Running a small business is hard in any environment; it’s even more challenging during this unpredictable time with supply chain issues and pandemic recovery. However, by committing to innovation, community and some love, small businesses can shift, thrive, and show resilience. We have to rely on our ability to adjust with available resources, an everchanging labor pool, fluctuations in demand — and, most importantly, we have to rely on each other.
As we celebrate small business — be it the “Move the Needle” grant awards or the Pueblo Food Project (more, below), Small Business Month, ongoing grants to uplift local business, to all that’s in bloom at Colorado Proud markets and more — maybe my journey through Colorado’s food and agricultural industry can help other small business owners and startups navigate changes that support their core values. That’s what keeps us going.
I have been growing a food business for more than 10 years, with our headquarters based in Pueblo for the past five. We make small batch Sriracha from chile peppers grown in Pueblo, a major epicenter of chile agriculture in the U.S. We are a tiny company, even smaller than what’s defined as a “small business,” and yet we continue to find meaningful opportunities to grow and innovate.
Everything we do revolves around our love for food, community, farmers, and customers.
So every business strategy goes back to this core value.
It impacts our actions and our decision making, guiding us through shifts and unexpected changes in our world.
Along with this core value, here are seven key learnings and strategies that have kept our small business going — and that continue to help us thrive:
1. Share your story. Use your unique point of view, product or service, and core values to get closer to your customers — and remind them why you do what you do. Your story sets you apart from the competition and provides a more specialized experience. I include my personal and professional journey on my website, which adds a human touch to my small business. I’m sharing my store here to inspire other small businesses.
2. Show up for your community and get yourself out there. Meet other small business owners and prospective customers. Pop-up markets, festivals, and expos take place in every community and it’s an ideal way to connect and grow your network while being there for the very people who helped get you where you are today. Also, find a nonprofit that is meaningful to you and give back — another important way to show up for your community.
3. Support LOCAL. Show your commitment to local small businesses. We network with other small businesses that rely on local resources and people to make local products that support our local economy and, in our case, our Colorado agricultural industry.
That’s good news for all of us. Supporting local also shows customers why it’s important to buy local.
4. Partner with other small businesses. Let’s help each other. Look to collaborate with businesses that reach a similar audience, so your products and services complement nicely — and you strengthen your impact. You wouldn’t think that Sriracha, Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey Barrels, or Björn’s Colorado Honey go together — but they do, and we do! When small businesses are aligned and able to collaborate, they help each other grow.
5. Ask for help. Sometimes we have to get help in places that are out of our specialty or out of our budget. For example, we know Sriracha, but had to get help managing our social media and website content. We also needed more financial support to grow, so we applied for small-business grants and recently won the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s “Move the Needle” grant, which provided capital for chile processing equipment.
6. Find resources. Organizations like Pueblo Food Project, as well as university programs at CSU and other schools, have opportunities to advance skill sets to be successful business owners. There are also professional associations and member-based organizations, such as Colorado Proud for food businesses, which offer education workshops, webinars, and marketing support.
7. Make a great plan – and know that it will change. More than ever, we have to be able to shift and to innovate. Supply chain issues are becoming the “new normal,” so flexibility should also become your new normal. Whether it’s jars and packaging or distribution, we have to be creative and resourceful with what we need (and don’t need). Remember that your customers are also experiencing personal and professional change, and they can relate to honest business stories about change.
If you think strategically, take advantage of opportunities, connect with your community, and stay true to your core values, you will continue to succeed — even in a tough economy. Let’s keep helping each other, too, so we small businesses can continue to thrive. What’s your story?
Everything we do revolves around our love for food, community, farmers, and customers. So every business strategy goes back to this core value. It impacts our actions and our decision making, guiding us through shifts and unexpected changes in our world.
(photos courtesy of: Colorado Proud and Jojo Collins)
Jolene “Jojo” Collins is the Founder and CEO of Jojo’s Sriracha, headquartered in Pueblo, Colorado where her small business has grown from the love of her customers, the community, and the local chili pepper farmers. For questions about this article, Jojo can be reached at [email protected].