I know a lot of you guys ask about home bakers turning into shops, or want to open a shop, etc etc.
I did the home baking thing for 6 years, and when I just couldn't just fit another pan or table or mixer in my house (I had taken over the special bakery room we had built, my living room, my breakfast room, two bedrooms, dining room and office) we knew it was time to either buy a bigger house (again!) or move into retail space.
I actually just wanted a flex space, but the laws in our area would not allow it. With the economy not doing too well, i was able to find a decent little 1500 sq foot space in a strip mall that already had a grease trap fora pretty good price. So last year, we scrapped every penny into it, and opened our doors. We are now approaching completing our first year.
So what I have learned? Would I do it over again? yes and no
Employees are a major pain. I have gone through so many of them till I have found the best four employees I can ask for!! I love them! I have a part time counter position that I have gone through 5-6 people through. They just never make it, they dont realize how hard it is! We get a lot of people who want to work in a bakery. They love the shows on TV. Sigh. But I find the employee part of business owning the biggest pain for all business! And I worry every week about what I would do if one of them left or quit and I had all these cake orders!
Customers have changed a lot. When I was in the house, I think I had two complaints the entire time. Of course, we are now doing 30-40 cakes a week instead of just 10-12, but we get more complaints. Mainly on the color wasnt exactly right, or the character had three fingers instead of five, things like that. The most common is (even though we tell them several times) they pick up a 2 tiered cake and want to know why we cant put a cover on it. They dont seem to know that two tiers isnt exactly a small grocery store cake. On the plus, we get a lot of people walking in who heard how delicious our cakes are. It makes us feel good. The other negative is small children break things and we can no longer put out any kind of cake toppers , etc, and our fake cakes, even though we have lot s of signs, (sorry no room to put under glass) are a mess.
We have been robbed once, had one employee who came back after being fired to threaten us (had to call the police) and am still battling the floor guy who did not put in my floor properly. My office is too small, I still work 110 hours a week, and have not made a single penny yet. When you start all over again, you start all over again. My accountant says the two three year period starts over again too.
but my house is mine again, I actually get to sleep at night, have Sundays off, (unless a delivery) because I can do tastings during the day, can go on vacation and still have the business bringing in money (before I just couldnt take cake orders) and I have a much higher level of bride coming in. I get stopped in the store by customers who recognize me and talk, we have a few commercial accounts and getting more everyday, and venues asking us to attend vendor only shows. So we are fer sure out in the open!
Would I recommend this ? Unless you really really really love running a business, dont. it has nothing to do with cake. If you are any good at all, be prepared. Our biggest problem, believe it or not, is we are growing too fast and we are trying to keep a hold of it. I want to keep my quality up!
Also, make sure you have lots of reserve money to live on..at least two years!
Now I need ideas on how to have a open house to celebrate our one year!
Thanks for sharing your experience! I am officially in my new shop in July and out of my rental kitchen. Excited and nervous at the same time! But I am hoping that since I won't be open for retail, that I will handle it all.
Congrats on your anniversary!!
We are building a separate building with a commercial kitchen. This week I will write the biggest check yet. I have paid over a thousand dollars in just fees and permits. So, I am excited to be in a building and doing what I want and enjoy doing. But the expense of starting is overwhelming. We are probably about six to eight weeks from opening. And the money keeps flowing out!
Congratulations to all three of you!