Am I dreaming big enough?

Image of a framed tabletop chalkboard with a decorative green leaf outline, and white chalk text, "Hot Sauces." Slogan at the bottom reads, "for people who love flavor!"

Markets this fall have been a little weird on my end. September 1st marked the official start of taking Goodlands full-time, which was of course very exciting, but also sent my poor little Capricorn heart into a tizzy re: routines. Here I am, a grown person, getting used to the self-made day.

October arrived, and brought a series of weekends away, family events, and some difficult things at home. I missed a lot of markets, and I felt disconnected from my customers, even as production in the kitchen began to ramp up significantly.

Around this time, I brought on my first hot sauce assistant, Pete. As anyone who’s started their own business knows, the feeling of increasing capacity beyond yourself is like one big, deep, satisfying sigh of relief. I’d been putting this off, not because I didn’t think I’d need it, but because I knew this growth would force me to get organized. I had to plan more carefully, more efficiently, to figure out when, where, and how I most needed the help. It’s a process, and not an accidental one.

The second Pete started working with Goodlands, I realized this change was long overdue. Our production capacity doubled, I had abundantly more energy for the parts of the business I’d been neglecting (–labeling, planning, admin, packaging, you-name-it), and the work became far more enjoyable. I’d been burning myself out with 12-hour production runs that left me feeling exhausted, dehydrated, and isolated, not to mention deliriously behind on the “everything else” in my life.

This is all to say: After this hiatus from markets, the financial crunch of stocking up on supplies for holiday production, and the new leap in our production capacity, I came to this year’s Good Food Fest outfitted with cases of hot sauce in cascading colors, but no idea if we’d do well or not. And I really needed us to do well.

Miraculously, it was a banner day. From the moment the festival opened at 11am, we had a steady stream of customers. Having roped my dear friend Emma into helping me out, we frequently found ourselves passing samples over one another or reaching for the pay terminal as multiple customers enthusiastically tried one hot sauce after another. (I’m pretty sure one customer actually said, “You’re like a hot sauce… wizard!”) By the time the festival came to a close, I hadn’t taken a food break, water break, or pee break since 7am, but I had sold all but 2 of the massive stack of “spice flight” gift boxes I’d packed for the festival, and 5x the number of full-size hot sauce bottles I’d normally turn over in a market. We’d done better than “well”; We’d totally eclipsed my goal.

This has me thinking a lot about ambition. For as small as Goodlands is at this moment, I’m doing my best to set big (relative) goals for this company. A few weeks ago, I sat down and named my 4th quarter sales goal, well aware that this is the biggest quarter of the year. My ambitious target for today’s festival would have met 12% of that quarterly goal, a pretty sizable chunk. Instead, at the end of the day, my actual sales met 25% of the goal. I did twice as well as I thought I would.

It’s startling, because now I have to ask myself, am I not dreaming big enough? Have I underestimated how well this company can actually do? And if I worked this hard for it all to sell so fast, can I handle the increased demand?

I think it comes down to a matter of risk tolerance. If I’m honest, I’ve been hedging a bit — not taking on more markets or demand than I know I can handle. I’ve been at my growth edge, but just barely, not leaning into the kinds of decisions that would take me further, faster (–like bringing on a hot sauce assistant). This careful kind of planning feels steady, but perhaps at the loss of momentum. What would it look like to dream bigger, to double my expectations? I worked so hard just to be ready for this one market, what if I can’t make the next leap? But if I don’t try, I won’t know. If I don’t reach, I won’t grow.

So here I am, committing publicly on the internet: I am dreaming bigger. I am doubling my expectations. I won’t share exact numbers here, but I’ll report back. Wish me luck.

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