Describe your business in a few sentences, the application read.
As a business owner I am in the business of making decisions, but this one always flummoxes me. Do I focus on where we’re at, or where we want to be? Journey or destination?
We make a French pastry, I think about writing, then don’t. I am in the business of trying to raise investor money which means being in the business of being clear and concise while at the same time curiosity-provoking all whilst on a short elevator trip. “We make a French pastry” is concise, though not very descriptive, for all its accuracy. And although we do in fact make a French pastry, we are not in the French pastry business, any more than Uber is in the car business.
I could go for cute and pithy: I’m in the business of delicious! But I’m in the marketing business and refuse to add to the burden of insipidity I see streaming before me every day on Twitter.
Don’t describe the product, tell a story about your customers! the social media marketers suggest. The most common response when someone tries a sample is “oh my God” is what I want to write. One customer said “That’s so good it makes me feel like crying.”
I’m in the business of waking at 4a every morning, I could write. I’m in the business of creating joyful mouths. I’m in the business of farmer’s markets and regular customers that say where were you last week I missed you with a slightly accusing tone.
I’m in the business of addiction, I’m in the business of shock and awe and unrepentant and even self-righteous indulgence. I’m in the business of so many other small artisan food businesses, all of us up early and driving through the dark to do what must be done.
Or maybe I’m in the business of something even bigger, something like brotherhood, which is the best word I can come up with to describe the happy fellow feeling of camaraderie that springs up around the sample tray as this Filipino grandmother and that Mexican agricultural worker and this Tesla driving VC cand that flight attendant in her crisp navy American Airlines uniform moan and yell oh my God and furtively take two and even three samples.
I am in the business of immediate gratification, I am in the business of giving your tongue a lesson in French cooking, where the ingredients are simple but put through a whole retinue of processes that cannot be skipped or rushed, which means I’m maybe most of all in the business of time. To get to the oh my god takes eighteen precise steps taken over forty-eight hours, which is a lot of time indeed — it’s the same amount of time it takes to run 200 miles, the same amount of time it took me to drive from Austin Texas all the way to San Francisco fifteen years ago, it’s the average number of hours the average full time American employee works in an average week, according to Gallup.
People who work that hard typically don’t have time to learn the finer points of making a little known French pastry which suggests I am also in the convenience business. And because canelé has an unapologetically French pronunciation, complete with funny little accent mark, one might say I’m in the ambassador business, bringing American customers an authentic taste of France, a place that many Americans resent on principle and rumor.
My French customers (of which there are a surprisingly steady supply in the south Bay) are unfailing (if a wee unflattering) in their expressions of amazement at finding something so authentically French in their mouths. Mais vous n’êtes pas français! they gasp, and then buy gratifyingly large quantities. Some tell me mistily of their papa who made them canelés at breakfast Sundays in Bordeaux and then walk off having associated me, a very American-type American, with their French childhood as well as favorite pastry.
I’m in the business of subverting expectations, you could say.
Thanks to the universally appealing taste and texture profile of the canelé, I am also in the business of weddings and twenty-fifth anniversaries and even three year old’s birthday parties. And after two years in business and the accrual of a large fanbase of regulars not to mention fellow farmer’s market vendors, I quite unexpectedly find myself in the friend-making business.
I am in the entrepreneur business, which means I am in the business of being uncomfortable. The word ‘entrepreneur’ is (so I am told) Latin for “cashflow is now your number one concern”, which is something a lot of people don’t know, that even when you are not motivated by money, you are going to need it like a battery needs electrons, like a body needs water, like a baby needs touch.
And no matter what business it is that you think you are in – the piano moving business, the salad dressing business, the bridesmaids dresses business, the gluten free dog biscuit business – the business you are really in, is the numbers business.
You’ll also be in the growth business, and in the business of annoying everyone you know by finding in every single topic no matter how seemingly unrelated to your business, some potential opportunity for you business.
None of this will help you fill out the deceptively simple invitation to “describe your business in a few sentences”, though.
I am a writer which means I am in the business of story-telling, so ultimately that is what I write on the application – the story of how we are in the business of reimagining the cafe, sort of like The Moth meets Cafe du Monde. It is the business of connecting people to each other, it is the business of bringing people together, it is the business of all of us, really, the business of the shared community of shared stories.
It only looks like a French pastry business.