Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
We've seen a rise in companies offering artisanal goods in recent years. That's "artisanal," as in "skilled tradeswomen and craftsmen," not Olive Garden's descriptive term for its latest ravioli medley.
Look around and you'll find Richmonders who have parlayed talents or skills passed down through the generations into great companies, consequently making me wish I had a more viable hobby than watching Seinfeld reruns.
"People want to be recognized more as individuals and treated as being something special, as opposed to being lumped into one bigger group" in a corporate environment, says David Urban, a VCU marketing professor. "People who have an entrepreneurial bent … start thinking, ‘What is it I could do to serve a relatively small group of consumers really, really well?' "
You can buy locally made links from Sausage Craft, or purchase pizza wood-fired in an oven hitched to a pickup truck from Pizza Tonight. We've even got a guy manufacturing his own tangy-spicy Asian sauce, called KimKim.
From these Richmond businesses, some lessons emerge. These aren't necessarily important business lessons — or even essential ones — but they are lessons nonetheless.
Have really good hair. The Hardywood and Ledbury founders know how to make great beers and shirts, but the men can also style a mean head of hair. Really quality work up there, gentlemen.
Make and sell products required for human life. Such as clothing, food or craft beer.
Research whether your last name is also the name of a delicious product. For years, Steve Kim had no idea that the original sauce he'd created was called KimKim. Now he's selling it all over town. What luck!
Buy an oven you can hitch to a pickup truck. Sure, you may not have a use for it right away, but the oven-on-a-truck strategy has served Pizza Tonight quite well.
Sell stuff in link form. Consider your company's products. Copy machines? Hammers? Beer? Now figure out how you can sell those same products inside a delicious sausage casing.
Make sure you have a sweet logo. Before Shockoe Denim even started selling its jeans, the business had a cool logo. Everything else is secondary.