An Ingredient Called Integrity

September 24, 2016

I love writing. I wouldn’t say I’m a good writer, but I do enjoy the process. Using the backspace to use a different word instead of the one you started with gives me great satisfaction. It helps me remember that it’s good to slow down, think, consider, reconsider.

So here I go, writing my first blog post.

We are in the middle of the strangest presidential campaign in United States history. I am NOT writing about that. I am writing about integrity. It seems I find myself aware of noticing it now, because it’s in front of me less frequently.  I run a shared commercial kitchen business. We currently have over 30 small business food companies using our space. You would think my first blog would feature a story about my incredibly talented daughter and her French Pastry business, as she has always displayed stunning amounts of integrity and passion for her art and the quality of her product, but it would be too easy to start with her. This blog is about another woman, who I barely know, as she’s a newer client and I’ve only interacted with her a few times.

Today I came in to open our Market, where we sell our clients products, around 8:30am. This client started working about 4:00 am and was still busy preparing an order that included 50 lbs of cookies. Around 9:30am, she came up and asked if she could book more time in the kitchen Monday at 3:00 am, before she goes to work at her full-time day job. She mentioned she had to re-do all the cookies. I asked her what happened, she said she wasn’t sure. Thought it was probably the batch size being too large and the flour not getting mixed in well enough.  She wasn’t cursing, she wasn’t crying, she wasn’t complaining – all things I would have been doing. Instead, she was the other 3 C’s – calm, cool, and collected. She mentioned they still tasted good, but just not good enough.

That’s what struck me as the difference between small business owners and passionate small business owners. They’re still good, just not good enough.

As a small business owner, she will absorb the cost of the ingredients, the cost of the 2 employees she had working with her, the cost of her time, and the cost of the kitchen time she has to rent. But I use the word “absorb” very loosely here. There is no slush fund when you’re a small business to absorb costs like this. Those costs will come right out of the “profit” from this order of cookies. And yes, “profit” is in quotations because there really won’t be one from this order because there will be more ingredient cost, more employee cost, more of her time cost, and more kitchen rental cost. And you can only sell a cookie for so much.  Side note: by renting commercial kitchen space, the small business food purveyor is taking on an additional cost. But for you, the consumer, it means you can feel confident the products you purchase are being prepared in a safe, sanitary, health inspected kitchen. Another indicator that the small business producer is willing to add expense to their production for the sake of quality.

So when you decide whether to buy a cookie from a box in a grocery store, or spend a little more to buy a cookie from a small business baker, know that one of those cookies has a very special ingredient – it’s called integrity.