But the truth is, entrepreneurship requires a commitment to do ALL the jobs at some point. Or at least know all the jobs, be able to train others for all the jobs, hire people for all the jobs, and most importantly, respect all the jobs.

I was discussing the reality of the small food industry with a colleague the other day and I pointed out that not only do entrepreneurs work long, crazy hours, but they need to be able to take out the garbage. When you're starting out, there's a good chance it is a one or two person operation. You have an idea, you work on it while maintaining another form of income, you have a life and a house and kids and whatever else, AND you need to be responsible for the ugly, dirty jobs like garbage.

Some food business owners keep their operation small and they juggle most of the work themselves. Some have plans to grow and expand and eventually hire people for various jobs. Either is good and in fact, I believe both models are essential to our local economy.

Kimberley's Kitchen is somewhere in the middle. I started out with me and my husband doing most of it, with help from family and friends. Then we expanded to hire seasonal staff and now have a regular staff compliment and outsource other business activities. Our experience in the restaurant and food-service industry taught us that we need to be willing to do all the jobs, even the garbage.

I believe it is really important to see all the work/jobs of our business as essential. Garbage is actually necessary and of course of vital importance to healthy and safety. So why does our culture look down on people who have this in their job description?

My husband and I now divide our workload based on what we are good at, what we love to do, and what we can employ others to do. And we don't just lead by example by doing things like dishes and delivery and recycling, we know that these parts of the work are as vital as marketing and sales and cooking. We are teaching our kids the business too and like many restaurants, they are starting with dishes. It is actually one of the most important jobs to opening your business every day. Without dishes, how can you run a kitchen?

We don't believe we are "above" taking out the garbage or any of the other dirty jobs. We feel immense gratitude to have customers to cook for and serve every day. We also feel tremendous responsibility for our impact on nature and our community. By literally taking out the garbage, we have learned what we are throwing out, what is being wasted, and this started us thinking about what we could do about it.

This year, Kimberley's Kitchen and Telkwa Takeout are embarking on a mission to be ZERO FOOD WASTE businesses. This is incredibly challenging and we are very motivated to reduce our impact and find a way to reduce food waste as well. We will be sharing some of our ideas and strategies and we hope to hear from you about what you would like to see. We have been working on this for about 6 months and we are excited about the progress we are making. We have also discovered some much-needed products that would make this possible for other food businesses. (Our recycling and composting has been a part of what we do since day one. As well as other initiatives with packaging and food waste).

So if we never took out the garbage, we may never have made the connection about how we can run our business smarter and better. We may never have sought options to reduce food waste, thus saving us money. We may never have realized that in reducing waste, there was an opportunity to be a more sustainable company that we can be proud of. Taking out the garbage has taught us a lot about business and what kind of company we want to be. We will never consider ourselves above this kind of work.

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