The Success Diaries: Mary Allstead

Dear Mary,

It’s 2009, and there you are, sitting on your front porch, dreaming about starting a cupcake bakery. In fact, all you’ve done for six months, day in and day out, is think about starting this business. You’ve never owned a business. You know nothing about baking. You hardly have any money. But there is something inside of you that says “do it.” You think about the cupcakes you’ll sell, how you will differentiate yourself from other bakeries, how you want your place to “feel” to customers, and how much money you are going to make. You daydream, make notes, read books, search online and try to get as much information as you can. It seems very real and clear to you some days and, other days, it’s blurry and scary. You are determined.  And you are going to take the jump!  Here are some things I’ve learned that will help you to stay motivated along the way:

Don’t listen to those who tell you “you can’t.”

Listen to yourself. Believe in yourself. YOU CAN. You are going to learn that you will have to stop hanging around those friends, and even family, who are negative and unsupportive. You will need to protect yourself and your dream, and the only way to do that is to stay positive. You will start to surround yourself only with those who believe in you. You will become friends with other business owners who will understand what you are going through and offer you support and great advice. It turns out that your dad, who was a small business owner himself, will be an invaluable source of solid advice and business lessons, as well as someone to cry to when things get really tough. He will be the most supportive person in your life. He never once says “you can’t” because he believes in you…not just because you are his daughter, but because he can see your passion and how hard you are working.

Be open to your business growing and not looking exactly like you thought it would.

Be flexible. Starting a business is a process and all of those things you dreamed about are not going to necessarily happen, at least for a while. Everything will not be perfect. In fact, nothing will be perfect or work out the way you thought it was going to!  You will not make the money you thought you would right off the bat. Lots of people will give you advice, and some of it will be good. It’s your business and you will make the decisions, but be open to ideas from others, you don’t know everything!  Your business model may change in ways that you wouldn’t have imagined in the beginning. You will go from having a very small storefront that you share with another bakery (very low overhead), to having your very own place, to thinking about shipping your goods all over the U.S.!  Be open to every new idea. You will have new ideas almost daily, and lots of them are worth exploring, but only some will be successful. It’s okay, keep trying!

You will become a single mom shortly after you start your business.

You didn’t see this coming, but there you are. You can still do this!  It’s harder, now you don’t have a significant other to help support you, both financially and emotionally. But you can do it!  You will figure out how to work around your kids’ schedules and the business. One of the upsides is that your kids will be with you a lot! They will learn to help out, they will learn to understand and care about the business. They can see a direct correlation between how the business is doing and how much money we can spend at home.

You and your boys will become a strong team. Money will be tight, especially the first few years. You will have your heat shut off, your water shut off, and other various crazy things will happen and you will see that your boys are okay. They don’t act upset or freak out, they immediately try to help find a solution.  They act as part of a team and now your oldest is talking about wanting to start a business.  You are raising an entrepreneur!

You are going to make a lot of mistakes.

Mistakes will be made, a lot of them.  You will learn to stay calm and to find creative ways to fix them.  You will figure out that every single time you make a mistake, you will learn a valuable lesson for the next time.  You will learn that most people are forgiving and understanding.

You will get this sense of accomplishment and self-worth that nothing else in your life has ever given you.

You will get to see your dream grow! You are going to do it! You will work more hours than you ever imagined, but you still wake up, every day, excited. Your confidence will grow. You will learn that you can make a real thing out of something you’ve just imagined! You’ll start off with one friend helping you VERY part-time, to having nine employees.

You are going to constantly try new ideas, and be ecstatic when some of them work. You will make yourself learn about profit and loss statements, cash flow, and other things you knew nothing about. You will learn to manage a team. You will get to be on television, in the newspaper and in a calendar for business women. You will be recognized as having one of the top 100 cupcakes in America, you’ll be asked to speak to a class on starting a business, get interviewed on a radio show, and asked to write an article for Dress for Success!  You might even start thinking about starting another business. You will learn that you are an entrepreneur at heart and that this is what you were meant to do.

Good luck Mary! You are in for an exciting journey!

Mary Allstead is the owner of Mix Cupcake Co. in Reno, Nevada, where their cupcakes are all handmade onsite from the finest ingredients daily.  Their menu features 16 different delicious flavors and they are always experimenting with new ones!

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