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  • So, you want to start a business in Mammoth…? Awesome, let us show you how to “Live Your Vacation!”

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  • March 15, 2021 - Picking a Business for Success

    Hello fellow entrepreneurs!  Welcome to Part 2 of “So, you want to start a business in Mammoth…?” blog series.

    “Build it and they will come…”  Famous last words!  While this may have worked for the immortal Dave McCoy, the not-so-immortal Steve and Tracie Shatkin had a lot of work to do to get our business, Mammoth Coffee Roasting, Co., up and running in beautiful Mammoth Lakes.  We had to choose a business, write a business plan and put the plan into action! 

    The number one comment we hear from friends, family and customers is, “I wish I had a business I could run from Mammoth…”  I usually respond with, “You can! You just need to choose the right one.”  That may seem like a monumental task, but understanding the “uniqueness” of Mammoth Lakes may help to narrow your selection. 

    I typically tell people to find their “passion” and turn it into a business, because then it will never seem like work.  However, Mammoth Lakes is a very unique business environment that may not be able to support all the same business or business “passions” as larger areas like Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego.   Our Town is supported mainly by tourism, and this tourism is seasonal with some very high volume months (winter and summer), as well as months with very low tourist volume, called “shoulder season” (spring and fall).   So, while a sign and printing franchise or full service car wash may not be suitable in a seasonal environment, a business anchored in the service, hospitality or dining industry may be more predictable and profitable.   Additionally, if you work in the IT field and your business is anywhere you bring your laptop, for example, a web designer or print to ship business owner, you have the world as your workspace, and Mammoth Lakes could be your ideal location.

    Understanding the flow of tourist volume can help you to decide on the type of business you wish to start.  Ask yourself, will my business be tourist based, community based, or both.  Then do some research to determine your desired demographic and saturation of the product or service you wish to provide.  When you have established which business will bring you the most happiness, satisfaction and profit, sit back relax and get ready to write your business plan.

    Most people I talk to have not, will not, and or flat out refuse to write a business plan.  The mere suggestion of this task sends painful flashbacks of high school or college and mandatory book reports or assignments.  “Can’t I just read the Cliff Notes and summarize…?”  The short answer is, “No.”  The long answer is, a comprehensive business plan is the number one tool any business owner can use for his or her own success.  I am a very strong advocate for stacking the odds in your favor for success  and whole heartedly believe a well written, well thought out business plan can help relieve a tremendous amount of stress associated with starting up and running a new company.   A business plan is your marketing, financial and operational road map.  It is your business bible and frankly, a realistic “test” in writing if your chosen business is sustainable in your environment.  Additionally, if you build your business to the point at which you wish to sell it… handing a potential buyer a comprehensive business plan along with a positive P/L statement can multiply your asking price significantly.  Do not get me wrong, writing a business plan takes a lot of work and may require some outside help.  But I promise, it is well worth it and you will get out of it exactly what you put into it.  I have started several business over the years (all still up and running) and each one started with a comprehensive business plan.  Our coffee shop business plan started in 2017 and is about 34 pages.  It has been revised numerous times over the years and been our “go to” playbook for success. (see business plan links below).    Let’s look at an example of another business I want to start in Mammoth Lakes, the Mammoth Lakes Pine Cone Manufacturing Co., to illustrate my point.

    My new company, the MLPCM for short, will manufacture pine cones and sell them to the local community and tourists alike.  I chose this business because there are currently no artificial pine cone manufacturers in Mammoth Lakes and I think I can corner the market.  I started my business plan with the marketing section.  I described how I plan to market my artificial pine cones using billboards and social media, as well as a door to door sales team.  I listed all the reasons why customers would want to buy my exceptional artificial pine cones, like realistic features and easy clean up,  as  well as the reasons they may not want to… i.e., There seem to be quite a few natural ones on the ground.  This is commonly known as a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and is a critical component of my plan.  To round off the marketing section I need to make some assumptions and projections, such as, I project in the future I will have to contract with Amazon to really meet shipping demands, and then test these projections as my business progresses.

    Next, I need to understand the costs of my business to learn if I can make a living replicating and selling a pine cone in the forest.  I need to add in every single expense I can think of, and build a financial picture of my initial investment, monthly expenses, projected sales and projected profit.  I will need to include the cost of a facility, pine cone molds, brown and green plastic, melting pots, workers, managers, delivery trucks and of course, squirrels to perform quality control. This portion of the business plan is perhaps the most critical as it will give me an immediate idea if my business is sustainable.   Jumping into a business without a clear financial objective is like diving head first into a shallow pool without having checked the depth.

