5 Business Lessons Learned Making Sourdough Starter

sourdough bread business lessons learned

I have a confession to make. Over the past year, Mr. Bartender and I have been sucked into more than one pandemic distraction. We made Dalgona coffee to meh results. We tried growing our own green onions. But the one pandemic activity that we had some success with was making sourdough starter.

We spent the better part of last year making the starter, feeding the starter, and at the end of the year, we decided to end our sourdough starter project. But along the way, we learned some lessons that apply to our business life.

There’s more than one path to success. You can make sourdough starter many different ways. Some recipes use wheat flour. We started ours with raisins and rye flour. Because starter can be made with different ingredients, it will have different results. No different than in business. We hear what one company is doing and say to ourselves, “Hey! We could do something like that in our organization.” We don’t have to mirror what others are doing to have a good outcome.

Small incremental actions over time can yield huge results. To create what is called the “mother” sourdough starter, you have to “feed” the starter for about a month. The feeding process is where you take out some of the mixture and then add some flour. It’s a relatively long-term commitment to feed the starter. But as you do it, the starter takes shape and starts to have that wonderful sourdough smell. Same with business projects, we start a project, and it doesn’t look like we’re getting very far and then all of a sudden, pieces start coming together. We can’t dismiss the small steps.

Don’t be afraid to revisit “discarded” ideas. I mentioned in the above paragraph how when we fed the starter, we would take out some of the mixture. That’s called discard. Some people throw discard away. I made it my mission to find uses for the discard. There are zillions of recipes that use sourdough discard. Our favorites included peanut butter cookies and waffles. From a business perspective, we shouldn’t be hesitant to revisit an idea that we might have initially “discarded”. It’s possible that the work environment has changed over time and the idea that wouldn’t work six months ago is absolutely perfect now.

Know when you are overwhelmed. And address it. At some point in the sourdough project, we started getting overwhelmed trying to find uses for all of the discard. The good news was that we discovered you could freeze discard (and we have!). But we also realized that we were so focused on the sourdough that we weren’t making other foods that we enjoy. That’s when we decided to set a date to end the project. There are lots of great things we can do in business, but we can’t do them to the exclusion of other activities. Creating balance is important.

Enjoy your successes! When we decided to end our sourdough project, we wanted to do one thing: make a loaf of sourdough bread. We actually ended up making two: a sourdough olive loaf and a sourdough cinnamon raisin swirl bread. Both were fantastic! In fact, we were almost tempted to keep the sourdough because they turned out awesome. Instead, we celebrated our success and put some away in the freezer. It’s okay to end a project so you can move on to other activities. Do the debrief and celebrate what you’ve learned.

Would we make sourdough starter again? Maybe. We had fun with it, made some delicious foods, and learned some lessons along the way, especially when it comes to business projects. It’s okay to revisit old ideas, stop doing things because they don’t make sense anymore, and still celebrate the success.

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