The Back Home Bakery - first year strategy
Last week marked our official one-year anniversary of being licensed and open to sell. I thought those of you thinking about starting your own bakery or supplementing your income through baking might be interested in hearing about the process a little bit and how we've progressed throughout this year. Both the production schedule and strategy has changed in the last 12 months, but these are basically the different ways that we make income without an actual storefront and while baking out of our 'bakery at home'.
1 - Selling directly to restaurants / retailers. These customers are regular buyers or larger quantities of breads/pastries. They buy everything at a wholesale (reduced) rate, which, although less lucrative for me, creates an outline for me to work my daily baking schedule around. Since they buy the product outright, they choose what they want and when they want it -provided I have enough notice.
2- Retailers providing a space for me. Basically this is a typical arrangement for a bakery selling their product in someone else's store. I bring goods to a retailer who provides shelf space for me to sell my stuff. By viewing what's selling, I decide what to bring each day. The products I bring are based on my regular customers above. If it sells, they make a commision on it, if it doesn't sell, then I'm stuck with it. Of course this isn't an ideal situation, but it's a way to get our product out there, plus it provides a location for people to pick up their special orders. Breads that don't sell here are frozen and sold to other restaurants at a reduced rate for use in sandwiches / panini.
3- Farmer's markets. Just like some of you already do, here we sell directly to customers at our regular rate. We currently sell at two farmer's markets a week. Together with our regular business, this keeps us pretty busy for 6 months of the year. We take advance orders via email and phone and also reserve items for people who can't make it to the farmer's market early.
4- Special cases. Orders for special events or holidays are sold directly to customers at retail price. If it's a small order, it needs to fit into the already existing baking schedule ('Can I get two loaves of rye on Friday?'); If it's a larger order ('Can you make appetizers for 150 people?'), then it'll require adjusting the baking schedule to work around it. Also, it will undoubtedly require more working time in the morning or prep time in the afternoon. Since these are guaranteed sales, however, it's usually worth it.
In addition, as the farmer's market season ends, i'm hoping to create a system similar to a typical food/vegetable co-op subscription so I can continue to sell directily to customers.
Before this bakery began, I decided that the two most important aspects in building this business were quality and consistency - at the expense of speed (and sleep). Most of the work I've been doing myself, with help from my wife and interns from here too. I think we've established a very nice reputation in the area and kept all of our regular customers / wholesalers very happy in the process. Of course this has meant turning down other accounts (especially recently) in order not to expand too quickly and risk a decline in quality.
Anyway, that's a little recap of our strategy in practice, and I hope some of you will find this helpful or at least interesting. I'll be blogging soon about some of the more fun aspects of the last year.