In this month’s publisher’s column, we featured Caroline McGowan from Mankato, Minnesota. Regretfully, the very last line of the article was cut off. We apologize for the mistake and have included the entire column here.
It was 2006 when Caroline McGowan opened Caroline’s Kitchen in Mankato, Minnesota. Customers would walk through her door empty handed and come out 30 minutes later with an entire month of meals for their family to enjoy. Her business was the newest trend in food preparation and it was making life easier for many. Then in 2007, Caroline’s Kitchen closed.
Recently, Caroline came to visit me. We talked about her business experience while she prepared her delicious cream puff recipe. Food and business just seem to go together, particularly for Caroline who has a knack for combining her two passions.
“I grew up with the idea that you can own your own business,” says Caroline. “I knew from watching my dad that owning a business was a different mentality and how much work it can be. And, I wanted it. I wanted to own a business.” In preparation for starting a business Caroline saved her money. Then when she was laid off from her job in Minneapolis, it was a perfect time for her to pursue her dreams. “The ‘make and take’ business was a new trend and it was catching on in the cities. To learn more about this business, I went to work for a ‘make and take’ before opening my own store in my hometown, Mankato.”
Caroline did so many things right. She learned the business, had money set aside, worked and reworked her marketing plan until she was happy with it. She knew how much work it would be and the need to build repeat business. Although she did expect to have competition, she didn’t plan on so much of it. “I opened in January,” says Caroline.”It was a new concept but people were liking it. I was starting to get repeat customers. Then a second ‘make and take’ store opened in May or June, and then a third one in the fall. It was too much for this market to handle, and my life savings had run out. I had to close. The hardest part was having to end my dream. Then I had to find the inner strength to research and find a new dream.”
Four years later, Caroline is coming back strong. In addition to her job, she started Sweet Caroline’s on the side. She is in the concession business selling lemonade and other sweet treats at fairs and events that draw a crowd. Her goals are different than they once were, but she still has an entrepreneur’s spirit.