As an adviser to numerous businesses and meeting many, many more business owners and entrepreneurs, I have been asked on a number of occasions for what is the secret formula for success for a startup or small business. In the end I think most people walk away from the conversation thinking that I punted on giving a direct answer but there is no true road to success. After hearing Ryan Cappelletti’s story, I think a lot of people will get a better understanding of that.
Cappelletti plans to transfer 100-percent ownership of the vegan and vegetarian Bartertown Diner in Grand Rapids to his employees. He also will not be making millions on this transaction either. Cappelletti seems to find joy in the process of developing concepts, getting them off the ground and creating a community of collectives he calls “Bartertownship.”
In 15 months, Cappelletti has guided Bartertown Diner from an idea to a restaurant that boasts $40,000 a month is sales, is self-sustainable and nearly debt free. Cappelletti signed a lease and began renovations on 6 Jefferson Ave. before he had any financing or even equipment lined up. He raised money through rock shows, t-shirt sales, small catering events and later through social media and crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter.com. He used friends and family to renovate and decorate the space. He also salvaged equipment from other community entities and used alternative concepts to create other pieces of equipment in order to keep overhead costs low.
After all the initial startup was done, Cappelletti had created a business that was able to provide meals that were much more affordable compared to similar restaurants in West Michigan and had very little debt. And now Cappelletti plans to step aside and turn over ownership to the 16 employees that work at Bartertown Diner.
Cappelletti’s path to success is a bit alternative. Not only was the path that he chose to take different then many entrepreneurs but his definition of what is success is different too. Cappelletti chose to dive into his startup headfirst but without any funding. Some entrepreneurs feel that a more conservative approach is better and others would not barrel forward without funding. Cappelletti also chose not to go out a buy a bunch of the best and nicest equipment to fill his restaurant. Not many restaurateurs would be willing to use a converted door as a table for customers. Finally not many entrepreneurs would put in all that work and reach that success and then just walk away like Cappelletti is.
Every entrepreneur’s story is unique. There is no model to follow. There can be suggestions and guidance. You can hear how others have done it. In the end you have to make your own path. Whether that is traditional, lean, with funding, on a shoestring budget, or whatever the case may be, your startup is your own story.
Source: “EARLY EXIT: Bartertown founder brings radical approach to starting — and exiting — local business” by Elijah Brumback and Joe Boomgaard of MiBiz