Small business owners recall memories of their first sale.
You never forget your first sale. Here, three small business owners share their stories—and the lessons learned.
Founder, Sweet Note Bakery – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2012, MacDonald, a baker, launched her small business that offered a niche product:
her first samples to a local café. Intrigued, the owner “ordered three…three bagels, not cases. I was a little
discouraged, wondering if it was worth it, but it was my first sale, so I did
it,” she says.
days, she baked a small batch through the night and set out at 3 a.m. to
deliver three bagels to Green Line Café in West Philadelphia, an hour’s drive.
On the fourth day, the café placed an order for 144 bagels, and orders from
other shops started coming in days later. Today, Sweet Note Bakery is averaging
weekly bagel sales of 5,000 to 7,000, and MacDonald is expecting to reach
capacity of 20,000 bagels weekly by summer’s end.
Lesson Learned: Offer your product to customers ASAP, even if
it’s a small amount, MacDonald says.
CEO and Co-Owner, Quality Logo Products (QLP) – Aurora, Illinois
QLP’s first sale like it was yesterday—probably because we weren’t ready for
it,” says Bret Bonnet, whose promotional-products distribution company launched
in early 2004.
pushed his website live, expecting it to merely help promote his business. It would
be weeks, he figured, until someone would buy a product from him. Instead, an
email came just hours after the website went live—but before QLP established a
merchant account to enable credit card payments.
to show they weren’t prepared for the sale, QLP took the customer’s credit card
information and rushed to set up the merchant account. In their haste, the
social security number of one of the owners was listed instead of the company’s
EIN, which for years meant that customers who purchased from QLP had to send
1099 forms to the owner at year’s end. QLP eventually closed the original
account and opened a new one under a different name and merchant provider.
Lessons Learned: Be ready at all times, make the customer happy
and move a mountain to get it done, Bonnet says. It all worked out in the end,
and his first customer is still one today.
Owner, Chambers Pivot Industries – Omaha, Nebraska
preparing to launch a business development consulting firm in the summer of
2012. To get started, he landed a year-long contract to improve the online
marketing results of a clothing manufacturer’s website, followed by two smaller
projects from two other clients.
But as soon
as he submitted his final notice at his current job, his clients delayed all
projects, and his pipeline for potential work was thin.
family that includes three kids (college, high school, junior high) and all
their expenses, I waffled between running back to the corporate world or trying
to make it on my own,” Chambers says.
decided to move forward with launching his company. For one week, he called his
personal and professional contacts and kept in touch with the clients who
delayed the projects, two of which came to fruition months later. He credits the
calls that helped launch his business—one-third of the way through the list,
his workload increased to projected levels.
Lesson Learned: Be a little paranoid when things are going
well and a little optimistic when things are going off the rails, Chambers
says. Ultimately, never stop looking for new business.