It takes teamwork to plan for small business success and squash a common enemy.
Close friends Jeffrey Busch and Nancy Jack, who both left the workforce to take care of their families, have been meeting for lunch every week for years. After one lunch in Nantucket, Busch lamented how much the horseflies irritated him on the beach, and the two started joking about a “Nantucket spider”: the creature they wished had evolved to keep those annoying flies at bay.
Then Jack had the idea to make their own spider; not a creature to eat the flies, but rather a spray to keep them away — mosquitoes and ticks, too. She knew how to make a natural bug repellent and shared her recipe with Busch.
Soon after, the pair decided to share their formula by selling them at a farmer’s market. “We decided to make a label that was elegant enough to leave on the barbecue table,” Busch says, “And use only natural ingredients that were recognizable.”
Before they even made it to their first farmer’s market, a local grocer, whom they had asked for pricing advice, ordered a case. “One thing led to another, and that summer, we ended up selling over 1500 bottles in a handful of stores in our area,” Busch recalls.
Finding new team members
While they had a good product, neither Busch nor Jack had a business background. After a summer season filled with questions about whether Nantucket Spider had a business plan, they knew it was time to get organized.
Busch went to the Small Business Association website to learn more about business plans, and started filling out a business plan template he found there. Halfway through the process, feeling frustrated and still unclear of the benefits of having a business plan, a pop-up box asked if he’d like to speak with a mentor. He answered that he did.
The next day, a SCORE mentor emailed Busch asking if the Nantucket Spider team would like to meet to talk about a business plan.
That mentor, Barry Skalka, asked the pair to step back from the intricacies of a formal business plan and had them answer some questions about their business. Where did they want to see themselves in a year? How did they plan to get there?
Skalka caught a flaw in their early plans to wait until spring to approach potential retailers. “He explained that many stores plan in the fall for the products they will carrying the spring,” Busch says. “He asked great questions about why we got into the stores we did, and then helped think about how to learn from those successes in order to repeat our success in new stores.”
Thinking about outsourcing early
“Barry not only helped us with a plan. He was so supportive and enthused by what we had already accomplished that it motivated and reenergized us at exactly the right time,” Busch says. Skalka advised Nantucket Spider to outsource production to a contract facility early in the course of the business so that Busch and Jack could focus on other aspects of growing the company.
Busch says one of the big challenges with starting a business without experience is that it’s sometimes hard to know what questions to ask. “Barry guided us at asking the right questions and brought in additional people along the way who could answer our questions,” he says. Skalka introduced the team to fellow mentors Brian Jarvis and Donna Poudrier, who advised on matters of sales and distribution.
When Nantucket Spider first started working with Skalka in 2013, it had one product made by its founders in a garage. The company served 20 local vendors and had $10,000 in gross revenues. In 2017, the company’s dozen-plus products can be found in more than 600 stores and online, with “nearly half a million dollars in gross revenues,” Busch reports. A contracted local facility manufactures, warehouses and distributes Nantucket Spider’s product lines. “Much of our growth we credit to the guidance and support of the SCORE team,” Busch says.
Busch advises new entrepreneurs to not get overwhelmed by the many steps of starting and running a business. “Nearly everything is doable if you break it down into steps. As one of our mentors at SCORE has said: You can eat an elephant if you do it bite by bite.”
Are you ready to be a small business success story? Meet with a SCORE mentor to talk about your goals.