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Scaling a craft business – How to grow without compromise

January 13, 2017

The craft business boom of the last decade has brought plentiful opportunities for businesses and customers alike.

For entrepreneurs involved, however, managing growth and expansion while retaining the original values and quality that initially propels a business to success can sometimes be easier said than done.

Growing and scaling a craft business presents unique challenges but offers unmissable opportunities and rewards. So to help craft business owners understand how to successfully grow their enterprise without compromising on their principles, we asked Jeremy Torz, Co-founder of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee to share his insight and experiences;

Successfully scaling a craft business involves navigating several entrepreneurial dilemmas – how to manage growth, whether to sell out or not, when to enact change, logistical transition – but the rewards speak for themselves.

First-hand experience of growing a craft business

Reaching scale in artisan businesses is usually a longer-term process than other types of company growth as it is important to retain the commitment to artisan quality and craft principles.

We have experienced first-hand the ups and downs of scaling a craft business over 15 years. Coffee was our hobby before becoming our passion and ultimately a successful business enjoying continuous growth and expansion.

The importance of understanding that the principles of exceptional quality, sustainability and excellent customer service are precious – while working hard to maintain them – is vital for all craft businesses.

With that in mind, I wanted to some insights on how to scale your craft business sustainably and successfully:

1. Define your own success

For some entrepreneurs, businesses are created simply to secure a sale at some point in the future. For craft businesses, however, the love of quality and experience often translates into the drive to continually improve and evolve.

Understanding this can be the key to realising what is most important for you individually and as a business.

2. Follow your instincts

Ensure your business decisions align with your values, even if it means declining potential offers. Craft businesses that enter into agreements without the certainty that it’s the right decision may find themselves veering off track and away from their original goals.

Even if you have to make a difficult decision, it’s important to have the confidence that the right opportunities are close by. Growing your business on your own terms doesn’t necessarily mean compromise.

3. Think about the operational practicalities

While maintaining your original business model may seem difficult, controlled and managed growth will allow you to continue just as you did as a fledgling artisan business.

Scale should not be a deterrent to craft principles – all that’s needed is a little forward-thinking and preparation.

4. Put the right people in place

A core team who are genuinely passionate about your business is invaluable, laying the groundwork for future growth and expansion.

When the time to expand arrives, you know your team will be with you every step of your entrepreneurial journey.

5. Communicate plans for growth

A key part of managing your team includes keeping everyone up to speed with plans for future growth and expansion. This ensures all staff are on the same page and prevents any potential misunderstandings.

Regular meetings and catch-ups streamline this process and keep all aspects of the business moving in the same direction.

6. Keep your craft mindset

When larger companies want to access your craft credentials, it’s important to continue to interact with your original customers and stay true to your original values.

Reassuring small customers that you’ll still remember them while guaranteeing larger customers that their business needs are always in hand is a balancing act – but remembering your founding ethos of craft quality and excellent service helps honest and transparent communications with both groups.

7. Grow on your own terms

This advice may seem simple but is overwhelmingly important for entrepreneurs looking to scale their craft business. Staying true to your values is paramount and is essential to future success.

There’s no need to resist change – but weighing up your decisions carefully gives you the best chance for long-term success so take your time when it comes to important decisions.

8. Create strong relationships with your suppliers

Quality suppliers are the backbone of any craft business. A strong relationship with your suppliers will ensure you are able to respond quickly and efficiently should substantial new business come in unexpectedly.

9. Approach funding providers with caution

While securing funding has become easier in recent times, don’t be bought out when it comes to maintaining control of your craft business as you grow.

Crowdfunding, angel investment and private equity funding may seem tempting – but be careful to ensure the investors’ values, plans and expectations are in line with your own.

10. Remember there’s always a way back

Almost 20 years ago, our first coffee venture was purchased by a small coffee chain that would then be bought out by a renowned international coffee company.

Following this, the appeal of being able to control and manage our own growth was impossible to resist. Skip forward to the present day and we’re enjoying more success than we ever imagined.

With that in mind, it’s important to let your passion drive your business forward and remember than any initial setbacks are minor in the journey to success.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Jeremy Torz, who co-founded Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in 2001. His first book, Real Fresh Coffee – all about how to source, roast, grind and brew the perfect cup is available to buy here.

Further resources

ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and growing your own business. Check out some of our most popular guides;

Starting Up

Going for growth

Leading a business

Motivating your team

Funding your business

Promoting your business