Successful entrepreneurs tout their businesses, products during first 1 Million Cups event

Knowing the market for a product or service and understanding the financials of a small business are the two most important pieces of information an entrepreneur needs to know when pitching a business or product, says Gaye Sandoz, a veteran entrepreneur and coordinator of the LSU AgCenter’s Food Incubator.

“Know those numbers before you launch a product because an idea is great, but if it costs you $20 and you’re selling it for $13, you’re not going to make any money,” she says.

Sandoz is the founder of Clever Kitchen and creator of a microwave BBQ roaster that can cook a full chicken in 32 minutes. She sold $750,000 worth of BBQ roasters in 2014, including 11,000 units in eight minutes during one segment on QVC, and she projects sales of $1.2 million this year.

“My friends laughed at me when I first invented it,” she told an audience of about 20 small business owners and economic development officials this morning at the first 1 Million Cups event held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Main Branch on Goodwood Boulevard.

Fellow entrepreneur Ben Nguyen, founder of app and website development company Cyber Fision Inc., joined Sandoz at the event, which was developed by the Kaufman Foundation in 2012.

Nguyen talked about coming to the United States from Vietnam six years ago, founding his company last year and already having six-figure revenues, despite spending no money on advertising. One of the tenants of his business is giving back and helping small businesses grow, given that the normal cost of developing apps can easily reach $10,000 and higher. So he and his employees have sponsored some of the apps they create, such as the one for the Public Affairs Research Council.

He says proficient apps can help businesses offer more efficient customer service, as evidenced by decreased customer service times for his clients. But he wanted the attendees to remember that a good app or website is just a tool for a company, not the core foundation around which the business is built.

Sandoz adds that she uses a simple business model and never touches the product except for returns. The manufacturer creates the roaster, sends it straight to QVC and then it is shipped off to the customer. She says she just shows up to pitch her product on TV.

She calls being an inventor and entrepreneur a hobby because she likes to invent things. New products coming down the pipe include a burger press and line of seasonings.

Sandoz also asked any entrepreneur thinking about pitching their product to QVC to talk to her first because she has connections there and knows the ins and outs of the business. Her relationship with QVC helps when it comes to pushing any Food Incubator client’s product out to the masses.

“Don’t ever put a product on QVC unless you come to me,” she says.

—Ryan Broussard

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