Conceive an Idea, Take a Risk, Work Hard, Sneer at Doubt, Work Harder.
Although Andy Yochum may not be a household name (yet), his tenacity and entrepreneurial persistence certainly echo the success stories of many American greats.
Like all entrepreneurs before him, Yochum began with a simple idea. Through smart strategic moves and a great deal of hard work, he has transformed that idea into a business.
As the founder of Boardwalk Food Company, Yochum has discovered a recipe for entrepreneurial success.
One entrepreneur’s journey
Andy had an idea he believed in: make a better-tasting, easier-to-make beer bread. He believed in this idea so much that he quit his job as a successful salesman and focused on making his dream a reality.
He risked his savings, and leveraged every connection he had.
When he started, he didn’t realize the breadth of knowledge he would need to succeed. So he learned as he went along, becoming something of a jack-of-all-trades.
Nearly a year and a half later, his company Boardwalk Food Co. is beginning to take root and grow.
In fact, when we caught up with Andy, he was putting labels on boxes for the first shipments of his four flavors of Boardwalk Food Co. Poppers and Pretzels Mixes. The products were en route to Cracker Barrel, an American chain of restaurants and gift stores operating 630 stores in 42 states.
It is a proud moment for Andy, and the result of nearly seven months of work.
Though this isn’t a story of overnight success.
Hesitant to succumb to his early dreams of entrepreneurship, Andy accepted a position in sales upon graduating from college.
“I was good at selling, a top performer,” he said, “and it soon became a comfort thing, something I could always do and do well. But, I was traveling all the time, and working long hours, and a voice in my head was saying ‘here I am selling, making money for others, but not really getting anywhere myself.’”
As time went on, that voice became louder. After trying a product sample at a vendor show, Andy was reminded of the beer bread his mother had baked throughout his childhood. The combination of nostalgia and Andy’s bubbling entrepreneurial spirit became a recipe for inspiration.
“I tried it and I thought to myself, ‘I can do this better. I would do this differently,’” he said.
Taking the risk
Andy didn’t make his decision lightly. After weighing the pros and cons with his wife, Kim, he realized what he needed to do.
“I knew if I didn’t commit fully, I wouldn’t do it at all. So I jumped, without a safety net.
“It scares me a little to think about it now. I mean, we lost more than half of our family income,” he said.
Making the idea a reality
“So Kim and I started trying to build a better mousetrap—in this case, make better beer bread,” he said. “We made so much beer bread we had it coming out of our ears. My wife has a degree in Nutrition and Food Science so that helped a lot.
“It took four to six months to perfect the recipe, to create one that stood on its own. Something tasty but easy to make,” Andy said. “We wanted to make something that people hadn’t had before, that they could share with friends.”
Then followed another year of perfecting the recipe, and asking for honest evaluations. From friends, associates—anyone who would give him one.
He named his company Boardwalk Food Co., because the name reminded him of the carefree days of his youth. Days spent with his family, strolling along the boardwalk, remain some of Andy’s favorite memories. This nostalgia remains at the heart of the company, as Andy aims to provide simple, delicious food that’s easy to prepare and fun to share with loved ones.
How he did it
“The thing is,” he said, “when I started this, I really didn’t have a lot of the knowledge I needed. I didn’t know anything about food additives, regulations, how to plan expiration dates, inventory, and financial reports. I had so much to learn.”
“That was hard for me to admit, that in many ways, I had no idea what I was doing.”
“But I worked through it. I researched. I talked to people. And every day I focused on my list of priorities, taking them on one at a time. Now it’s like I’ve been doing this stuff for years.”
The “uh-oh” moment
Success was elusive, causing Andy to rethink his original vision, even to the point of changing the product. He realized that the bread loaf mix wasn’t satisfying his goal of creating something that was perfect for sharing with friends.
“I mean, how often do you go to someone’s house and they give you bread?” he said.
What they needed, he decided, was a snack mix—not a bread mix. So he refined his idea and changed the product to a poppers mix, for smaller, more easily shared portions.
But that wasn’t enough
“In time we figured out that our original packaging wasn’t doing the job we wanted it to,” he said.
“For one thing,” Andy continued, “people said it looked too old-fashioned. For another, the connection to beer wasn’t immediate. And for a third thing, the food image on the box wasn’t clear, so people weren’t sure what they were looking at with just a glance.
“We realized we really needed to let people know how easy our beer bread is to make, and how good it tastes,” Andy said, “so we changed the packaging, we redesigned our website, and we started sending out samples to anyone that wanted one, blogs, stores, you name it.”
“It became all about getting our message out,” Andy recounted.
“Plus, we reached out to craft brewers and beer masters because tapping into the craft beer market, which is hot right now, made a lot of sense for a couple of reasons.”
“First of all, the various flavors of craft beer make our bread taste better, and personalize it to the individual,” he explained. “And second, it made sense because we quickly learned that the spirit and vibe of many craft beer makers is the same as ours. We’re both about sharing and engaging with others.”
“Little by little, we’ve started getting noticed.”
Touched by business “angels”
“It turned out I’d cultivated a lot of contacts, and made a lot of friends in my previous life as a salesman. The fact that I’d always tried to take care of people came back to me in spades in the form of a willingness to give me help and advice when I needed it.”
“I was initially hesitant about asking other entrepreneurs and people that knew what they were doing for help. I was thinking, ‘how will I repay these guys?’ But what I found out is that a lot of them were more than happy to help.”
“In many cases, they’d received help from friends or mentors in their past, and they were very much glad for the opportunity to pay that help forward.”
“I look forward to the time when I’ll have the time to pay it forward,” Andy said.
Would Andy do it all over again?
“I certainly can’t say we’ve ‘made it.’ We’ve been actually doing business for less than a year,” he said. “But even with all the hard work, this has totally changed my life for the better, got me out of the rat race mindset.”
“What’s more, there’s a great feeling that goes along with working cooperatively with family—with Kim and our son, Simon—to make this happen,” Andy said. “It’s been a blessing. I can’t express how grateful I am for my wife’s encouragement and support. And Simon is very interested, and helps with deliveries and with tastings. It’s been a very fun thing for me, teaching him important lessons.”
“I wish now I’d made the leap ten years earlier. But the fact is, I just wasn’t ready then.”
The Entrepreneur Survey
When Andy responded to our entrepreneurial survey over a year ago, long before he could see the light at the end of the tunnel, he told us he thought the three most important traits for an entrepreneur are:
- Courage. “It’s not easy to go it alone in this economic environment and even harder to leave a good paying job to do so.”
- Positive Attitude. “Start-ups face all kinds of roadblocks and difficulties, not to mention the prospect of failure, as they get going. With so much on the line, there is no chance to succeed without the steadfast belief that you will succeed.”
- Humility. “No one knows everything. You have to be able to admit this and ask for help. You have to be ok with saying ‘I don’t know.’ You have to be able to fail, admit you failed, and learn from that failure. There is no room for ego when starting a small business.”
It is clear to see from Andy’s entrepreneurial path that these three traits have anchored his success. Thank you, Andy, for taking the time to speak with us and share the Boardwalk Food Co. story.
If you’d like to share your own entrepreneurial story, or your own tips for entrepreneurial success, tell us below. And if you could use some cash flow help, let MP Star Financial show you the many ways our factoring services can benefit your business. Call 800-833-3765, Ext. 150 today or email us.