They say, “Ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.” This is somewhat of a crutch for a bootstrapped business like Mother Butter, and for motherhood in general. But by “they” I’m referring to every single person who has heard this story.
It was the annual Natural Foods Expo—one of the largest and most important grocery buyers conferences—and it was happening just 10 minutes from our kitchen in Philly.
To have a booth inside would cost at least $10,000. These conventions are crazy. In my past life when I had a corporate budget to attend these things I remember the cost of a small trash can for just the day to be $50. Mother Butter isn’t exactly rolling in the gluten free dough like that quite yet.
No matter, with something like this happening right in our backyard, I had to find a way to participate. Do you listen to the How I Built This podcast? I was inspired by Kenneth Cole’s story of renting a truck and selling shoes out of the back during the largest fashion buying convention in NYC at the time. I channeled that “stunt” and made this one mine.
I have a few contacts at the Reading Terminal Market, which is a very popular lunch destination for convention attendees across the street, and they graciously provided me the opportunity to set up a Mother Butter tasting table during the two main days of the conference! I was so excited—this would be my first opportunity to meet the people of the broader industry and introduce them to Mother Butter.
I pulled everything together at the last minute. Designed and printed new flyers, planned our “attack” and scheduled it just so that I could execute all during the hours Alfie is in school.
Thursday morning, day 1, an hour before I’m set to arrive, my “stunt” was about to be shaken up. I heard an agonizing scream come from the bathroom upstairs. In the rush of events to get everyone out the door so that I could as well, I had turned on my curling iron imagining I could maybe get to it after Alfie walked out the door… instead, my curious little guy got to it first. He had grabbed the hot iron, burning his little 3 year old paw.
As I held him, wet cloth on his burn, I realized I couldn’t send him to school. Not only that, Alfie Guy needed to be with his mama… but mama needed to be at the Reading Terminal Market. So what did we do? We loaded everything up, tasting sticks, samples, signs, and now a fire truck, books, his bunny, and we headed off for who knew what kind of day.
When I dreamt of starting a business again doing it on my own was important to me. If you can “survive” bootstrapped, small, simple, it feels (to me) like a stronger foundation to then build upon. For me it’s not about having all the power or control as much as it is more of a great challenge and test—what can I do with what I have? Fortunately for me this time around I do have my own personal foundation and support at home from my husband. My first go at entrepreneurship my “real” job was bartender. I’m in such a stronger position not having to hustle in that way however… let’s be real-real, my “real” job today is also “mom”. And it’s the integration of both roles that I’m continuing to curiously pursue.
So here’s how it went: Alfie had an awesome day. He loved watching all of the carts and forklifts within the buzzing market and everyone that works there just loved on him so much. He got a hat, icecream and again, endless small vehicle entertainment. As for Mother Butter, we didn’t do so bad either. Mother Butter mama contributor Aya came along and mostly kept an eye on Alfie, and I was able to connect with a lot of market goers plus have conversations with people from (of all places) Whole Foods, Edible Arrangements and many fellow CPG food companies (CPG = Consumer Packaged Goods).
All in all we planted seeds,built relationships and learned a lot. We all survived, stuck to our commitments and were brave. Oh yes, all while I’m 6 months pregnant no less. The other curveball. Gonna just keep doin’ what I gotta do.
Oh, and Alfie Guy's little paw is A-OK. Nothing a day with mama and Bassett's ice cream couldn't fix.