Note to Instructors: Blue Moon Natural Foods

Article excerpt

Blue Moon began as a natural foods market in Exeter, New Hampshire, added a small restaurant to its deli, and opened an upstairs space for classes by instructors from the local community. Blue Moon's founder, Kathy O'Leary Gallant, had a vision that had evolved over time and a strong commitment to her customers. Kathy added new business segments in response to perceived opportunities, and to what interested her.

This case describes an actual small business whose growth has been driven by the owner's desire to provide a place in town with a sense of community, get to know her customers, and cook for people who appreciate good food. It was clear from the beginning that Blue Moon Natural Foods was not just a business, but an extension of Kathy's lifestyle.

Key Issues and Discussion Points

The focus is on Kathy Gallant's interest in determining a future for her business and herself; the case involves issues of strategic positioning and entrepreneurial lifestyle. Challenges include Blue Moon's marginal profitability despite continued growth, the emergence of chain store competitors in natural/organic foods retailing, and whether and how to separate her personal goals from those of the business. Many of the dilemmas of small business described by Churchill and Lewis (1983), particularly in terms of whether to disengage of position the business for the long term, are discussed in this case. The entrepreneur's values and their impact on her decisions are intertwined. Key issues and discussion points include:

1. Definitions of success, including the triple bottom line.

2. Entrepreneurial skills and values, including growth versus lifestyle.

3. Competitive analysis and sustainable competitive advantage.

4. Strategic positioning in a changing market.

5. Development of an exit strategy congruent with the values of the entrepreneur.

Potential Audience and Uses

This case was developed for courses in entrepreneurship and small business management at either the undergraduate or graduate level. It can be used early in the course to evaluate entrepreneurial characteristics and "success." Positioned later in the course, the case can highlight the development of specific strategies for sustainability, continued growth, and/or the founder's exit from the firm.

Suggested Teaching Approach

Issues of entrepreneurial values/vision and competitive advantage/positioning can be developed in one class period. Asking the students if they "think Kathy is successful" can start the discussion, leading to consideration of how personal values can influence decision making and of Blue Moon's strengths and weaknesses, followed by its competitive positioning. …