Bakery: How to Make a Living from Your Hobby
If you have a passion for baking and/or have noticed that a lot of people complement you for your tasty baked goods, starting a bakery is a wonderful way to turn your love for baking into a source of income. Just like any other business, running a bakery also involves its own share of hard work, networking, budgeting, financial management, good decision making and marketing to be successful. However, you’ll find that it is definitely worth the effort because you have a job that you love and not many people may be able to boast the same.
This article will reveal to you 1) how to convert your love of baking into a business, 2) tips for becoming popular, 3) promote yourself with print and internet marketing, and 4) bakery success stories.
HOW TO CONVERT YOUR LOVE OF BAKING INTO A BUSINESS
Go for courses
You can enhance your cake baking and decorating skills by going for a college course or else, short course or evening class in your area. You can also consider doing online certificate or diploma programs of a few months’ duration. Then there are full bachelor’s or associate degrees in the pastry arts. You can complete them by way of college campuses or culinary institutes.
Study the market
When you are researching the market, you can focus on aspects such as whether there is a demand for your product and the similar ideas which are available and how you plan to distinguish yourself from them. You can also check out how much money the baking industry is able to earn. You may have to carry out market research if you have any particular area of baking you wish to focus on. For example, if you would like to specialize in cupcake making, you can concentrate on the cupcake market specifically and the baking market as a whole.
Identify what makes you unique
One of the important things you need to be successful in the bakery industry is good judgment with respect to ensuring your cakes taste good and are presented well. After experimenting with different recipes, you can give the finished product to family, friends and others to taste and provide their opinion. You can then, perfect your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). You need to seriously think along the lines of what makes your baked goods or your idea different or special compared to the other baked goods or bakery ideas on the market. Here are some examples.
- Ingredients: Is there something interesting about your ingredients and flavors?
- Packaging: Is there any impressive yet distinctive way by which you can wrap the baked goods?
- Health: To make your baked items stand out, you can perhaps make them friendly for the health conscious.
- A logo: Your logo should put across a rough picture of what your bakery is all about. It would be great if your logo could be a memorable one as well.
Figure out the costs
Before you jump into a venture of making money from cakes or other baked items, you need to figure out the rough costs for setting up your business. Using an Excel spreadsheet would help. You can start by determining how many cakes you would have to sell to make a profit. You can then consider the expenses associated with ingredients, getting a stall in place, stall hire, baking equipment, travel to the location, energy costs and any other costs you can think of. The Excel spreadsheet would be useful to calculate out costs in terms of grams. Also consider charging for your skills and time. It may be a good idea and safer to price your cakes in the higher range initially. You can always bring down the price if you’re not able to sell the cakes at the higher price. You can record all future income and outgoings on the spreadsheet.
Come up with a catchy name
The name of your bakery should be attractive and easy to remember. You’ll need to do research on the right name because you would only be wasting your money and time on advertising and logo creation if there is already a bakery with that name.
Rent out space in a commercial kitchen
The majority of states in the U.S. have made it mandatory for a food business to utilize a certified commercial kitchen if they are vending food to the public. A few of the typical regulations for such a kitchen are a separate and dedicated entrance from the outside, a separate hand sink and a commercial kitchen hood for heat. Owing to the costliness and difficulty associated with achieving such regulations in a home kitchen, you may prefer to just rent space in a wholly licensed commercial kitchen.
If you would very much like to use restaurant-grade equipment but are not in a position to purchase or even rent commercial space, a co-operative commercial kitchen may be just what you need. In co-ops, cooks and individual bakers sign up as tenants and make payment for exclusive rights to utilize the kitchen for a fixed number of hours every month. Considering that the expenses are shared among multiple people, these shared kitchens are frequently very affordable. However, you must know that you may have a problem if the nearest co-op is not really that near to you. In that case, you’ll need to ensure you have a secure arrangement for transporting the finished products.
Look out for vendor opportunities
If you intend to start a home bakery, you need to define your inventory and target market. You can approach the coordinators of flea markets, farmer’s markets or other local vendors and find out how much you would have to spend to rent space at the market to sell your goods. Set up a table or booth wherever suitable, give out business cards and maybe, free samples too and stock your space with an assortment of your bakery goods which customers can choose from to buy. You may also want to keep sheets ready for people to place special orders.
