Do You Have What it Takes to Open a Retail Bakery?
**Guest content further down by Tina McJunkin from The Cautiously Optimistic Kitchen**
Welcome back to PART 2 of my Retail Bakery Series! If you missed my last post, I strongly encourage you to read it. I had the privilege of chatting with Tina McJunkin from the cautiously optimistic kitchen about the REALITY of Owning Your Own Retail Bakery.
She shared her TRUE story of what it was like to run her own Retail Bakery for 2 years. Her story is absolutely incredible! It has really brought a HEAP of perspective and truth about the realities of owning your own bakery.
If you’ve read last week’s post and you STILL feel that opening your own Retail Bakery is a dream you want to pursue, today’s post is for you!
Tina has put together some questions for you to figure out if you have what it takes to open your own Retail Bakery.
Please note that Tina & I are NOT doing this Retail Bakery series to trample on your dreams, but rather because we want you to make INFORMED decisions and be successful!
Over to Tina 🙂
Dearest Home Baker,
I have been right where you are now.
Dreaming and obsessing over all the things I would do if I had my own cute little cake shop. How I would decorate the front of house and how I would charm every customer with a free sample as they strolled in the door. How people would FINALLY take me seriously as a baker!
Oh yes, I’ve been there.
I’ve also been on the other side of there.
I’ve actually owned and operated a real life Retail Bakery. And that, my friends, is why I’m here today. You really NEED to think about these things before you take the leap and dive in!
So… do you have what it takes to open a retail bakery? Let’s find out!
1. Do You Know WHY You Want a Retail Bakery?
I know you dream of doing this, but why are you REALLY doing this?
Do you want to make more money than you are now? Or maybe you want the fame of having a wildly successful bakery?
Is it because you want to be busier with more customers? Do you just want all that cake stuff out of your house and to stop taking over every spare inch you can find to shove more supplies?
Could it be because you want the opportunity to hire employees and delegate some of the work so that you have more time for your own family?
If you are only opening a bakery to satisfy your daydreams, you may need to think about the next few things first.
2. How Much Time are You Willing to Sacrifice?
Operating a retail bakery will take ALL of your time. I truly mean that.
As the owner, you will work 24/7/365.
Not. Even. Kidding.
If you have a storefront you will absolutely be busier than in your home bakery. Not only will you need to spend time on actually making cakes, you will spend time on so many more admin & logistical issues like:
The book work, paying bills, ordering supplies, taking inventory, hiring/firing/managing employees, handling advertising, answering calls/emails only you as the owner can respond to, creating recipes/menus, shopping, etc., etc.
It’s everything you are already doing in your home bakery, but 100 fold. So take the amount of time you spend working on your cakes now and multiply that by 100. Now you have how many hours you will work in a week.
You might think it’s impossible to work a 130 hour work week, but I’m telling you now that it’s very real and imminent when you own a Retail Bakery.
3. Do You Have a Plan?
I don’t just mean a plan of how things are going to look and how everyone is going to think your yummies are the best in town. I mean a real deal business plan.
If you are going to finance this venture, you will be required to have a plan anyway. But even if you aren’t financing you MUST have a plan!!
You Need a Plan for ALL the following things:
- Know what your operating hours will be.
- How many employees you will need and what schedule they will work.
- If you will purchase ingredients locally or if you will use a food service.
- Have your menu and recipes ready and flawless.
- Have business cards and brochures printed before you ever open your doors.
- Know exactly how much your items, supplies, packaging and ingredients cost per unit.
- Know exactly how much your overhead will cost you.
- How much will your workers comp insurance, unemployment insurance and liability insurance cost?
- Will you pay sick days or maternity leave?
- How much will you pay out in salaries, sales taxes, business licenses, and deposits?
- Call the utility office and ask what an average bill costs for the unit you are going to operate in.
- Is your building already set up for a food service business?
- Will you need to get permits or build out your building?
- What is the cost of your equipment?
- How long will it take the Health Department to allow you to open once you’re ready?
- Shop around for internet, phone, advertising, insurance, etc.
