Zuzy Martin Lynch founded Cooking for the Clueless in 2008 in San Francisco, California.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Cooking for the Clueless is a video, website and blog that tackles the generational problem of not really knowing how to cook! Our award-winning 2-disc DVD set pairs a self-proclaimed clueless cook with a team of extraordinary chefs, bakers, and experts – asking all the questions we really want to know. We keep our website fresh with guest experts discussing issues and solutions affecting those that are cooking "challenged" and our fun blog chronicles my quest to go from eating out 7 days a week to someone who actually cooks at home along with commentary related to America being clueless (in the kitchen)!
How did you come up with your business idea?
The "Cooking for the Clueless" concept came to my husband and I shortly after getting married when we realized we had a storage full of kitchen gadgets, appliances, and registry "must-haves" that we didn't know how to use. We were both "clueless." In looking around at our peers, we noticed many of them were food-obsessed, but kitchen challenged, just like us.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I have my own small business, Les Femmes Communications where primarily work with clients in the medical communications, entrepreneur education and non-profit industries providing support in marketing, content development, event planning and research.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
Many organizations were of great assistance: Small Business Association (SBA), Savor the Success, Women 2.0 "Jumpstart Your Start-up" Business Plan Workshop, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Conference, Berkeley Extension classes (University of California, Berkeley), Ladies Who Launch, Junior League of San Francisco (leadership training for women)
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
My husband is my partner and co-founder. Working with him is great 95% of the time. We each have unique strengths that we bring to the table, so we have learned to focus on individual areas and consult each other along the way. It is great working with him because we are equally vested and passionate about Cooking for the Clueless.
The challenge lies in controlling emotions during difficult decisions or a difference of opinion. You lose the politically correct factor when you work with family, which has its pros and cons!
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
As a women entrepreneur, you can use your unique vantage point, as a women, to stand out as a business owner. Women are passionate, creative innovators that can multi-task better than anyone else–crucial attributes for start-ups. My greatest advice is to find partners or mentors in areas where you may not be as strong. This will allow you to focus while you carve a path to success.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
- Work with freelancers
- Negotiate with vendors (every time)
- Analyze monthly costs (tighten where possible)
- Hire interns (they are eager to help and can bring fresh perspective)
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
- Give yourself the gift of information – Take classes or workshops for small business owners and/or entrepreneurs. I recommend the Small Business Association (SBA) in your area and continuing education through local universities for starters.
- Seek out mentors – Find a mentor in areas that you do not fully understand. Meet with them regularly over a cup of coffee and pick their brain. The right mentors will be happy to be involved.
- Join like-minded organizations – There are many groups and organizations with focus on helping people like you (i.e. small business owners, women entrepreneurs). It is crucial to find the support and information you need to move ahead and keep momentum going as you start a business.
- Make a plan – There is debate as to whether a formal business plan is needed, However, I believe that at the least the "who, what, where, when and why?" of your business should be clear and easy to get down on paper. This will act as an important tool as you evolve or need to refocus your ideas.
Excellent advice, Zuzy! You sure aren't "clueless" when it comes to running a business! Thank you.