With a clean slate, you can create your exact vision without anything holding you back.…
Many entrepreneurs think they need to have deep knowledge and extensive history in their field to be successful.
Of course, having relevant experience before starting your company can help—you already understand how things work, you have a network of contacts, and you can avoid some of the headaches that come when things inevitably go wrong. But there’s something to be said for entering an industry with zero background in it.
You may find greater success without any experience in your chosen industry.
Since I didn’t come from the restaurant industry, I was free to reinvent the wheel.
But it wasn’t always easy, and in some ways, the industry infrastructure wasn’t ready for my concept. For example, rather than obtaining my inventory from two to three vendors, I had to call on more than 20 highly-specialized purveyors to get my ingredients.
But my business grew, and now we have over 21 locations, with more on the horizon.
Building a company from scratch requires a lot of research and trial and error, and there’s going to be a steep learning curve.
But at the end of the day, you’ll discover new and interesting ways to run a business that you wouldn’t have if you had kept to industry standards.
Here are four ways that having no background in an industry can actually benefit your company:
1. You can create everything from scratch.
Because I was so new, I wasn’t bound by how the restaurant industry was “supposed” to work.
I was free to stay true to my vision without getting sidetracked by conventional practices. For example, when I designed the menu for Kale Me Crazy, I found inspiration everywhere—and it set me apart. I wasn’t buying a preconceived menu with pre-packaged ingredients, written by someone detached from my vision, as many in the restaurant industry do.
With a clean slate, you can create your exact vision without anything holding you back.
2. You can align your brand with your value system.
I didn’t come from the restaurant industry—where frozen meal kits are common—so I could stay true to my own culinary heritage. I grew up in a small village in Israel where my mother prepared all our meals from scratch, using ingredients from the garden. As a kid, I didn’t even know what fast food was.
My cafes only serve real food: no frozen pre-cooked foods, nothing processed, no preservatives. And we make everything from scratch daily.
3. You can differentiate yourself.
If you’re familiar with how your industry traditionally works, you might be tempted to compete with similar companies for the same market share. But by following your own path, you can target a different clientele.
When I went against the grain, I found customers who share my belief in eating real food, who care enough about health to know that the typical smoothie contains tons of sugar and isn’t actually healthy for you.
Targeting a smaller percentage of the population does limit your customer base, but the returns are bigger, because the people who truly believe in your mission will be more loyal than regular customers.
4. You help shape the industry.
Since I created my own niche, I was one of the first superfood chains in the country.
Being early gives you a huge advantage in terms of attracting attention, but it doesn’t ensure your success. Most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to define the future of your industry.
For example, I wouldn’t compromise on the quality of anything, from the tortillas to the produce to the granola. Because of my company’s demand for specialty ingredients, a lot of local suppliers began regularly carrying more of these items that were once harder to find.
Now, other restaurants in my niche aren’t obligated to use standard ingredients, which are unfortunately low quality. And everyone, from consumers to caterers and companies, benefits from this added value.
Don’t be afraid to start a company in an industry you don’t have a background in—your lack of experience can actually be a big asset.
Now, I make the best avocado toast on the East Coast.