- KNOW HOW MUCH THINGS ARE GOING TO COST.
There will be even more things added to this list as you get deeper into it and it is absolutely essential that you have a SOLID plan.
4. To Finance or Not to Finance?
How are you going to fund this venture?
If you are going to finance your bakery yourself you will need to have that business plan ready. There are different types of loans you can get, so be sure you research them all. You can find tons of free information on small business loans and other funding options on bank websites.
Decide if you need a down payment, collateral, or if you will be using credit cards. Also, be sure to think about how you will handle the financial situation if you are not able to make those payments.
How is that going to affect other aspects of your life? Are you using your home or vehicle as collateral and will you lose those items? Are you about to sink your entire life savings into this? Will you be maxing out those credit cards?
Once you decide on how you will finance your Retail Bakery’s start up don’t forget about those operating costs.
Be sure you have some kind of financial cushion for slow times!
Whether that is a personal stockpile of cash you have set aside, a line of credit, or one credit card you held back from maxing. Whatever it may be, just be sure you have it at the ready. You will need it – even if you’re 100% sure you won’t.
5. Are You Ready to Be a Boss?
Are you really prepared to be a boss?
Now look, I’m the first to admit I can be considered to be a bit bossy (Or so I’m told by my younger sisters, my kids, my husband) I’m the eldest child in my family, what can I say, I come by it honestly, right?
But here’s the kicker. I may be great at being bossy, but I’m a terrible boss!!!
There’s more to being a boss than bossing. You’ve got to be able to manage people. You need to be prepared to interview, hire, delegate, and even fire people.
Trust me it’s much harder than it sounds. You also need to be able to be respected (and be respectful). You need to be taken seriously, you need to be fair, and you need to be able to set standards that you expect to be met by all your employees.
Also remember that you are their employer, not their friend. You must keep those two relationships separate, even if you’re friendly with your employees (and you definitely should be!). If you don’t you separate the two you will never be able to manage employees to the best of your ability.
One other thing you will realize pretty fast is that YOU are the employee of the month – actually of the year!
You will need to know how to perform EVERY job and be willing and able to do them. If you have an employee call in sick, be prepared to jump into that position.
Be prepared to work every position at once because sometimes you just might have to!
There may be times when it’s slow enough that you need to decide if it’s worth it to pay another person to do a job you can actually do yourself.
Holidays and weekends are another time when you get to work but may decide to let your employees enjoy the time off. You will need to consider these things when you are deciding on how much time you’re willing to put in as well when you are creating your business plan costs.
6. Are You Ready to Develop a THICK Skin?
Once those doors open, you are now considered a professional. If you are still working on those decorating skills and you’ve only been doing this just a little while, no one will be considerate of that. As soon as you establish yourself in a brick and mortar store, the customers will expect you to be an absolute expert.
There won't be much room for error.
- Everything you do will be under scrutiny.
- Everything your employees say and do will be under scrutiny.
- Anything and everything that goes out your door will be criticized and picked apart.
The fact is when you grow your audience you open yourself up to more opportunities to be placed under the microscope. Not everyone will like your work. Heck, not everyone likes your work now. But when you open a retail bakery, you lose that personal touch.
People aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings anymore if they aren’t completely pleased. Now they’re racing to social media to let the entire world know how awful you are, all without ever letting you know they were unhappy. It’s just reality.
The thing is that it will bother you. It will ruin your weekend when you get that first call complaining about your work.
The first time, the next time, and the last time will all hurt the same. Just be prepared and know that unfortunately not all people have the decency to treat others as they would like to be treated.
There are plenty of people who are ready to spew whatever junk comes to their minds. So you have to decide how you will handle the situation when it comes – because unfortunately, it WILL come.
So there you have my six things you definitely need to think about before opening a retail bakery.
Now that you’ve thought about these 6 questions, have you considered baking from home may be just where you need to be?
Thank you so much for sharing these questions with us Tina! If you haven’t read Tina’s full story on the Reality of Owning a Retail Bakery, you can read it here.
I hope Tina’s questions have 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.