Name: Chris Viscount
Business: Utopian Kitchen
Location: Millbrae, CA and online
Chris Viscount is one of those “accidental entrepreneurs” whose too-good-to-keep-to-himself hobby became a business. He was experimenting with various flavors of nut butters and trying them out on his friends. Their enthusiastic response encouraged him to start selling. Now, his nut butters are a staple at Bay Area farmers markets and doing a good business online, too. Chris continues to work his day job and operates Utopian Kitchen on the side. Since he enjoys staying busy, Chris is thrilled to be doing what he loves.
Hi Chris! Tell us about your business.
Utopian Kitchen produces unique flavor creations of peanut butter that push the boundary of "typical" peanut butter. The majority of our flavors start with a base of honey roasted peanuts, and we create several delicious flavors from there. The original honey roasted is the most popular. We also make chocolate toffee crunch, white chocolate pretzel, cinnamon raisin and toasted coconut & dark chocolate. We also offer more traditional flavors such as roasted, salted peanut- and almond butter.
Our primary customer base is anyone who likes nut butters. Because we have the traditional roasted-salted flavors along with other interesting flavors, our customers are diverse. We cater to people who don't like to stray too far from the peanut butter “norm” and to folks who want a new twist on the flavors they grew up with.
What did it take to turn your idea into a real product?
It all happened really fast, but I would say just taking action. When you believe in something, you put in the work to make it a reality. I saw an opportunity at the local farmer’s market and, encouraged by the good reviews I was receiving from friends, I decided to take action and start the business. It was fun, but it’s also hard when you're first starting out. You have to deal with all the paperwork associated with licenses and permits -- and know who to contact when you need help! The hardest part for me was creating a brand name for the company, as well as developing a logo and a look for the company. Then there’s thinking through all the supplies -- the list goes on.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting out in business?
I wish I’d known not to rush into things. There have been a few instances where I've rushed into an opportunity before evaluating the true opportunity and doing my research into the value of it. Although I want to grow and expand the business, I have learned to be more prudent and make sure any new opportunity fits with my overall vision for the company.
What has been most satisfying about starting and running your own business?
Hands down the most satisfying thing is when customers come back and tell me they love my product. I'll never forget when I skipped a week at the farmer's market. When I came back after the break, about a dozen people came up and said, "Where were you last week? Your peanut butter is so good, and I needed it!" It’s the best feeling to make something other people truly enjoy.
What has been most challenging or surprising about starting and running your own business?
Staying organized. There are so many different aspects to the business to stay on top of. Without any other employees, it gets overwhelming sometimes. Along that line, I use so many different systems to keep track of various information. Often, the systems can’t “talk” to each other. Making sure everything is up to date, correctly entered and tracked takes a lot of work.
Entrepreneurs tend to think “differently” from people who work a traditional 9-5 job. Tell us about your “mindset” as a self-employed person.
I'm not sure it's a mindset, but I would say mine is to never stop. I'm a very active person, and I want to constantly be doing things. With a 9-5 job and my own business, I'm pretty much always working. Even if I'm not "on the job" physically, I'm thinking of ways to improve the business -- how do I expand? What marketing tactics should I try? But that is what I enjoy.
How are you gearing up now for the busy holiday season ahead?
I've finally hired someone to help me in the kitchen making the peanut butters. I've also invested in some equipment that will help me make larger batches. Both of those will help free me up to market the product a little better and to think of some fun gift ideas!
What do you hope to gain from attending QuickBooks Connect?
I’m looking forward to the exposure and learning from other entrepreneurs. There is so much information I am not aware of that I probably should be. QB Connect will be a great opportunity to learn -- and, hopefully, spread the word about Utopian Kitchen.
Now it’s your turn
QB Community members, how long did it take you to turn your idea into an official business? What steps did you take to make it happen?
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