Five Owners Share Challenges and Advice for Opening a Shop

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(This article appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

In this edition of “Business Bites,” we connect with five successful baking entrepreneurs to understand both the challenges they faced while opening their shop and their best advice for aspiring owners.

Karen Krasne
Owner, Extraordinary Desserts
San Diego, California

The Challenge of Opening a Shop

­“The hardest part was going from baking and selling desserts from a home kitchen to a brick and mortar location with regulations, permits, overhead, customer service, and employees.  It changes the way you approach the art of creating and baking in the kitchen. The ultimate success is to hone the business skills while still keeping the integrity of the product. I was fortunate to create a consistent demand from my part-time wholesale baking.  It’s not something that happened overnight, so I had to be patient and learn how to expand into a full-time business.”

 Best Advice for Aspiring Shop Owners

“It’s important to continue working full-time in a day job while pursuing your passion in the side business.  I would make sure that my work was being appreciated by more than just my friends and family, and that I was at a breaking point of doing both careers. That is when you know that it’s time to take the leap.”

Zaclyn & Albert Rivera
Owners of Sweet Pea Bake Shop
Sonoma, California

The Challenge of Opening a Shop

“The most challenging part was getting together a comprehensive game plan; nailing down both the long term and short term goals. We had so many ideas, so having to make a firm decision on the concept and what we wanted to serve was difficult. We had to narrow it all down and start small to not be completely overwhelmed. Creating a carefully thought-out, structured plan really helped guide us. With it, we were better able to prioritize our efforts and use our time efficiently.”

Best Advice for Aspiring Shop Owners

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In recognizing our weaknesses, we were able to gain strength by enlisting others. For the areas we realized we might be lacking in experience, we turned to our local Small Business Development Center to assist us in filling in the gaps. Their team of experts, well-versed in a variety of different fields, helped us to lay a solid foundation for our plan. For us, the biggest challenge was funding and financial projections. The SBDC not only guided us towards discovering other sources, but they also aided in the refinement of our idea, so we were better able to approach investors and present a clear picture of what we needed and what we were going to do. Always looking to adjust and pivot to stay on our course, we frequently refer back to that business plan to see where we’re at compared with where we expected ourselves to be. Also, another important thing we learned is to start small and let it all grow organically. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and burn yourself out trying to make your business everything you envisioned all at once. There is always room to grow and time to add more as you learn what your clientele likes.” 

Sherry Sobel
Owner, A Cake In Time Bakery & Workshop
Wading River, New York

The Challenge of Opening a Shop

“The most challenging part was navigating the hundreds of details associated with owning your own business – lawyers, permits, estimating future and start-up costs, equipment and furniture purchases, recipe creation, and the dreaded loan process to name a few.”

Best Advice for Aspiring Shop Owners

“The best advice is to educate yourself. Surround yourself with a good support system – family, friends, professional contacts. Share your business plan with trusted contacts that can provide advice and guide you to the right professionals to help make the process as organized and transparent as possible. Knowing what to expect down the road will reinforce your decision to open your own place, or give you the knowledge to put it on hold until all the dominos are in place.”

Carrie Spindler
Owner, GoodieBox Bake Shop
Cliffside Park, New Jersey

The Challenge of Opening a Shop

“I think everyone in this industry will tell you it’s the money. People do not go into pastry and baking for the payout, but for the passion. They love creating things that bring people joy and comfort. However, the cost of outfitting a commercial space for food preparation is expensive. Ovens, mixers, and refrigeration are pricey on their own, but the infrastructure needed to even put this equipment in requires very expensive labor such as skilled and licensed electricians and plumbers. Given the amount of capital you will burn through just to open the doors, you’re going to need to be able to float the business a few months until you can hopefully get cash flowing to pay all your overhead.”

Best Advice for Aspiring Shop Owners

“My recommendation for those interested in this industry is to start by selling at a farmers market, share your cakes on social media, and entice people with your journey and they will support you. Let the pastry business be your side hustle until you can make it your full-time career. This approach should mitigate your risk as you will have built up a client base for future sales, while also allowing you to get a better grasp on the business side of baking. Once you have a firm grasp of what you are good at, what people will pay for it, and whether it can be a sustainable business, you will be in a better position to seek funding, be it from family, friends, or other prospective investors such as a bank or non-bank lender.

Eleni Gianopulos
CEO and Baker-in-Chief, Eleni’s New York
New York, New York

The Challenge of Opening a Shop

“When I first started, I was my only employee, then I hired one and then another, but there were still limitations that you wouldn’t normally come across in an up-and-running traditional office. If someone called out sick, that was 30% of my workforce, so it definitely made for some very long days and evenings. Cash flow was a constant struggle while looking to expand and grow. And while it was great being involved in every aspect of your business, you find yourself wearing every hat – sales, production, shipping, accounting, HR, etc.”

Best Advice for Aspiring Shop Owners

“Look down the road for five years. Where and what do you want to be doing at that time? Will you be in the kitchen, running sales, using a co-packer or leasing a bakery of your own? Take the time to figure out what would feel best to you, and define success in several years and what success means to you, not to others. Once you know what you want, you will then be able to more clearly articulate your plan, and be able to get better help from others as well.”