Savoring Startup Success

Small Business Development Center hosted by Long Beach City College

Savor Flavor Dining • Long Beach, CA

Before:
Karen Kostrinsky had always loved cooking and entertaining. She wanted to leave the corporate world and start a business around her passion, but wasn’t sure where to begin. In November 2010, a local business owner recommended the Small Business Development Center hosted by Long Beach City College. “I had all these ideas in my head, and she said the SBDC would help me streamline them,” Kostrinsky recalls.

Best Advice:
SBDC Business Advisors Samantha Sproson, Ryan Smolar, Laura Lara, Megan Fate and Carolina Marin-Henriquez helped Kostrinsky develop a business plan, marketing plan and website. Her business and life partner, Deb Gangwer, learned to use QuickBooks, and the partners got help choosing a legal structure for their business and obtaining a business license and DBA.

Lessons Learned:

  • Focus. Sproson listened to Kostrinksy’s many ideas, then helped her hone in on goals and create a business plan. Kostrinsky decided to focus on cooking parties, kitchen coaching and dinner parties in clients’ homes, and cooking classes at establishments such as the We Olive store in Belmont Shore. “There were so many different things I wanted to do,” says Kostrinsky. “I never would have been able to structure all of my thoughts and ideas had it not been for the SBDC.”
  • Have a Web presence. Fate and Smolar helped Kostrinsky create a website and start blogging. “I had tried to [build a website] myself, but I didn’t want it to look like a template,” Kostrinsky says. “Megan has amazing design skills and really understood our sensibility.”
  • Get social. Kostrinsky learned to communicate effectively with customers using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. “[Social media] has given us exposure and credibility,” she says.
  • Track your financials. Lara showed Gangwer how to use QuickBooks to keep accurate financials and invoice. “By helping figure out our cost of goods and tracking expenses,” says Kostrinsky, “QuickBooks has really helped us get a sense of how the business is doing.”

After:
Five months after its February 2011 launch, Savor Flavor Dining had already surpassed monthly projections and was halfway to its first-year sales goal. The partners are currently fine-tuning their target market and assessing the best ways to educate prospects about their services.

As their business grows, Kostrinsky and Gangwer plan to explore new avenues for expansion, possibly including a cooking school, commercial kitchen or catering, with the ultimate goal of opening a bed and breakfast inn. Along the way, they’ll continue turning to the SBDC.

“The SBDC provided amazing resources, support and direction,” says Kostrinsky. “I don’t know how people start businesses without it.”