SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Around 100 would-be entrepreneurs got a crash course in starting a business Thursday at Lawrence Technological University in the latest WWJ Newsradio 950 “Leaders and Innovators” breakfast session.
Having a great business idea and being passionate about it aren’t enough, according to Jack Aronson, co-founder with his wife of Garden Fresh Gourmet, and Karen Evans, director of LTU’s Detroit Center for Design + Technology business accelerator.
For one thing, Evans said, “the problem with the passion motivation is that you can love it too much. If your idea doesn’t have a market it doesn’t matter how passionate you are.” Also, she said, being really passionate can make a business owner unwilling to make needed changes to meet market demands.
Aronson founded Garden Fresh with his wife Annette, making homemade salsa in the kitchen of their bankrupt restaurant. They convinced retailers to sell it fresh out of the deli section, making their first deliveries from the back of a car, then out of a repurposed floral delivery truck.
Along the way, Aronson said his company was always learning about improving its product – like the time he paid for ceiling repair for a Canadian customer whose jar of salsa popped open due to fermentation inside. As a result of that incident, Aronson said he invested in better manufacturing methods to lengthen shelf life – which eventually allowed him to add more products that could be shipped as far away as Europe and Asia, with industry-leading shelf life. “We learned about making it colder, using thinner blades to do less structural damage to vegetables, all sorts of things,” he said.
Evans urged would-be entrepreneurs to join startup groups and consider participating in incubators, to get access to business coaches, mentors, and other resources.
Today, Aronson is also providing incubator space and advanced low-temperature, high-pressure food processing capabilities to other food startups, and has established Clean Planet Foods, which is introducing new products at Kroger and Costco.
Thursday’s event was moderated by WWJ Business Editor Murray Feldman.
Future Leaders and Innovators events include “Social Media and the Small Business” Thursday, March 16, and “Work-Life Balance” on Thursday, April 13.