How many of you have dogs? How many of you have heard of pigs ears? Well I am the person responsible for those delicious doggy treats.
It is this story and the lessons that came from it which I wanted to share with you. My Pigs ear story encapsulates so many lessons of entrepreneurship.
Traits of a lot of entrepreneurs is the ability to act on instinct but this instinct is often underpinned by a deep understanding of the market. This is what I had with the Pigs Ears. My business had evolved into selling in Europe and I was at a dog venue in Holland when I saw a small box of pigs ears on a table of a vendor. They had just come from Germany . They had only been on the market for 1 week—I bought every ear they had and took them back to the Uk to test them on my own dogs
I knew the Pet Industry exceptionally well and knew that there was a gap in the market for a product like the Pigs Ear. How to turn that idea into a business was the greatest challenge. There was no internet at that time so a day spent in the local library with yellow pages finding all the major pig meat producers and tying them up to purchase every ear they produced. This ensured the raw product but s how to turn raw pigs ears into cooked ones. This entailed practising in my oven over and over again. Unfortunately the house stank and the dogs sat salivating near to the oven but I persevered until I got the timings and finish exact.
Where to make them and how to scale up to produce pigs ears en masse was the next challenge. Luckily a friend of a friend had an abattoir so I rented a space-bought an old refrigerated lorry back for storage.
How to make a large oven?
None were on the market so one had to be developed. I hit on the idea of using a container as an oven. A friend who was a heating engineer was asked to do this and thought I was mad but often someone with a vision is seen as mad by others who cannot see. By building specialised trollies with wheels with metal trays to lay the pigs ears on the pig production was achieved. I had the major share of the market at a profitable rate for several years till pigs ears became a Chinese delicacy and the prices rose dramatically. Entrepreneur skills are all well and good -but underpinning instinct and calculated risk taking -is the need to make a solid business plan.
I knew where I wanted to take the Pigs Ear and I needed the stepping stones to take me on that journey. It is the same for any business if you do not know where you want to get to how can you possibly make a plan for how to get there. Many of you working from back bedrooms, and kitchen tables expanding your business can sometimes be the hardest thing in the world. My years of experience ensured that I had the skills and contacts to be able to take a simple product like pigs ears into the household name it became as a pet treat.
One of the key traits of an entrepreneur is to partner your plans and methods for growing your business needs with a certain degree of stubbornness and determination. Don’t let people tell you that you cannot do something.
As Henry Ford said – he who thinks he can and he who thinks he can’t are both probably right.