The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

From Pleasure to Business -- or, From Pleasure to a Different Kind of Pleasure (I hope)

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Elagins's picture
Elagins

From Pleasure to Business -- or, From Pleasure to a Different Kind of Pleasure (I hope)

I've gotten some negative feedback on my visibility here on TFL as someone with an economic interest in bread baking, and it's been suggested that instead of flying my flag all over the place, that I focus on keeping a blog that details my hopes, expectations, worries, goals -- all the stuff that goes into turning a hobby into a business.

It's hard wearing two hats. On the one hand, I've been baking bread for a long time and have had both great loaves and doorstops come out of my oven. Engaging with flour, water, yeast (wild or commercial) and salt -- plus heat and maybe steam -- has been, and continues to be a source of great pleasure and challenge for me. In fact, it was the frustration I continually felt around getting reasonably priced bakers' flours, yeast, and other ingredients -- as well as decent equipment -- that motivated me to start my e-biz, so that I could provide a place for other hobbyist bread bakers, like myself, to find the things they need without having to go into their 401ks to do it.

I've been playing with the idea for years, decided earlier this year that 2009 would be my launch year, and then kept procrastinating out of pure anxiety.

Finally, in mid-August, I posted here saying that I had flours and baking stones for sale. I did it as a way of forcing myself to move forward, because I knew that if I didn't do it that way -- if I didn't make promises I had to keep -- it would never happen.

So the past month has been a mad game of catch-up. I had my suppliers all lined up before that first post, and that was really pretty much the only thing I had. Didn't have a website; had no idea how to put one together; took me a week or so of trying out half a dozen different web design programs and intensive browse through 4 or 5 books on web design and html to find the right tools. My website came together during the course of an 80-hour week, filled with trial and error, learning htmal (or at least enough to get things going) from scratch; learning about and contracting with a web hosting service. Finding space where I could set up shop. Getting all of the necessary licenses, permits and tax matters in place. Developing labels, catalog entries, packaging, finding an affordable shipper, legal-for-trade scale, and on and on. And, of course, paying for all of it.

Fortunately for me, I have a great spouse and some very good friends, both old and new, who have been incredibly supportive and who have offered their expertise. Even with their help, though, there's still so much to do. Now that the website is up and running and orders are starting to come in, I'm discovering additional layers of things that need to be taken care of -- stuff that I never knew existed, like search engine optimization and payment systems. The website, I've discovered is much less an end than it is a beginning of a whole set of processes I never imagined existed.

It's like having a new child, with the obvious difference that newborns come with a certain amount of immune system strength already programmed in and a ready-made support system. nybakers was born with only my hopes and aspirations to nourish it, and an ongoing commitment to myself and those who believe in me to make it happen.

It makes one feel very vulnerable ... throwing one's doors open and saying to the world, "here I am," and hoping that someone -- anyone -- else cares, and maybe comes in, looks around and buys something, as much to show that they're paying attention and that they support my larger goals as because they need it. But that kind of good will doesn't last, and the 300, 400, 500 hits a day of the early days dwindle down to 15, 20, maybe 40 or 50 on a good day.

And so there's anxiety, and maybe I let my anxiety show by waving too big a flag and talking too loudly, because I'm afraid that nobody cares. And if that's what I'm doing, and that's pushing people away, then it's clearly the wrong thing to do. I believe in what I'm doing, and believe there's a real need out in our world for the things I offer -- which are the things I use myself in my own baking.

It just feels very lonely out here, sometimes.

More to come.

Comments

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Stan, and I doubt that I can offer much useful advice.  Every now and then I'll see one of your posts that makes me wince, but then I ask myself what I might be doing if I were in your shoes.  That usually makes me decide to keep my mouth shut.


One of the reasons that I abandoned a direct-sales business in fairly short order (besides the fact that I'm just not cut out to be a salesman) was the uneasiness of wondering if my friends and family (which is where one is advised to start) weren't just a little bit leery when they saw me coming.  "Is this Paul my family member/friend, or is it the salesman version?"  I didn't find a way to balance those two conflicting personas (that's how I saw it) to my satisfaction, so I ditched the sales guy and went back to being just me, myself.  


Does that apply to your situation?  Perhaps.  Or maybe it does in the eyes of those who have given you negative feedback.  I can't tell from here.


I wish you well as you work through all of the issues that confront a new business and I hope you are able to pursue your business without being consumed by it.  It's a gutsy move to start something from nothing and build it into a thriving enterprise.  The rewards can be great, but so are the risks.  Somewhere down the road I expect you'll look back and be grateful that you didn't know all of the roadblocks you'd run into along the way.


