The Importance of Staying Focused When Starting a Business

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    I'm a serial entrepreneur and have been always thinking about new ideas from the time I was a kid with the cliché neighborhood lemonade stand. My current business, Wicked Start- an online guide for starting a business- has benefitted tremendously from all the experiences of the past business that I started. With Wicked Start, I want people to benefit from my years of experiences building a business from the ground up. It wasn't always smooth sailing. That's why I'd like to share a story about the importance of staying focused. Not staying focused was a big lesson that learned from my previous business, NuKitchen, the online gourmet food business that I cofounded.

    To provide a little background, I started NuKitchen because I was a health nut and this business gave me the opportunity to be game changing player in the weight loss industry, offering the first online ordering system to get fresh, portion-controlled gourmet meals delivered to your door---A cross between PeaPod and the Zone. In a nutshell, we sold our meals online, prepared them at an offsite kitchen, and then delivered them to directly to customers' doors.) In just over 2 years of operation, NuKitchen's reputation and business grew, serving thousands of clients, including influential celebrity New Yorkers such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Marcia Gay Harden, and Mary Louise Parker.

    As with any new business or startup, there can be some very challenging and seemingly insurmountable challenges. At the time of the "lesson," the business excelled at online meal delivery. We were asked by a high-end gym chain to open and manage several cafés in their fitness facilities. This seemed like a natural extension of our product at the time. We expected that the strategic alliance would bring us closer to customers and lead to increased sales of our prepared meals. So we went into the restaurant business. However, it was so much more than we could have anticipated. Not all of our strengths as an efficient online business were transferable to the restaurant business.

    For one thing, our NuKitchen meals didn't translate well for the grab-and-go gym clientele, so we had to develop an alternative menu of sandwiches and wraps. Next, we were catapulted into operating brick-and-mortar cafés-something we didn't have experience in-and we didn't have the right kind of staff for that. Also, we had to quickly learn how to handle cash transactions; for our online business, we only accepted credit cards. Lastly, we needed capital to fund such expenses as point-of-sale systems (i.e., fancy cash registers), signage, new menu development, packaging, and uniforms for our staff.

    We got out of the café business in a year, but only after nearly going bust- and having our attention diverted from our core business, which ultimately suffered because of this distraction, causing us to lose nearly $500,000. The big lesson I learned is that we didn't have the resources to manage both the online food business and the café business while we were still a startup. Fortunately, we didn't go out of business but we learned a valuable lesson about the importance of staying focused.

    I joined EO as all of this was unfolding, and I quickly figured out a course of action to keep the core business viable and make a return to "focus". Just 2 years after joining EO, in late 2008, we sold NuKitchen to Nutrisystem, the national weight-loss company, in a multi-million dollar transaction.
    This was very difficult period for me, as I suspect it would be for any entrepreneur. However, with support, strength, persistence and determination, I was able to get back on track and turn my business into a successful operation before selling it. The beauty of this is that I've experienced the joys and challenges of building a business from the ground up. Staying focused is paramount, especially as a startup, where capital, time and energy and limited. In my current business, Wicked Start, I'm leveraging my experiences to help aspiring entrepreneurs start their business successfully- turning their ideas into business opportunities. Lord knows that I've been through it all so I'm happy to share my experiences- the downs and, of course, the ups, which there have been a lot of.