The REALITY of Owning Your Own Retail Bakery
This 2 PART SERIES I'm starting today is probably the most important one I have shared with you to date. It's not a fun one, but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary.
The reason why it isn't going to be fun for you to read is because it will address a BIG and sacred dream you probably have. I know you have this dream because I had this dream too for 5 long years.
For 5 years I used to pin beautiful images to my Pinterest board I named “If I had my own little bakery“.
MANY (in fact MOST) of my Home Baked Confidence students have confirmed for me that this is a home baker's ultimate dream…
To own your very own retail bakery.
This dream in itself CAN BE a good dream to work towards, but honestly we all have unrealistic pictures and expectations in our minds about what this kind of life looks like on a day to day basis.
Over my years as a full time home baker, I've been through a lot and the ideal of my own retail bakery started to lose its glossy veneer. I can honestly say that I absolutely LOVE being a full time HOME BAKER.
It feels like having your own retail bakery is the ultimate GOAL in baking. A heap of my clients, friends and family still ask me: “WHEN are you going to open your own Retail Bakery??”
My immediate, content answer is “No, thanks” 🙂
Because I am truly happy where I am as a full time HOME Baker.
And a lot of this perspective came from reading a post by Tina McJunkin from The Cautiously Optimistic Kitchen.
SO I ASK OF YOU TODAY TO BE OPEN AND LISTEN TO TINA'S STORY BECAUSE SHE HAS BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT!
Here's what Tina has to say about her baking journey. She was a Home Baker, just like you and me, but for the whole 2 years she baked from home, she always dreamed of owning her very own retail bakery.
Here is Tina’s TRUE Story
Most every home baker dreams of having their own retail bakery. It’s something you start thinking about the very moment someone loves a cake you baked for them!
On television and online you see the financial industry, business card, credit card, and website designer commercials showing all of the smiling business owners talking about how great it is to have their own store.
You see the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube pages, videos and posts all touting how it’s the way to go and you won’t regret your decision if you go for it!
But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?
Well… that’s going to be for you to decide. But for me, the short answer was NO.
Today I’m going to share my experience with you. This is the side of the story that no one else is talking about.
I Decided I was Ready for My Own Retail Bakery.
After nearly two years of baking from home I was ready to open my very own retail bakery. I had built a pretty good clientele of loyal customers and felt my skill level was up to par (haha!).
All my days and nights I spent dreaming – obsessing about what I would name my shop, how I would decorate the front of house, what my logo would look like, and how customers would come strolling in one after the other from opening time until closing time.
Although, the biggest dreams I had were how much money I would make, how much room I would free up in my home, and all the extra time I would have to spend with my family! <sigh>
Boy was I wrong! About most of it anyway. There is so much more to having your own retail bakery than you realize.
**I want to say right now, this is the story of MY experience. So many others have opened their own retail bakery and loved it. In such cases it was the absolute right decision for them. My goal is NOT to bring you down and stomp on your dreams.**
I am only here to share the realities of owning your own retail bakery with you because I want you to make INFORMED DECISIONS.
It can be the greatest experience you've ever had, but it can also be heart-breaking. A Retail Bakery can be exhausting and it is absolutely challenging.
There are many people with a mind and spirit made for business. I unfortunately realized I was not cut out for this type of thing. I made a lot of mistakes and my biggest mistake was my IGNORANCE about HOW to actually operate a retail business.
So here’s my story. Please read it with an open mind.
I will share my story in light of 4 Misconceptions I had about owning my own retail Bakery.
1. I Believed a Retail Bakery Would Make More Money
The truth is I paid every penny out to others.
I did not profit a single cent even though we “made” six figures the first 9 months we were open. Yes, 6 figures. But NONE of it was in my pocket. It cost us several thousands to open the bakery plus the huge burden of overheard.
The electric bills alone were $500-800/month in the moderate size unit we were in. I also had to hire employees (please don’t think you can do this alone!). Paying sales taxes, unemployment taxes and insurance, and salaries (now the employment laws are getting even crazier), advertising, liability insurance, and credit card processing fees took huge chunks of money every month.
I needed to constantly add new items and run promotions to keep walk in business, as people are bored very easily, and it’s exhausting! ALL food businesses do it so don’t expect to be the exception.
Even if you opened a CAKE shop like I did, people will expect you to be a full service bakery.
With all the new orders I had to buy more ingredients/packaging to keep up which was more money out the door. You will probably need to add something to bring customers in if you aren’t a full service bakery, like an ice cream parlour, lunches, or even sell merchandise in your store.
There are busy seasons and slow seasons in the cake world.
I didn’t take into account that the summer and winter would be so slow!
I never had any issues before booking up in my home bakery during these times of year. But I also only needed a fraction of the business to operate.
When you have employees and overheard you need steady orders and walk in traffic ALL year long! Take advantage of busy times (Valentine’s Day, Graduation and Wedding seasons) and promote lots of specials.
It is an absolute MUST that you raise your prices drastically from what you are charging at home. Don’t be surprised when your loyal customers aren’t happy about that.
Not everyone realizes how much money it takes just to keep the lights on and they will not understand why you raised your “great” prices from back when you were the “cheap” cake lady!
2. I Thought Customers Would Be Kind
I have to be completely honest with you.
I didn’t want to deal with people EVER again after I closed my shop.
Even though there were many, many, many more satisfied customers I dealt with than unhappy customers, those very few unhappy ones made a huge impact on my view of the world. People change as soon as you have a store front.
People expect WAY more from you and are not afraid to tell all of social media about when they are not happy about anything.
They will even expect refunds for their own mistakes that they made while ordering. They become much pickier.