You can also consider selling your products at other bakeries, approach supermarkets, restaurants, health food stores or events. You can also approach or visit local eateries and see if they would be interested in either keeping some of your baked goods on their shelves or just purchasing your baked goods. Speak to the managers or store owners, depending on who has the authority to decide whether to permit you to sell the baked items on consignment or purchase the goods straight from you.
Consider what type of bakery you want to open
There are chiefly four kinds of bakeries namely counter service bakeries, sit-down bakeries, specialty service bakeries or online bakeries.
1. Counter service bakeries
These bakeries are the traditional sort, characterized by the staff attending to their customers when they approach the counter. At the counter, customers can select the kind of baked goods or bread they are interested in purchasing. The staff behind the counter would wrap the customer’s desired items for him followed by which, the customer pays. This kind of bakery offers the benefit of speedy service to customers.
2. Sit-down bakeries
Plenty of bakeries these days attempt to draw more customers and garner more profit by allowing their customers to dine within the bakery. They offer waiting services and clean seating in addition to menus with a variety of food items which their customers can select from. These bakeries resemble cafes with the addition of coffee beverages and other refreshments though their area of specialization would chiefly be baked goods.
3. Specialty service bakeries
These bakeries specialize in specific kinds of baked goods. Typically, customers purchase pre-ordered products from these bakeries. The customers would give the bakers a description of what they want and the latter would handle that project for a fixed number of days. Some examples of specialty service bakeries are wedding cake bakeries and providers of pastries.
4. Online bakeries
Thanks to online bakeries, bakers can sell baked goods with less expense for them. They don’t need a storefront and just have to carry out business by way of the internet. What they do is get the necessary licenses that a person usually gets when setting up a bakery. Followed by that, they develop a website through which they can put up pictures of their products and incorporate a shopping cart in the website.
You should establish good systems incorporating order forms, diaries, a pricing structure and terms and conditions. If yours is a home bakery, be careful not to overwhelm yourself with more orders than you can handle or else you will lose out on your recreation time because of work.
TIPS FOR BECOMING POPULAR
Take advantage of TV trends
If you have the ambition, you can leverage the current fad for TV food programs to grow your business from a small bakery to a bigger operation. Allison Whitmarsh, founder of ProperMaid, a cake firm, did exactly that. An ex-dinner lady, Whitmarsh started the business in 2008 from her home. In December 2012, she propelled Proper Maid into Dragon’s Den (BBC TV’s program) and managed to get £50,000 in funding from Dragon Deborah Meaden in exchange for a 25 percent slice of her business. With the onset of The Great British Bake Off, Proper Maid truly reached the next level.
Make a food blog
You can consider bringing out a food blog that carries all your recipes. Just as the focus of your bakery should be on quality rather than money-making, let the focus of your food blog be on serving your audience rather than on maximum profit. You can link between posts in your blog and post videos on YouTube that link back to your blog. You can also consider rewriting older posts for the benefit of new followers of your blog and leveraging AdSense.
Promote Yourself with Print and Internet Marketing
You can promote yourself by way of business cards, flyers, a website, social media, customer testimonials, the press or pitching. Here’s more on that.
You can start by printing business cards with the name of your company, logo and contact information. You can carry a few of the cards in your purse to hand out to potential customers. If the local businesses and shops permit, you can leave a few cards or flyers there. For example: If you do wedding cakes, you can hand out your flyer or card at a bridal shop.
A website is an easy yet essential method of garnering customers for your company. You can display your services, a picture gallery of beautiful cakes, prices, a section that talks about how your company came about, location and contact information. Make sure you use competitive keywords and have an SEO-friendly design.
Creating a Facebook page is a great way to market your business. Show off your treats and cakes by posting offers and images and connecting to a variety of prospective customers who may in turn share your offers with their friends on the social media website. Pinterest is another incredible social media website through which you can bring in customers. Post pictures of your cakes on suitable boards and if any of the site’s users like the appearance of your cakes, they can pin the designs they like to their own boards and click through to reach you.
You can consider getting some (or all) of your satisfied customers to pen a short testimonial or review which can be uploaded to your website. Happy customers would be able to assist you with gaining more trust and sales with respect to your cakes or other baked items.
Being able to get your name in magazines, the local paper or on websites will help you popularize your fantastic new company.
