The New Bakers Dozen
Another dream of a bakery business...

The The Bakers Dozen: Another dream of a bakery business...
By Acegirl (Acegirl) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 04:31 pm: Edit

I've looked through all the old posts and haven't come across any self-starters in my position!

I just finished a Business degree and am looking to get into an organic/health foods bakery/cafe in Alberta, Canada.

I have done alot of the research and know it would be supported but now need to determine how to get the practical experience (I bake and experiment in the kitchen alot for friends and family). I want to start small and have managed to secure contracts with local coffeeshops to supply them with muffins & cookies.

Should I be trying to get a job in a bakery? taking a class from a college? keep working and refining on my own?

Most of the product I want to offer will be simple recipes and I am not really interested in hiring a professional baker, am I heading down a dangerous path in thinking I can make this work without tons of experience?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 07:33 pm: Edit

Have you ever worked in a bakery????....or any production type of shop???
Not that the business degree won't help but there's nothing like the real world....and no, not the one on MTV!!!!

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 07:46 pm: Edit

Wow! You seem enthusiastic, and I don't want to quash that spirit. That said, there IS a pretty big difference between baking at home for friends and family, and producing a volume sufficient to supply businesses like coffeeshops with ample product to be profitable.

Do you have a place besides your home in which to bake the muffins, and cookies, etc? Do you know how much you'll be expected to provide for the shops? Do you know how much to charge per dozen? per item? These are just the questions that I can think of off the top of my head.

It's worth a shot, but I'd get as much help as I could to get started if I were you. Especially from people near you who know the business and the local market. Good luck!

By Stuntbaker (Stuntbaker) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 01:28 am: Edit

I think a really important question to answer before throwing your heart and money into a rather risky business venture (I'm sure you know the stats) is "Do I really want to be a chef/owner of a cafe bakery"
The business can be really rewarding (I keep telling myself)and I think there are a lot of folks who stick with it for years because they just love it but I'd say that when you meet the folks who do this thing (dancing with the bear) for years and years, for the most part they are people (like myself) who don't really know how to live and work any other way. The restaurant business is all they know and has sort of defined the way they think of their work life and what they want out of it for better or for worse.
So, if that sounds like you, start peddling muffins. But, if for any reason, you think it may make a nice side job or hobby or be fun for a year or two while you figure out what you really want to do, by all means throw away the idea altogether and have fun baking for friends.
They say it's like dancing with a bear because no matter how tired you are, you can't stop.

Don't mean to sound bitter just honest.

By Doucefrance (Doucefrance) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:26 am: Edit

I agree with all above and disagree at the same time.
If this is what you really want, DO IT!
If you're a little scared it's good, the fear will bring caution, but you can do a lot with a little.
Believe me, I've been there. In the US where I had a bakery in Florida and here in France where I opened my little bakery two years ago with just $2000. A lot of work but it finally starts to pay!
My personal quote: follow your dreams!
Take advice and help from each and every person you can, and use your chamber of comerce for the help it can provide.
And most of all GOOD LUCK...

By Chefcyn (Chefcyn) on Monday, February 07, 2005 - 02:56 pm: Edit

The Small Business Admin has a side group called S.C.O.R.E which is the Service Corps of Retired Executives and they are volunteers who offer advice and appropriate encouragement or discouragement to people who are planning small businesses. You get hooked up with a retired bakery owner or whatever and ask all the questions you want for free before forking over the big bucks. More knowledge and information is a GOOD thing.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 09:03 am: Edit

Hey Acegirl, here's something for you to check out, a Cdn trade publication called "Baker's Journal" Although it's based in the east, you'll find alot of stuff pertaining to Western Canada. It also offers correspondance courses. Unlike most restaurant/hospitality mags it doesn't feature crap like Joe Schmo who's the new CEO of Wendy's, or that Whatsis name has moved from Kraft as CFO to Tim Horton's.

If you already have contracts and can source a commercial kitchen to bake in, you're already halfway there. Don't start to invest any major amounts of money until you're sure you like what you're doing and that the business can be part of your lifestyle.

By Bittersweetlady (Bittersweetlady) on Tuesday, February 08, 2005 - 12:09 pm: Edit

Twenty years ago I opened a little pastry shop/tea room with absolutely no experience. I had been doing some cooking and baking at home, selling it to local people and caterers. I had worked (gratis) as a kitchen assistant in several area cooking schools, but I had no professional experience or any business knowledge. It was somewhat of a disaster. I refused to give up, however, and shifted into a wholesale business instead of retail, and although it was bumpy along the way, twenty years later I have a thriving multimillion dollar wholesale dessert business. I would strongly suggest working in some capacity to get some experience before opening your own business. Most health/organic food stores do some in house baking and cooking, and I don't think they would require much experience for someone in a starting position. Or even a larger natural supermarket like Whole Foods, would be a good place to get your feet wet. You really need to see what it's like before you invest a lot of money. If there aren't any of those stores in your area, try to find an entry level kitchen prep position for any kind food business or cafe. Don't give up your dream, but do it smart. Good luck.

By Tamsin (Tamsin) on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 07:05 am: Edit

Last year I set up my business, selling cakes/tarts/slices which were simple but using good products mainly selling to cafes/restuarants and at produce markets. Fortunately I came from a cooking background, working in hotels for 8 years. It's hard working for yourself and being the only person in the business. I started out with the business from home with a small amount of commerical equipment (a commerical oven, a large kitchen aid and alot of bakeware), but then had to move to commerical premises because of the quanitity and so on.
You will find that there are alot of food laws in Canada that you have to go by (the food inspectors I know in certain areas of Alberta are really tough, one the hotel there we use to get checked about twice a month and sometimes even once a week). Selling to cafes can produce some income, however be warned they can also stuff you around (part of the reason why I'm not selling to them now) I found that they can mistreat your products often keeping food for too long, plus you will need a few cafes to make any amount of money as many of them order whenever they run low, not a regular order.
If your product is a good one, it will sell, but just make sure that you charge enough for your labour to create the product. Use quality ingredients and don't cut corners and it should sell well. Also if you do gluten free products they will sell really well more than anything that is organic. Test your recipes, and try making them in larger batches so you can see if they work just as well, when you increase standard small recipes you will find it takes a few goes to get them just right in the large quantities.
Personally I'm happy that I went to set up a business and do not regret it at all, however saying that currently I have returned to working in a hotel and am now only doing one produce market a month. This is because I had to make a decision as to whether let the business get bigger to make a steady reliable income, which meant I would have had to invest alot more money into it, which in the long term I felt it would have not giving me the return for the amount of work I would put into it. However its a business that if at anytime I want to start up again I know how to do it and can easily do.
Good luck with whatever you decide.

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