Paul

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Paul, you've been a steadfast supporter all along, and I really appreciate that. I think it's important to make clear that I really believe in what I'm doing, i.e., offering our community an alternative source for the ingredients none of us can find at retail and have to pay (usually) exorbitant prices for via the Internet.

That being said, the challenge for me is finding the balance. I want people to know I'm here, to see what I'm offering, to help me grow so I can offer even more of what we all talk about in forums like these.

The downside, as you so accurately note, is the danger of becoming Mr. Hyde when all I really want to do is be helpful Dr. Jekyll. It's gonna be an interesting ride, and I appreciate your continuing interest.

aoleial's picture
aoleial

One of the reasons that I abandoned a direct-sales business in fairly short order (besides the fact that I'm just not cut out to be a salesman) was the uneasiness of wondering if my friends and family (which is where one is advised to start) weren't just a little bit leery when they saw me coming.


Thanks


_______


bet365

Elagins's picture
Elagins

is let the world know i'm out here and what i offer, without (hopefully) making anyone feel like i'm shoving it down their throats. it's the better mousetrap idea -- or in this case, the same King Arthur and Giusto's and Bob's Red Mill mousetrap at better terms. i'm hoping that the world will beat a path to my door. if not, my business's corpse will join the millions of others that have failed and i'll be a bit poorer, wiser, and loaded with great flours and ingredients!

Stan

ddarathorn's picture
ddarathorn

I'm really happy about your online store. I was just looking at your product list today and am planning to order in the near future. My husband and I have set up businesses in the past ( one was a wholesale artisan bread bakery) and there were times it all seemed overwhelming but things tend to sort themselves out. I don't understand why anyone should object to finding out about available products that are discussed on a daily basis here on TFL.  I'm looking forward to ordering from you. Just make sure you get my order straight!!!


Best of luck,


Diane

Elagins's picture
Elagins

And thanks so much for the show of support. Clearly, you know firsthand how important that kind of boost can be in the early days. I look forward to helping you get what you need.

Stan

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

of not being pushy or offensive and I appreciate knowing of an alternative source. I also know that your good business practices will be reflected here at TFL, so why would you offer anything else? You've been a contributing member for a while, not someone who just barged in and starting hawking goods. Keep it at this level and I 'm sure you and we will all benefit.


Betty

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Your kind words mean a lot to me.

Stan

nancy58's picture
nancy58

Elagins, I have read your blogs and did not see your store website listed anywhere. I would be interested in looking through your store offerings. I think you can leave me a message though this site (on the upper left by the login, if you are able to post directly, even better. Thanks

Elagins's picture
Elagins

www.nybakers.com ...enjoy!

Stan

mattie405's picture
mattie405

Stan,


    As I told you, I was so excited to read about your venture here on TFL. I live in the south and our flours are pretty limited. I could order from Bakers Catalog but to tell the truth while their products are very high quality I can't really afford them. You have come to my rescue with a less costly, yet high quality alternative and I am very thankful for that. I placed my first order with you and it arrived in perfect condition in a few days, it was packed very well and I could tell from the shape of the box it had been well tossed around in transit, had my flour not been packed so well inside the box I would have lost at least half of it, so thank you for the attention to packing detail. My flour was very fresh and my pizza from it has been so far above what I have been able to make I am amazed. I will definitely be ordering from you again shortly. Keep up the good work and they will come, I wish you much success and longevity in your business. Thanks for being there for us little guys.  Mattie

Elagins's picture
Elagins

i decided to start this business. As a baker myself, I was frustrated for too long with my inability to get the flours and other things I wanted at a cost that didn't make me feel like I was being taken advantage of. I'm so glad I can be of help ... this is really what it's all about.

Stan
www.nybakers.com

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Stan: I used to be a regular here but gave up baking for awhile and haven't read the blog for many months. My love of baking finally lured me back and am now ready to start in again this fall and winter. I am excited to see your source for good products - all things I can't find here in my city. The shipping seems pretty reasonable too. I have bookmarked your site and will be ordering from you soon.


 


Trish


Omaha, NE

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Trish, thank you so much!

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Betty

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Stan, I did not witness the negative feedback you've had, I don't read every single thread, as it would be impossible for me to do so.


 


But, as you know, I ordered from your site and was more than pleased - intend to order again in the future. Of course, I am just a home baker and my budget is insignificant... :-)


but I wanted to say that you've never came across as pushy, or self-serving.  I imagine it is not easy to launch a business and keep it going.  More power to you!


 


 

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Sally, thank you so much!