The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

tips needed for opening small artisan bakery

shericyng's picture

tips needed for opening small artisan bakery

I have recently moved to a small town badly in need of a good bakery!  I was planning to open something 5-10 years down the road, but figured why wait?!  BUT - I don't know where to start on the business end to get everything ready (gosh... I just want to bake!).  

Anyone have any helpful ideas for starting up?  Any recommendations for a good oven?  I am trying to find one used, but it must have a steam injection capability.  I've got flour, water, salt, and yeast... now what?! :)   Tips, personal experiences, places to start, etc greatly appreciated!  Look forward to bringing my addiction to this carb starved town. 

leekohlbradley's picture

Step one is calculating how many loaves you need to sell a day for it to be worthwhile. Then think how you're going to sell that number. 

Azazello's picture

You could start now by offering your bread to people you get to know in your local community, see what bread they like and what they don't. See how it goes from there.

EDIT  I would imagine that you would need more than one income stream for your business to make it worthwhile - sandwiches, supply local restaurants, sell at multiple outlets and so on. As others say, you will need to sit down and work out whether there is a business there for you, and a vital part of that is assessing likely demand, as well as controlling costs. Pursue your dream, but do it pragmatically. Best of luck.


leekohlbradley's picture

Yeah, a la

richkaimd's picture

Some years ago, on a ride across the country, I stopped by in Fergus Falls at a little bakery for coffee and conversation about the owner's experience.  Look him up at Falls Bakery, Fergus Falls, MN.  See if he'll talk to you.  He did what you want to do.  He started a tiny bakery in a small town.

clazar123's picture

Most businesses-even run by the most passionate people- fail in the first 2 years and usually because there is no plan. You have a great idea and the drive to do it but start the learning curve on how to do it successfully. Be open to networking, as suggested, and take advantage of Technical schools and small business organizations in your area, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce. It could be there USED to be a bakery there-seek out former owners and customers. Talk to the seniors at the local senior center as a great source of info-it cold be a good place to sample out your products,too.

Good Luck! Passion is a great start but knowledge will keep you going.


Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

Perhaps before you commit to a retail rent overhead you could try selling at the farmers market first, while you get to understand the process of commercial artisan baking on a daily basis.

In software development of a new product we have the saying "fail early", which means do the minimum you possibly can to test and see if there's a market and if you have the right product. Then iterate from there, driven by market feedback. Better to find out that your community doesn't care for (e.g.) croissants with a $2000 investment than after a $20000 investment.

If there's a coffee shop in town, you might be able to supply them too. So start with wholesale before committing to retail.

Good luck, keep us informed with how it's going.


PastryPaul's picture

I love small town bakeries, we are now up to 5 of them. Problem is, we opened 11. Three closed, three were sold once we saw that we would not get the sales we wanted/needed. A lot of good ideas have been posted already.

The idea of failing early is a great one. The fact that there is no local bakery could mean a great opportunity, or it could simply mean that there is no need for one. Ex: One of our closed locations passed everything we could think of and seemed like a sure thing. Two months in, with sales in the toilet, we find out that there was a big local baking club. We thought there was no competition, instead we had hundreds of competitors making their own stuff.

If you can get your toes wet without diving right in, do it. Look into in-store possibilities. We have a bakery located inside a butcher shop. We share traffic and checkout staff and kick back a percentage of our sales as rent.

If allowed by local authorities you may be able to bake at a church kitchen  (or similar, I'm looking at a new spot were we would use a seniors' home kitchen during their off hours) and sell via a small counter or even a table within another business.

Don't expect to live on bread sales alone. For each $1000 a month you need in income, you need to sell about 400 baguettes (400X$3 - Cost of Goods), that's about 20 a day just to make $1000. If you need to make $3000, that's 60 baguettes a day, unlikely in a small town. Definitely look into other revenue streams, coffee, deserts, sandwiches, soups, etc. (I know, you will sell more breads than just baguettes, but let's face it, bread is not exactly high-ticket stuff)

Regarding your equipment questions: Right now that is the least of your worries. First you need to figure out if there is an actual market, and if so, is it big enough to support you?


TerraBleu's picture

First get expertise in a kind of bread.

Second, start offering  [looking for opinions] to circles of friends and don't see but observe their gesticulation.
Observing the face of a person when eat your bread contains a lot of information about your bread.

Third, increase the circle of people... looking each time more people that is not related to you personally. Those persons will tell you if your bread is as good as your friends told you.

You must bake the pieces you are sure to sell... is nos very comfortable to fill your kitchen with loaves that you didn't sell and have to find a use for them.

What most people is looking for in a loaf, is the freshness must have to bake daily even some loaves still warm when you sell them.

Parkhomenko Dmytro's picture
Parkhomenko Dmytro

It is important to pick a good software for sales management, for example, eHopper POS software.

gerhard's picture

be my first concern.  Demytro just looked at your profile, one post and it is to hawk software so my guess you have no interest in baking.  Accept my apologies if I misread you.

One thing to remember is that you have a passion for your products and may not see that others do share this passion.  Small town means small market, so unless the town has an above average income there may be a small market for premium products.  Lots of families give little to no thought on bread other than price, so they will always choose the least expensive and even those that appreciate your product may only buy it for special occasions not as a daily staple.  The size of the pool of potential customers would be my largest concern.


Claire65's picture

I've been selling sourdough and other yeast breads, etc at farmers' markets for about 7 years. Looking to take the next step but have many questions. If anyone has a moment to answer questions, pls. let me know. Thanks!