If you have plans to later cater for local businesses such as coffee shops and cafes or children’s party venues, it would be good to start pitching. Ask them about any opportunities they possibly have for you, give them samples of your cakes and strike a mutually beneficial deal.
BAKERY SUCCESS STORIES
Rodney and Lavinia Hesley
Rodney and Lavinia Hesley had to start a bakery out of necessity. The housing market crashed only some years ago, spelling a loss of work for the two licensed general contractors. So they made a business from Lavinia’s hobby of baking. In 2010, they began Big Boss Baking Co. The couple’s baking venture made considerable progress from its beginnings in a commercial kitchen space set up in their garage. Their granola now figures as an item in retail chains such as Whole Foods and The Fresh Market. Lavinia attributes the growth of their bakery to the homemade taste. They use simple ingredients and stick to their original recipes. There are no preservatives, no trans fats, no dairy products and no wheat.
To make room for its growth, the company bought a 10,000-square-foot-former bakery located in South High Point which had eight employees as of March 2014. All mixing in the new location is done by hand, utilizing 100 percent whole grain oats sweetened with honey the natural way.
In visits to the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, the couple started to gather local fans for their muffins, brownies, cookies and granolas. People particularly liked their granola and sales streamlined much more towards this product. Granola became the company’s signature product with them rolling out nine flavors of it.
As the company grew further, they had to purchase honey and oats in larger quantities which would not fit in their garage. To resolve the problem, they rented a warehouse.
Rodney no longer has to lug granola to Fresh Market stores situated all over the state because the latter picks it up from them and does the distribution. The Big Boss Baking Company’s signature granola is sold in about 20 or even more Whole Foods stores situated in the South. They are sold in four flavors – Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry and Blueberry Walnut, Honey Vanilla and Honey Almond. The company also has its own branded bags which are available at Lowes Foods, Harris Tweeter and Kroger stores.
She is the founder of Susie Sue’s Cakes and Cupcakes. Baking and developing cakes was always something that Susie loved. Initially, she only used to bake for friends but owing to redundancy from a good London job, she was forced to turn her passion into a business. Susie gained much in terms of advice and experience from her mother as she watched and assisted her in preparing different types of cakes for the family. Converting her passion into her business means that Susie is very rarely out of the kitchen whether it’s cupcake toppings or cookies or something else, but she’s definitely happy about it.
Susie had to learn quickly and her toughest challenge was getting people to pay for her bakery’s items. However, she fixed that problem by putting the following in place: an ordering system that called for a deposit at the time, and terms and conditions. She realized that there were people who wouldn’t come to receive their order. Hence, the idea to take deposits.
Susie’s advice for people who want to start bakeries of their own is to not wait for opportunities to present themselves but rather to make them. In 2013, Susie was a finalist for Business Woman of the Year at the Colchester Business awards, and it’s not surprising.
Cathryn Howard is yet another example of a woman who turned her passion into a flourishing specialty bakery known by the name Truly Madly Sweetly. Life may seem like a pleasant box of cupcakes, cheesecakes, cookies and caramels for her. Howard’s love of baking was quite obvious from a young age itself. She has a memory of baking a heart-shaped cake for her parents’ wedding anniversary when she was very small. Unfortunately, she had to put away her dreams of making a professional career as a baker to raise a family with her husband in the Los Angeles County suburb of Glendora. Most of her career was as a librarian for an elementary school. Fortunately, the library did help her achieve her creative side.
In 2006, at the age of 50, Howard joined the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Pasadena. With a diploma in Patisserie and Baking in hand, Howard interned at a local bakery but wasn’t impressed with the process which included frosting in plastic buckets, nothing from scratch. She made up her mind to do things another way if she owned a shop. She stuck to her decision. She shifted to Murrieta and joined hands with her daughter-in-law. The two started testing and perfecting recipes in their kitchen, creating everything from scratch. Along with the testing and fine-tuning, the pair started looking for possible store locations.
Assisted by a small business mentor, the two of them were able to shore up their business plan. Following the launch of their Kalmia Street location, they saw people desirous of homemade cheesecakes and cupcakes lining up at their door.
As long as you are prepared to do the necessary research and work industriously, are willing to experiment and take on challenges head on, and have a solid plan and enough money to back you up, there’s nothing stopping you from making a living from your hobby of baking.