“Journeys” is a new feature of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service that examines the career paths taken by our community entrepreneurs. Do you know someone we should introduce? Please send your suggestions to [email protected]
A few years ago, Alan Goodman attended a barbecue at a friend’s house. He brought bread pudding – one of his specialties – for dessert.
Dr. Bruce Hamilton, the host of the party and his friend, took him aside during.
“You should sell that,” Goodman recalled, having told her Hamilton. At the time, Goodman was working in the corporate world, but Hamilton’s words and seeing the other guests enjoy his dessert inspired Goodman to do just that.
In October 2018, Goodman launched his business, A Goodman’s Desserts, which offers cookies, bread pudding, cakes, and other baked goods.
Goodman’s first foray into the baking world began when his parents caught him playing basketball instead of studying at the library. As punishment, Goodman cooked and baked alongside her mother.
“After I started doing it, I liked it and became the family baker,” he said.
Before starting his own business, Goodman researched what it would take to be an entrepreneur and spoke with other entrepreneurs.
“Milwaukee’s entrepreneurial community, especially the young African-American community, has been inspirational,” he said.
He thought about how his business skills could help him as an entrepreneur, what he could produce at scale, and the needs of the market. In doing so, Goodman landed on cookies — because they’re easier to wrap and store — and bread pudding, which is also easy to store and an uncommon dessert in the Midwest.
Goodman sold shares he had for his seed capital. He then got in touch with Caitlin Cullen, the former owner of Tandem, about using the restaurant’s commercial kitchen.
He walked into the restaurant as a customer, Cullen said, and one day he brought his bread pudding and asked if he could bake his pastries here. The answer was yes.
Goodman is a nice, cool guy, Cullen said, he brings his humanity to his business with his honesty and vulnerability.
“He was always someone I always loved,” she said. “To see him continuously succeed is really great.”
Elmer Moore, executive director of Scale Up Milwaukee, an initiative that works with and supports local entrepreneurs, met Goodman a few years ago after joining the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Milwaukee alumni chapter. Goodman also participated in Scale Up’s SPARC growth training program.
Goodman was as much a resource to his peers in the SPARC program as he was a student, Moore said, adding that Goodman’s interest and desire to keep learning is important to everyone, but especially entrepreneurs.
“What I love and admire about him are also the things that make him a good businessman,” Moore said, noting that he’s unquestionably thoughtful, focused on serving people and that he pays attention to detail.
Goodman learned early on to decide what he wanted to do and what he didn’t want to do. For example, most bakers aspire to be bricks and mortar, but Goodman decided that wasn’t for him.
“My approach is to break something and rebuild it,” he said. “I want to be able to change something on the fly.”
Entrepreneurs have to do what’s best for them, Goodman said, and their choices don’t always follow the general pattern.
“It’s about being nimble-minded and not getting stuck in one direction,” he said. “You are capable of change. You are the captain of the ship; you want a 360° view of your business.
In addition to his company, Goodman is an instructor in quality engineering and technology at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and he plans to start a series of webinars. It makes sense to have multiple sources of income, he said.
His advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to learn how to pitch.
“Your business is you,” he said. “Being able to communicate effectively is important.”
His second piece of advice is not to compare your business to the success of others. Success looks different for everyone, he said, and every business model is different. For some it’s a side business, for others it’s their main business, and for others it’s their retirement plan.
Goodman’s success is partly due to his connections.
“Relationships are based on how you treat people,” Goodman said. “And I was always raised to treat people well.”
Doors that may not be open to him directly are open to others who can vouch for him, he said. As such, it’s important to him that his businesses give back.
“You should want to do this because people helped you,” he said. “It is important for a company to give back. Whatever you choose, be sincere.
Another key to her success is her confidence to make big decisions with her business. That’s why he applied for and won local and national competitions such as Rev-Up MKE; met Daymond John of “Shark Tank”; and connected with Peter Feigin, the president of the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum.
Goodman’s conversation with Feigin led to serving A Goodman’s Desserts at the Fiserv Forum during the NBA Playoffs and Finals.
“Step out of my comfort zone with my business is probably the thing I’m most proud of,” Goodman said. “The worst anyone can say is ‘no’, and that’s fine. But that won’t happen if you don’t ask.