They become hateful and quick to judge without giving any thought to the fact that this is how you feed your family. It is just fact that not every single customer will be happy and love your work. I completely understand that. I am a consumer too!
But so many people forget that you are just a woman chasing her dreams and rather than speaking with you about any issues they will just run your name through the mud instead. That’s the reality of this digital world we live in today.
When I did have a customer approach me with an issue it was ALWAYS dealt with. You cannot ignore unsatisfied customers. You MUST take every measure you possibly can to turn the situation around. People remember the single negative review and will scroll right past the 1000 positive reviews you may have.
I was sure to be quick with a sincere apology (even if it wasn’t our fault) and I offered a refund as well as a replacement for the product. When customers came to me unhappy I can gladly say they left with a changed attitude and I nearly always saw them back in my shop as a repeat customer!
I unfortunately wasn’t always given the opportunity to make things right and that really got to me. It really hurt when people chose to be negative and stir up conflict without ever addressing the issue with me.
Not only was this difficult to deal with, but I lost the personal encounters with my customers.
They just became an order form that my employee filled out. And I had to hope they got all the info and wrote everything down correctly. I also had customers that refused to deal with any of my employees and only speak with me because they were long time clients.
The thing is, I didn’t have time to deal with customers personally because I was busy running the business end of things.
3. I Thought I Would Have Much More Free Time!
Except in my own retail bakery, I was now the boss. I was not only responsible for my own quality of work but I was also responsible for my employees quality of work and customer service.
Finding good, reliable employees can be extremely challenging! No one cares about your business like you do.
Even when you have a good staff you will still work
I worked 80+ hours a week and had no time for my children.
I kid you not, I missed an entire year of my children’s lives. I cleaned out some boxes awhile after we closed our shop and found so many school papers and order forms for school pictures I had never seen before!
I wasn’t able to take time off or go on vacation. I had to worry about bad weather and not being able to be open during winter. Winter and Summer are extremely slow times of the year for bakeries.
You also can’t just not take orders or not go to work because you are tired or don’t feel up to making cake that day – which is something you can always do in a home bakery setup!
4. I Thought I Had the Right Mind & SPIRIT for Business
Owning a business is so, SUPER stressful – especially a busy and successful business.
- I was stressed out when we were so busy that I didn’t go home on Friday nights because we had to get orders finished for Saturday morning.
- I was stressed when we sold out of cupcakes in our case every day the first week we were open and had to disappoint customers.
- I was stressed every time a customer picked up a cake because I was terrified their order may not be right or they may not like it. If they didn’t like it I was stressed that they would run straight to facebook and let the masses know without ever telling me.
- I was stressed when summer began and walk in traffic died down significantly.
- I was stressed when my other decorator needed to take off work frequently.
- I was stressed when I couldn’t take even a Sunday off because I had to buy supplies for the following week from a local store.
I WAS STRESSED.
The bucket loads of STRESS eventually took a toll on not only my relationships but also my health.
Thank the great Lord above for giving me a truly amazing husband. Most relationships probably wouldn’t have made it through the effects of the stress we endured, but my husband not only hung in there, he carried me through. He is my rock and I learned to love him in a completely new and deeper way.
It took another year and a half after we closed up shop for my mind to begin to heal. My body on the other hand decided to blow its adrenals and damage not only my thyroid but it’s entire endocrine system. That is a battle I’m still fighting.
I clung to God like I had never done before.
My spirit was broken and I prayed NON STOP.
That’s not an exaggeration. If I was awake I was talking to Him. He pulled me out of the lowest place I had ever been and He brought me back to life. I got to know Him like I had never dreamed possible. I promise you, He is there for you. Don’t blame Him when you are in a bad place, turn and RUN to Him!
Realizing my mind, body and spirit couldn’t handle the stress any longer (I was truly on the verge of a nervous breakdown) and after operating a storefront for nearly 2 years, we closed up shop.
I wasn’t sure when we closed our doors if I ever wanted to bake another cake. The plan was for me to completely quit and I was going to return to the work force.
I was actually called and offered a job I hadn’t even known existed. After much prayer and lots of discussion we decided that I would decline the position and stay home. But that meant continuing my cake business. I realized in that moment I wasn’t finished.
With God’s help, I knew my mind would heal and I would be able to love my work again.
And I do.
There Was a Silver Lining Though
I can’t say that it was all bad.
I learned how to bake/ice/decorate a cake in less than a few hours as opposed to an entire day! I tweaked my recipes until they were just right. I learned how to bake a dozen cakes and only dirty a few dishes in my kitchen instead of messing my entire house!
I did gain new loyal customers.
Most importantly I learned that I would much rather work from home and pick and choose my customers.
I would much rather be home working all night instead of across town until 3:00am to only be back at 7:00am.
I learned that sometimes you already have all you need right where you’re at doing exactly what you’re doing.
So that was my experience.
Here’s My Advice
Do what God is leading you to do.
I know that it was the right thing for me to open my own retail bakery because I was obsessed with the thought. OBSESSED I tell you. I couldn’t think of anything else. And the Lord knew that if I didn’t see all of these things on my own I would never stop thinking about it. That I would never learn the valuable lessons I learned and I’d always wonder if I could have or should have done it.
So He let me do what I thought I wanted and find out that I already had what I wanted. Let’s say, I had to learn things the hard way…
I hope that my story has helped you take a closer look at what it means to have your own retail bakery.
Thank you so much Tina for sharing your priceless story on Philosophy of Yum!
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO OPEN YOUR OWN RETAIL BAKERY?? In my next post I will be sharing some tough questions for you to answer 😉
I hope Tina’s story has brought some clarity, perspective and shed a lot of light on your baking journey – as it has done for me!
If you have any questions, please comment below and either Tina or I will respond.