Aiming for the Big Leagues

There’s never a truly clear answer for how to proceed in business, and I have yet to meet someone with a magical divining rod that can accurately predict which direction is best. From everything I’ve read, successful entrepreneurs tend to rely on a combination of factors, not the least of which includes a healthy dose of gut instinct. The author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek has some great ideas about successful business leaders. He suggests that real leaders don’t necessarily make right decisions, but rather, they work to make their decisions right. He also makes it very clear that successful entrepreneurs work well in excess of regular “business” hours. The average work week of 40 hours is just for survival, real breakout success takes place somewhere beyond the 60 hour mark. 
In October of 2018, I was working my full time job at Pepsi, putting in a solid 40-45 hours per week. After work, I would go down to my grow room and plant, water and harvest as required. With my employee working alongside me, we usually managed to get everything done by about 10pm. My days off were filled with in person sales calls, extra planting, and deliveries. Between my part time business and my full time job, I averaged 85-90 hours a week.I found that if I polished off my lunch quickly, I’d gain an extra 40 minutes a day for sleeping, and I used every minute of it.
How then do you expand a business? My grow room was full, my days were full, and I didn’t think there was anything left. All I knew was that I really wanted to leave Pepsi and focus on  my business full time. I spent some time discussing my options with my mentor, and he made it clear, if my sales were steady, and there simply wasn’t more room in the shop, it was time to look for a new location. 

Economies of scale affect time as well as money. Having a bigger shop would allow for quicker completion of daily tasks, and faster loading and unloading on delivery days. But how big? And what kind of location would be best? Warehouse space can be cheaper, but how do you appeal to retail customers? Most big cities have a wide variety of commercial spaces available, but landlords are loathe to consider any drop below “market rent”. The cost per square foot also drops inversely with the size of the space available. Better road frontage means better access and more money. Again, no clear answer, just a bunch of scary options. 
After scouting some locations, I concluded that it would be best for my business to have easy access with road visibility in a mixed use business and residential neighbourhood. Several locations were suitable, I even found a 3000sq.ft. space at Meadowlands Mall

that was empty and forgotten by the property management. The spot was hidden along a loading corridor of a shopping mall, with direct outside access. Having visions of renting the space at a ridiculous price (I mean, if it’s really not on anyone ‘s books, any rent would be great, wouldn’t it?) I reached out to the property manager, and then spent almost ten minutes trying to convince him that there was unused space in the mall. I finally asked him to pull out his copy of the blueprints, and all of a sudden, he understood what I was talking about. I’m not totally sure how you miss 3,000 square feet of floor space with two separate washrooms, but figured I had found a hidden gem. The manager promised to get back to me with a lease price in a day or two, and I started imagining the layout of my new retail store. I really shouldn’t have been surprised when two days later he called with a rate that was triple my budget. It’s a busy mall, but it was UNUSED!! I thanked him for the information, and indicated that should they have a change of heart, to look me up. (It’s been two years, and the space is still vacant as of this writing.)I found two other spots that would sort of work, but both had flaws that I felt would be detrimental over the long term. I passed on both.

One of my restaurant clients, a commercial kitchen, had also been looking for a bigger space, and they had some interesting options, but nothing managed to pan out. Considering how much vacant space was available, the landlords had some crazy notions of what they could reasonably expect. And then I found it. The perfect spot was literally sitting under our noses, not 300 metres from their kitchen, and I couldn’t have picked a better location. It was too big for either of us, but together it was exactly the right size. We could share a larger space and separate it into two parts.