The taco saga continues, by Chris Wellens and Tawni Ferrarini

Have you ever sat around with a group of good friends and thought of great business ideas or thought Marquette would be complete if there was just one more type of business around to fit your needs and cravings? We did this as well, except rather than pushing these ideas to the back of our minds, we acted.
Amee Loftis, Mauricio Posada and I started testing our recipes for the perfect taco. We searched for the perfect design for a taco stand. Ambitious thoughts of future success in the business ran through our minds. It was time to devise a strategic business plan.
Between having done a business plan in a high school entrepreneurship class and the countless hours of discussion over what we thought was to be encompassing every possible outcome, this seemed a manageable task. We met one evening with resources loaned by Northern Michigan University’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, a plate full of our very own tacos and expectations of turning the business plan in a couple of hours. After a few hours of work, we had a good portion of the work done, but realized that we had much more work to complete.
Creating the business plan challenged us; it challenged us to settle strategically on one idea and it challenged us to think of possible failures. Failures? Yes, every entrepreneur faces them. For the months leading up to creating the business plan we conceptualized possible scenarios. We envisioned making the stand into a permanent structure and spreading our ideas to other ambitious college students around the country. We could have spent the rest of the year conceptualizing new and better ideas, but then we would never be able to get our business up and running. We decided to write all of these ideas down as future possibilities, but for now we would focus on the initial taco stand idea.
The first couple of sections came out pretty easily, basically explaining our products, probable locations of the stand, and backing our reasons for likely success. We surveyed targeted customers, tested different taco recipes and met with local competitors to help reduce our costs and identify possible locations for the stand. At this point, our confidence in our idea grew.
Any logical entrepreneur knows that running a business is not all one smooth ride; in fact, even the most successful entrepreneurs will tell you about times of difficulties they could not have expected. But all successful entrepreneurs have a cash flow plan. They are informed and they create opportunities of value to paying customers. They also prepare for business challenges along the road: a series of “what ifs” or contingencies. What happens if one of the business partners becomes ill? What do we do when equipment breaks? What if people just do not like our tacos or our service? What if our competitors outprice us? What if the weather does not cooperate? In the U.P., weather can be an unfavorable and unexpected issue. Writing this section of the business plan changed the mood of the room for a moment. We were confident in our product, as was nearly every other person with whom we talked. Were these situations really possible?
After completing this portion, reality hit us. Yes, there is a possibility that something will not go as expected in our business. We could fail. But as entrepreneurs, we recognize there are unintended consequences associated with competitors’ actions, mistakes in forecasts, changes in markets and unanticipated scenarios that could negatively, or positively, impact our business and its ability to grow and develop. But now we were aware of this possibility and preparing strategically for the unexpected. Outlining our possible challenges was not meant for money lenders and other readers of our business plan to see how we may fail; rather, it was meant to show all that we were informed and prepared to find solutions to problems or avoid them all together.
Reading back through the business plan, there was no issue where the solution ended in failure. We have a backup plan for operating the stand, alternate products and distributors, and a lot of flexibility for locations. We had a new sense of victory in us. Now we not only have a remarkable product, but many new ways to make the product better even when problems arise.
It quickly became apparent why the three of us began working together. It was not because we intend to get rich off the plan or because we had nothing better to do with our time. We were doing it for the challenge and experience we would gain. Our intent is not to drive others out of business; we simply want to show that it is possible for students to use what they have learned in the classroom for practical experience. Many people can think of a time when they were sitting around with friends and an idea for a business came about.
Entrepreneurship is not something just for the token “businessperson,” it is something that many possess. Spend some time talking to business owners around Marquette; their stories are fascinating and most do not start with intentions of entering the business world. They are people who put their talents and ideas into action.
The next time you are enjoying one of your hobbies and wish you could earn income from it, give it serious thought. Talk to friends or co-workers. See what they are willing to pay for it. Identify your local competitors and talk to them. Maybe it is just a fantasy, but maybe it is your opportunity to do something you truly love.
As for us, we are enjoying the challenges that have come our way. Whether or not “A Tale of Two Tacos” becomes a permanent Marquette element, the three of us have gained a lot from the experience. It has allowed us to put our knowledge from the classroom into practice and that prepare us for life beyond college. I have learned that anything is possible, if you are willing to put in some hard work and if you surround yourself with the right people.
We have enjoyed these beginning steps and are grateful for the resources the City of Marquette, Downtown Development Authority, Marquette County, Michigan Works! and Lake Superior Community Partnership offer for hopeful entrepreneurs. Without the staff at Michigan Works!, we still might be searching for a starting point. 1st Step of Lake Superior Community Partnership is providing another set of constructive eyes for our business plan. The university has shown great support. With these resources and a business plan, success is within reach.
We hope that someday our perfect tacos become your tacos.
—Chris Wellens, economics major
Tawni Ferrarini, associate professor

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