Small Biz Ideas – Start Your Own Bakery More Tips

by Dawn Fotopulos on May 24, 2010

More Tips For Sweet Success

In our first article, Start Your Your Own Bakery Tips, we talked about ways to cut costs in a big way up front, finding resources to help you and ways to get experience before you take the plunge. Here are a few more things to think about if you decide to start your own bakery. These additional tips to start your own bakery are designed to help you generate revenue quickly and consistently. For the small business baker, that’s the key. Here goes….

Sample, Sample Sample
When the Stonyfield Yoghurt folks launched their product, they knew they had a delicious, better textured organic alternative to the yoghurt out there. But no one knew their brand or their product.

Sam Kaymen has a great line, he said “the most challenging distance from us to the customer was the last seven inches”. Sam was saying, he had to find creative ways to get people to actually taste and experience the product. Once they did, he knew they’d be sold. It will be the same for you.

If you want to start your own bakery, you must devote a great deal of time and energy (and yes, start up capital) getting your product in the hands of as many potential buyers as possible. Sampling is the key. Without it, you are just another struggling baker.

If your products are that wonderful, let your potential buyers in on the experience. Engage all their senses. Instead of talking about your product, let them interact with it.

Ina Garten is a famous chef who owned a store in East Hampton NY called “Barefoot Contessa”. She has a brownie recipe that will make you weep. (You basically take all the saturated fat in your refrigerator, mix it together, bake in the oven and cut it up to serve.) I served those brownies at a party a while back. Three years later, my friends are still asking me for those brownies!

Be A Niche Player
If you are a small business owner, you’re a niche player by definition. You’ll never have the deep pockets to compete with the big players. The great news is, there are all kinds of special needs and preferences out there.For example:

~How about addressing the needs of people who need low fat alternatives? (Remember Stella Doro Cookies?)
~How about baking delicious baked goods for diabetics?
~How about gluten-free baked goods?

~What about multi-grain baked goods for healthy alternatives?
~How about baking goods for people who can’t eat dairy?
~Consider specializing in only one category, like nuts or chocolate? (I’m so there…)
~How about offering only anti-oxidant-rich baked goods?

My mouth is watering.

~Magnolia Bakery is the king of cupcakes.
~Mrs. Fields is well-known for her scrumptious cookies.
~Auntie Anne is the soft pretzel queen.
~Rice to Riches specializes in a million varieties of rice pudding.

You can be a “category-killer” in something that you are passionate about.

Keep Fixed Costs At A Minimum
When you start your own bakery, do not take out a lease on space until you have a steady revenue stream. That way you’re working for yourself and not the landlord! We also talked about leasing a working kitchen or leasing equipment before buying to also cut start up costs.

Don’t Hire Staff Right Away
Keep your costs to a minimum at the beginning. Initially, you’ll have to be doing almost everything. Coop your friends and faithful family members. It will mean long hours. Count on it. That’s the life of the entrepreneur. Show your family and friends the plan you have to get to break even so they know it’s just for a time. If your product is great, the hours will be worth it.

The Stonyfield Farm folks asked their children to help in the early days. The owners said “if our children weren’t willing to milk the cows at the beginning, we wouldn’t have made it through the tough times”. If they can do it, so can you.

Simplify your product line so you don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to make fewer items in greater quantities than to offer a large product line. Don’t hire anyone until you have enough cash flow to afford them.

Do Not Build Inventory In Advance
When you start your own bakery, the best way to manage the limited resources you have is not to squander it on building inventory that no one wants. Build your business model so you are creating inventory on demand, even if you are in a retail environment. Make like Dell Computer or Fresh Direct; take your orders first, get paid for them, then fill the orders if at all possible. Perishable inventory will eat up your precious cash faster than you can say “red velvet cake”.

Find a Mentor In the Business Who Is Not a Competitor
The most gracious people I’ve ever met are those who are retired. These people are treasure troves of wisdom and often, they love to offer their wisdom to the next generation. Don’t underestimate the brilliance that resides in assisted living centers or retirement villages.

Through your trade association, see if you can contact someone who is retired who can provide advice and encouragement. SCORE offices and the Small Business Development Centers in every major city around the US can also help you find mentors in the food business.

Remember, your mentor doesn’t even have to live in your city. Consider finding at least two experts who can help you start your own bakery. Most will not charge you for their time and wisdom. Isn’t that delicious?

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