With virtually no restaurant experience, we started our business - a little sandwich shop called Starship Subs in Forest Park, Ill. - 38 years ago in 1977. As our menu and abilities grew we became Starship Restaurant, a fast casual dining place, featuring homemade soups, hot sandwiches and seating for 50. In 1985, during the Bears Super Bowl season we saw the opportunity in catering and not being limited to a physical location (delivery!) and became Starship Restaurant and Catering, delivering our homemade food throughout all of the Chicago area. As our business grew steadily, so did our personal lives of families, houses, and children.
Fast forward to 2014 and we were just going with the flow, taking business in as it came, but not really working towards growth. The passion was gone. We were tired of it and needed change. We put our business on the market for sale. While we had bites, there were no serious offers. But the process of putting it up for sale made us realize that if the business was doing well it would be worth a good amount of money. If it was doing phenomenally, it would be worth a whole lot more. However, rather than focusing on growth we were focused on exiting.
Things changed with an email that came into my inbox from Goldman Sachs. I didn't pay much attention to it until a friend of mine who attended a previous cohort said it was a huge opportunity. She even mentioned that exit strategy was part of the curriculum. I applied and was accepted but was really torn about my participation. Did I want to spend more time developing a business I was thinking of selling? I attended my first day of Mod 1 on my 59th birthday, all the time thinking I should be enjoying myself rather than sitting in a classroom on beautiful spring day.
Wow, was I wrong.
Taking time to leave the restaurant is exactly what I needed. Professional development is exactly what I needed. The concept of owning a business that is run properly didn't mean working harder, just smarter. Marketing, process mapping, understanding the finer details of a P&L and balance sheet were things I needed. I saw the light and welcomed it. Sitting in the room with my fellow cohort members and hearing their stories and their future plans made it no longer okay to go with the flow. I needed to plan and mold the future, not just receive it.
Our growth opportunity, a new division of our catering services called 'Starship Events' complete with new vehicles, alcohol service and a sales representative is well underway. Weekly training sessions with key employees is improving our internal processes and helping to free me up to focus on, yes, growth. Thank you, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and thank you, 2015.
So what is in store for 2016? Upon graduating, I was fearful that all this great input I was receiving might just fall by the wayside as I slowly slipped back into the rut of what I had been doing before.
Darryl, one of our talented mentors with whom I shared my concern said to me,
"Okay, so now you have taken several full days out of your business to work on it. Stay with this program. Don't go into the restaurant a few times a month and work on it away from the daily distractions."
Thank you Darryl, for one of my 2016 resolutions.
One of the other resolutions is to continue researching trends and growth within my industry and find new opportunities. The daily reports of successes from fellow Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses graduates help to keep me motivated and on point.
So when you attend a function catered by Starship Events, or see one of our vehicles traveling throughout the city (we deliver, anytime, anywhere!) know that you are seeing the immediate results of this wonderful program.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.