What Gilmore Girls taught me about Small Business

Like many other women my age, I grew up spending Thursday nights with the Gilmore Girls and Friday morning bus rides discussing the episodes with my friends. This was before live tweeting- or Twitter for that matter (does that mean I’m old?). Little did I know my obsessive re-watching of each and every episode was really just preparation for my career working with small business owners and entrepreneurs. Now that the series is out on Netflix, I feel easily justified in cancelling my weekend plans to reacquaint myself with the town of Stars Hollow and the small business owners that made it what is was:

TaylorTaylor Doose, Doose’s Market

Was there anything Taylor didn’t know about the goings on in his market? In all honesty, Taylor may have been a bit too hands-on with the day-to-day operations of his business but it brings up a good point. Business owners need to know what’s going on in their business- from inventory control, to key processes and financial measures.

 

ef75acb3ee1da8be5744196f1bc354f7Luke, Luke’s Diner

Luke may have missed out on a few potential customers who mistook his diner for William’s Hardware but his Stars Hollow regulars kept his business thriving. Even though he was gruff and had a strict “no cellphone” policy, he cared for his customers and often knew what they wanted before they even sat down. Luke’s customer base is a great example of the 80/20 rule- where 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Identify and treat those customers well!

 

Ms PattiMs. Patty, Ms. Patty’s Dance Studio

Ms. Patty was a great example of doing what you love. As a lifelong performer, she didn’t let age and life in a small town stop her from making a living from her passion. Every Stars Hollow parent sent their child to Ms. Patty at one point or another and she was often the hub of all things entertainment for the town. If you don’t truly love the business you’re in, it will be very hard to spend the days, nights and weekends it will inevitably take to make it succeed.

 

Lorelai-gilmore-girls-34245580-1024-768Lorelai, Co-owner of the Dragonfly Inn.

Lorelai became an entrepreneur much later in the series and yet so many lessons can be learned from her time as Co-owner of the Dragonfly Inn.

 

  1. Know your Industry

Before opening up the Dragonfly Inn, Lorelai learned the ins and outs of running a B&B by working her way up through the ranks at the Independence Inn. She knew the hospitality industry and her local market and was able to leverage that knowledge into success early on.

  1. Find creative capital solutions

When Lorelai is renovating the Inn, she finds herself in a tight cash position. She goes to Luke for a loan (with a very compelling interest rate) when banks aren’t an option. From friends and family, to crowdfunding and angel investors- there are a ton of ways to fund your startup.

  1. Have a Niche

When Lorelai and Sookie opened the Dragonfly Inn they not only strived to have the best quality food, service and hospitality but also added a little something extra to set them apart from the rest. Their stable, complete with two horses (Desdemona and Cletus) offered their guests an extra incentive to choose the Dragonfly.

  1. Persistence

Lorelai is a lesson in persistence and finding alternative ways to make a dream a reality. For example, when they found the perfect location, Lorelai and Sookie approached the owner, Fran Weston. Initially, Fran refuses to sell the property…but Lorelai finds a slim window of opportunity by respectfully closing a deal with Fran’s family attorney at her funeral.

  1. Nurture your Staff

After running the Independence Inn for many years, Lorelai had developed the relationships she needed with her employees and suppliers so that many of them followed her to her new endeavor. Trusting employees and letting them grow with your business will allow them to feel like they have a career- not just a job- and will allow you to focus on the parts of your business that only you can do.

Who was your favorite Gilmore Girl entrepreneur? What lessons did you take away from the series?

 

Lauren Riley lowWritten by Lauren Riley, Director of Student Engagement for the Alaska Small Business Development Center