By Justin Sapolsky, Wharton Undergrad 2008, Wharton MBA 2014; Co-founder of Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches
It is widely accepted that building a business relies on having a good idea, but more importantly on having good execution. Founders have to be really good about maintaining a vision of the next ten steps they need to take, and then blocking and tackling through all the steps to reach the next decision point. With all of that forward looking focus, it is easy to forget to look back. Happily, pitching at the Wharton Venture Initiation Program Networking Event last week forced me to consider how much my business has evolved since I first pitched to enter the program three months ago.
The premise of my business is still the same – open a brick and mortar deli, use a strictly Italian menu, deliver quality food to a growing population eating more and more meals on-the-go and outside the home, and build in operating efficiencies to improve customer experience. However, the details are miles apart from where they were. The name has changed, as has the menu, the source of operational efficiency, and the launch strategy. Because of these changes, we are very much on track with where we hoped to be at this point in the summer.
How so? We changed the name of the company to something more authentic and fitting of the brand (The other founders in the VIP were a tremendous sounding board in this critical branding step.) We took our “hacked” menu developed in our apartment kitchens, and had a phenomenal chef who shared our vision elevate it to a mouthwatering level. We turned our declaration “the line will move fast” into a real operational plan after spending weeks building mathematical models that simulated different setups of our sandwich line. And we launched a “beta version,” selling catering now, rather than continuing with our initial plan to wait to open a storefront before making a real push for revenue (check us out at http://www.mattandmaries.com/.)
These changes were really just blanks that needed to be filled in as we transformed an idea into a thoroughly thought out business with procedures, policies and some secret sauce. At the same time, the amount of change over the summer is a reminder of how a series of small decisions made in quick succession can have a dramatic impact on a business. It is a reminder that even when moving on a course with great momentum, founders should step back frequently to ensure that the course hasn’t changed on them.
The response from the other entrepreneurs, investors, advisors and service providers who have interacted with us from the start of Matt & Marie’s through the recent presentation at the Venture Initiation Program Networking Event was overwhelmingly positive. Working in a close community with other advisors and founders has gotten us further than I could have anticipated this summer. And big picture reflections will definitely be on my ongoing to-do list as we push forward with Matt & Maries.
Bio: Justin Sapolsky is a 2nd year student in the MBA program at Wharton and a current VIP member. He is a long time foodie who co-founded Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches with another MBA student. The company began catering in the Philadelphia area and plans to open a brick and mortar store in late 2013. Visit us online at http://www.mattandmaries.com/.