    Lastly, I need to create an operations manual or Standard Operating Procedure for production and all aspects of my company.  I need to put into writing the processes necessary to make the world’s best artificial pine cone as well as a manager and employee handbook.  Operations will also include a section on human resources, accounting and all necessary compliance with regulatory agencies, ie. The squirrel worker’s union, and Pine Cone Regulation Authority.  This portion of the business plan will be critical during initial start up.  It will help guide our employees without having to reinvent the wheel, or worse, spend valuable time establishing processes and procedures as we go. 

    In summary, I feel the Mammoth Lakes Pine Cone Manufacturing Company will be a huge success.  Primarily because I evaluated my business selection based on seasonal sustainability, demand for my product, and wrote a comprehensive business plan complete with a marketing, financial and operational playbook.  Now I just have to sit back, put my plan into action and watch the profits roll in! 

    Stay tuned for Part 3 :  The Gritty Details, i.e. Business name- domain registration, registering  with the state, county or town.  Do you need a business license? Have employees? Need  workers compensation insurance, general liability insurance?  Lions, tigers and bears…

    Coffee Love,
    Steve & Tracie

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  • February 15, 2021 - Introduction

    Hello fellow entrepreneurs! We are Steve and Tracie Shatkin and the mountains have been calling us for many years.  Since the 1980’s we have been visiting and vacationing in Mammoth Lakes and have always reveled in her majestic beauty, serene landscapes and adventurous activities.  Our kids grew up skiing, fishing, hiking and camping and we have shared our love for Eastern Sierras with many, many friends and family.  While we have loved “vacationing” at our home away from home, we always hoped one day we could permanently “live our vacation,”  and fortunately, that reality began taking shape one spring day about five years ago.

    In April of 2016, Tracie and I were enjoying a cup of coffee on our back deck marveling at our view of the Sherwins and Mammoth Rock.  All morning, we had been brainstorming ideas about how to help our son’s high school marching band raise money for new instruments.  Parents were tired of chocolate bars and cookie dough, and interestingly, I had just purchased an industrial coffee roaster to live out a mad scientist dream of mine.   Tracie looked up from her cup and excitedly said, “Why don’t we use coffee as a fundraiser instead of chocolate bars or popcorn!” 

    And at that glorious, caffeinated moment, the Mammoth Coffee Roasting Company was born.

    After the revelation set in that this adventure could actually be our permanent ticket out of the big city,  (as well as helping the band), we got to work writing a business plan, organizing the structure of the company, researching “how to start a business in Mammoth Lakes” as well as looking up all the necessary information for starting a business in Mono County and California.   Of course, we could have easily hired a business attorney or use “Legal Zoom” and be done with all the running around and paperwork.  However, since Tracie and I both have experience owning and operating businesses in LA we felt comfortable in our ability to navigate the Town, County and State agencies.  So, if you want to save some money and fully understand the process we happily offer this “DIY” approach for those not so faint of heart.

    Fast forward five years, two temporary locations, one continuous stalker and a world-wide pandemic, and we are finally in a lease/option retail space, building our flagship brick and mortar store.  We will do our best to provide a “users guide” for you based on our real world experience and will answer any business questions you may have.  And while we may not have every answer,  we will happily steer you in the right direction and / or help you research to find the appropriate information.  

    Over the next few issues we will cover multiple topics including, picking a business and seasonal considerations, writing a business plan, registering your business, the truth about planning and timing (hint- nothing ever happens quickly), dealing with the County, Town and your neighbors, and finally, all the things no one ever tells you about starting and running a business and your relationship with your significant other or partner.

    So sit back, relax, take a deep breath of that fresh mountain air and let us bring you along on our adventure in the hopes we can inspire, invigorate and encourage you to start a business in Mammoth Lakes,  and start “living your vacation!”   

    Coffee Love,
    Steve & Tracie

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  • Disclaimer: In an effort to be fully transparent, Tracie and I are  members of the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Restaurant Association, Business Roundtable, and Advisory Council Board Members for Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra.   We are not receiving any compensation in any form from anyone regarding this blog series.  We are only sharing our experience and your experience may be very different.  We are not making any implicit or implied claims of success or failure by following any of our advice.  We are not professional business advisors.  We are just a couple of coffee geeks that love our Town, help our community where we can, and love to be outdoors.  Have fun!