My breakfast cereal business got government money too!
I started Faber Foods in 1991 and closed the business in 2005. My small company developed, manufactured, marketed and sold a variety of breakfast cereals, mueslis, primarily to Whole Food Markets. My product was good and I enjoyed moderate success in my enterprise.
The manufacturing facility was in Oxnard, California in a sheltered workshop, which is a place of employment for mentally disabled adults. Sheltered workshops are workplaces that partner with varieties of small businesses providing manual labor, in my case, baking, mixing and packaging breakfast cereal for retail sale. The workers at sheltered workshops are trained and supervised to ensure quality work that meets specifications of the contracted manufacturer.
The government matches dollar for dollar the money the contractor pays to the workers which gives the sheltered workshop and its’ employees just compensation for their work. It is a win-win for all parties involved.
At the time I started my business, Kashi cereals were making their debut into the marketplace. I remember attending trade shows and doing in store tastings with a Kashi representative. Getting a small business off the ground is grinding work and the Faber and Kashi workers showed it in our respective body languages: we were tired from the endless hours we put in to get our cereals recognized by consumers. In a short time, both Faber and Kashi cereals were sold at Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Alfalfa’s and health food outlets in the western states.
Within a few years, Kashi sprinted ahead of Faber Foods in sales dollars. My company, while helped by modest government funds, trudged along as Kashi, funded by private money, roared ahead to great success that it continues to enjoy today.
What’s my point in writing this? To illustrate that good products and solid management are the ways businesses become successful: not government investment. There is value in the ‘grinding’ aspect of developing a hands-on learning curve to know how a product becomes important to a consumer. A mistake that wastes investor money is the best motivator to sharpen manufacturing and marketing skills, resulting in a better product that consumers want. Business recipients of government assistance, like Solyndra are not as motivated to create successful companies, compared to their private counterparts because there is no urgency to have the investment repaid. While I was not lacking motivation to create a good product, like Kashi, I would have had more success if I had a fear of repaying investor money over my head.
I wish our president had made cereal or another product as I did years ago so he could understand simple concepts of capitalism.