How to Startup Before You Startup

If you’re thinking about starting a business or even if you’ve already started one, don’t spend your time fussing over spreadsheets, logos, budgets or competition.

Packed house on opening day

Those are all parts of the puzzle, but if you want to build a business that cannot fail, spend what may feel like an exorbitant amount of time focused on building and nourishing a community.

I know you’ve got to pay the bills, but get this part right and you’ll never have to worry about having enough business.

In a perfect world, every business would spend a year or so doing nothing but community building before they ever opened the doors.

So, what would that look like?

Natalie George had a day job and dream of opening a healthy, all natural, vegan and raw food restaurant. The vision for this restaurant was created after a dining at well-known San Francisco restaurant Café Gratitude.

After several years of hoping, she launched the business. The only thing is there were no pots and pans or forks or glasses, in fact, there was no physical place at all. She launched the business by asking people to help her build it.

She began by inviting people to join a community that cared about the ideals of gratitude, abundance, community building and, of course, raw food.

She raised money to build the business by holding workshops and selling gift cards for future use. She asked everyone to join her mailing list to keep up on the progress. She shared stories about the ups and downs, exciting and frustrating moments and the joy of making tables from reclaimed wood.

The following four items were the focus of her website.

Cafe Gratitude is opening in Kansas City

Would you like to be a part of making it happen? There are several ways to contribute!

1. We are starting Cafe Gratitude KC Store Builders. Purchase a gift certificate to be used at Cafe Gratitude KC for $1000, and you will get a $1200 gift certificate! That’s a 20% return on investment and will totally support the opening of Cafe Gratitude!

2. Attend one of our upcoming events: Community Building Workshop, Abounding River Practice or intenSati.

3. Ask yourself, friends and family, “What are you grateful for?”

4. Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll keep you posted on our progress, events and future ways you can contribute.

I went to the opening preview event last week and the line to get in wrapped around a city block. Once inside the place was packed with people celebrating with organic beer and wine and the music of the Makepeace Brothers band, but more than anything, they were celebrating their place in a community – and by all accounts, that’s going to make for one health business venture.

So, how do to you start a community building business?

  • Develop a clear vision
  • Focus on giving
  • Get out in your market and teach
  • Start connecting everyone
  • Tell stories and share your goals
  • Ask people to help
  • Let people contribute
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  • Brenda Layman

    It’s amazing that she could sell gift cards for a business that did not yet exist. She must be quite a salesperson. 

    • ducttape

      Brenda I think it speaks more to the passion and purpose that she brought to something she believed in and what she found were others that shared that passion and purpose and wanted to be a part of it. It’s a story about shared commitment.

    • Adam Gottlieb

      People have an innate need to be a part of something bigger than themselves. If you can tap into it by pulling some emotional strings, then you’ve struck gold.

  • Matt

    Great story about purpose, struggle and moving forward.  Hope it works out so well, that everyone is falling over themselves trying to capture and replicate some of that energy.  And yeah, salesperson no doubt, but it seems she had a real vision to back it up with, right out of field of dreams or something, with ghosts replaced by the real world, :).

  • Mark Washburn

    Great story!  So how was the food?  Is this downtown?  We were just there this last weekend and visited the farmers market and Arabia museum, and loved both!

  • Rudy Lacovara

    Great advice.  I can think of 2 prominent players in the tech startup space that used the same technique.  37Signals leveraged the huge community they’d developed around their blog to launch Basecamp (which now has millions of users).  Joel Spoelsky and Jeff Atwood leveraged the communities around their tech blogs to launch StackOverflow which also has millions of users and has now become StackExchange, a venture funded company.

    I wish I had started blogging and tweeting about small business hiring 2 years before I launched HireFlo. 

  • hypeintl

    Speaking of Startups I just heard Hype International Marketing Agency won a $18 million contract with new gaming coming. Visit to learn more about 715 Entertainment. New gaming store to take over Game Stop. 

  • Jill Simpson

    Great story, thanks!

  • Alicia

    Love it! Thanks for sharing.

  • Steve Baines

    Awesome, this really resonated with me. This is going to help me get what is in my heart “to build a foundation where I can teach entrepreneurs how to set up, run, and grow a business” into an actionable plan.  Everything you mentioned was floating around in my head, but now I have the action points to make it happen!
    Thank you very much John!!

  • Timothy Klinkle

    Those are all parts of the puzzle, but if you want to build a business that cannot fail, spend what may feel like an exorbitant amount of time focused on building and nourishing a community.”

    Can I use this as my email sig?

    For 98% of business, imo, survival has very little to do with their products or services, and nearly everything to do with their ability to connect with the community.