/ Features

Target the Baby Boomers

We have seen this tech generation, and the advancement of technology, really transform how we conduct business.

I’ve been up all night writing about Mary Crafts-Homer, the founder and CEO of Culinary Crafts, who I had the privledge of spending some time with this past week. Simply put, she’s an extraordinary woman. I’m proud to know her, and I’m honored to call her a friend. The amount of wisdom she can pass on to entrepreneurs here in Utah is awe-inspiring. We will soon be publishing an extensive profile on her life, and how she went from cooking dinner rolls in her small condo in Orem to running the largest, most prestigious catering company in the state.

Some of what I talked to Mary about in our hour-long conversation didn’t quite make it into our soon-to-be-published profile. I still want to write about it, though, because I believe her perspective is invaluable.

The first thing you need to know about Mary is even after all of her success, she still has 10 times the energy and passion of any fresh-faced 20-something that’s “growth hacking” their way into building the next big tech startup. She was a growth hacker before anyone knew what the term meant. To be honest, I still don’t know what that term means.

“When I started, I typed my proposals on a Smith Corona,” said Mary. “If you don’t know what a Smith Corona is, it’s a manual typewriter. I’d only been in business for about a year or two when we got our first computer. I didn’t know how to work it. It was just some big box thing.”

It’s weird to think of a world without something as basic as email. I can’t even remember the last time I had something of value delivered to my mailbox.

Mary can.

“We have seen this tech generation, and the advancement of technology, really transform how we conduct business,” said Mary. “Every one of my proposals used to be mailed, and then you’d wait to get them back. We didn’t even think twice about it because that’s just how business was done. The mail would come in, and there would be a big stack we’d have to sort through every day. Then we’d have to take out our garbage afterwards because it filled it all the way to the top.”

When I owned a deli on Center Street in Provo just a couple of years ago, old institutions like BYU and The Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce would submit large orders through a fax machine. I thought it was nuts. I had a website where customers could place their orders online, but if I didn’t have a fax machine some of my bigger clients would have taken their business elsewhere. Mary ran into a similar problem when she first moved into her Orem office.

“I remember when fax machines first came online,” she said. “People would say, ‘Can you fax that to me?’ And I’d say, ‘Uh, yeah, sure.’ So, then I would run across the street to Geneva Rock and say, ‘Can I borrow your fax machine? Do you have one of those things? Those fancy things where you put something in and somebody gets it at the other end of the line?’ After I’d been over there to borrow their fax machine 20–30 times, I finally said, ‘You know, I think those fax machines are going to catch on. We should buy one.’ So we bought our first fax machine.”

A while back, a developer at Izeni introduced me to Learn Python The Hard Way. It took me quite a while just to wrap my head around the basics of Python. It was comforting to know Mary had a similar experience with email.

“I remember the first time a client said to me on the phone, ‘Can you email that to me?’” recalled Mary. “My response was, ‘I can as soon as my boys come home from school.’ Because I didn’t know how to do that, but I thought they did. I just knew I was never going to be able to do that. Then, of course, suddenly I’ve become the Queen of Email.”

In this community, it’s not uncommon to run into a budding entrepreneur looking for a market that’s just itching for some disruption.

“They should target Baby Boomers,” said Mary. “Because we’re lost. We’re just lost.”

Published 12/19/2013