The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Has anybody here jumped from hobby to business?

Kurt's picture
Kurt

Has anybody here jumped from hobby to business?

I've been considering exiting the corporate rat race and opening a sandwich shop.  Not a franchise but a small, artisan-type of place where I can bake bread and have a deli case, maybe pizza, too (maybe wine, too-too).  Probably crazy but it's what I dream about.  I've no business experience nor professional baking experience but I've been gathering data from SBA to learn more about the business side.  My wife's friends' family own a local bakery so I'll be asking to volunteer there very soon.  I've cooked and baked at home for ten years, enjoy it and receive very positive feedback from family (of, course - they have no choice :-) ) and friends.

I'm in no hurry and will never jump without a full awareness and a (business) plan to succeed.  Not interested in getting rich - just (1) being happy pouring my energy into this passion of baking and making people happy via good food (yup, I'll have liability insurance in case I fail in that latter aspect) and (2) supporting my family.

Anybody take this plunge, live to tell about it and willing to share your experiences?

-Kurt

Dave W's picture
Dave W

Thats something ive thought about doing, maybe in the future though, my sons run a deli/restaurant in the UK, they buy there bread from a local specialist baker to sell and use in the restaurant. Problem is people over here seem to not want to spend more than £2 on a focaccia or £1.50p on a decent whole grain loaf !!!!!!!! I sometimes bake something out of the ordiary, and take it in for them just for something different. But if you costed out the time involved and the ingredients it would be a lot more than a couple of quid (as they say over here!).

Good luck if you go ahead with it.Sounds good to me.

Cheers

Dave W

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Kurt, this link will take you to one fellow who did successfully make the leap: http://www.stonehousebread.com/about/

The breads are wonderful, but as they are now priced at six bucks a loaf (and more), well, that's why I decided to get back into baking.

Hope you someday reach that dream.

 

Kurt's picture
Kurt

Ah, Lindy, you've struck me in the heart.  I grew up in Fenton, MI and recall Bob from his Channel 4 (or was it 7) days in Detroit.  Reviewing his site, that's EXACTLY what I'm looking for.

In fact, I was considering moving back to Fenton to open the shop with the help of my two brothers and sister who will be retiring from GM in the next three years.  How great would it be to run a quaint little sandwich shop/bakery with your siblings (I happen to love mine and we all get along perfectly).  Besides the risk, the only downside is leaving wonderful southern California.

-Kurt

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Here's how I got started:

 In the summer of 2006, I participated in the Farmers' Market in my own very small town.  I had to spend about $500 in extra equipment and packaging; most of the equipment I needed I already had.  My bread went over very well at that market, so I decided to participate in the summer of 2007 in a much larger Farmers' Market.  I did have to spend a few thousand dollars to get adequately equipped that time around, but based upon the success I had at the first market, I felt confident that I would succeed at this second market.  I did better than I thought even, paying off all the new equipment and then some.  I've been selling bread at a little wine shop since the market's close, and will start at a local grocery store in the next week or two.  The way I was able to begin was great--little money initially invested, and when I had to invest more, it was a no-brainer.  Might you be able to participate in a Farmers' Market in your town this summer to get your feet wet?  The other advantage to Farmers' Markets is that if you're able to run your business out of your home, the overhead is practically nil.  Good Luck!

SOL

Kurt's picture
Kurt

I bounced that off my wife last night and she seems to think that here, in San Diego, one cannot produce goods for sale from one's residence.  Easy enough to find out, though.  I will look into that (there is a FM in town - several, in fact) and see if there is a market for the bread, at least.

Thanks SOL.

-Kurt

home_mill's picture
home_mill

Kurt,

I live in San Diego (Encinitas actually) and go to the farmers market in Solana Beach every week. There is already a vendor there selling bread and it looks pretty good, although I have never felt a need to buy any since I make my own. In general though I feel there is a lack of good bread in San Diego and think you might be succesful if you find the right niche. I used to buy the whole grain bread at Panera before I started to make my own. I think a good loaf will sell for around 5 bucks. I agree that the farners markets are ideal to get started.

 Joel

Kurt's picture
Kurt

I'm down in Eastlake.  We have a few here that I'll be checking out.  I'm having fun brainstorming.

You'll have to join us for the next meeting of the San Diego 'fresh loafers'.  Four of met in December and we'll probably try to hook up again soon.

 

-Kurt

mcs's picture
mcs

Kurt,

I was a home baker that became a 'professional' baker, working for a local bakery for a couple of years, then had a teaching career, now in my midlife crisis, I'm beginning a bakery (I told my wife, 'I thought I'm supposed to get a sportscar or something with my midlife crisis!). Anyway, I'm a couple of months into the process and just made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'll certainly keep you posted if you want, or if you have questions I'd be happy to answer what I can.

I think you're heading in the right direction with wanting to volunteer at your local bakery, however I would suggest that you become an employee rather than a volunteer. It sounds like you have skills and as an employee, you'll have more realistic pressures to foreshadow your own business. As a 'pro' baker, you'll pick up skills you can't learn at home - mixing, kneading, timing... techniques only a veteran can teach you as you work. My local bakery wasn't hiring when I went in for a job, so I told the boss, "I'll tell you what, I'll work the first two weeks for free while I get settled in." His response was, "You don't have to do that, I'll find you a job." I started the following week.

Anyways, that's about it, good luck.

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Kurt's picture
Kurt

...initially on the business side of things.  What is the overhead involved (rent, insurance, equipment, licences/fees, advertising, vendors, accounting, etc.).  Before that are things like a business plan and demographic studies.  Did you 'get lucky' or did you do your 'homework' first insofar as determining a forward looking cash flow statement and marketing study?  So many question - most of which I don't yet know to ask.  Sigh!

As I have yet to talk to that baker, I did not wish to presume he'd have use for an unexperienced wannabe.  In addition, I cannot quit my day job so my first thought would be to volunteer and then try the Farmer's Market approach.  If all goes well and I continue to become aware of and comfortable with the business aspects (and I can support my family, of course), then it would be time to look for a location - either here in San Diego or back 'home' in Michigan.

Thank you for offering to be a sounding board.  I think you can bet on hearing from me :-)

-Kurt

mcs's picture
mcs

I'll try to answer your questions as they came...As I am just getting going, I expect my answers will change quite a bit over the next year,  but anyway...  As rent in the ski town I live near is outrageous (for Montana anyway), I ended up setting the bakery in the lower level of my house.  Rent ranges from $1.50-$3.00/sf for a place with a decent location.  Keep in mind, this doesn't include the remodeling necessary to make it a bakery.  I figured I'd need 1000sf.  Insurance is in the $1500 per year range, equipment is running in the $30,000 range, licensing only costs a couple of hundred here, but the work to get it done is worse than the remodeling I'm doing.  Advertising is just word of mouth right now since my licensing hasn't come through, and since it's a small operation, I'm doing the accounting.  Fortunately, even this town has a restaurant supplier, so I can get most of my materials pretty cheap.  I didn't do a marketing study, and I'll let you know in two years if I got lucky or not.  I did do a cost analysis before I started to see the maximum I would be able to pay for rent/utilities & such, based on how much I wanted to charge for products and work, and I determined I'd go the slow route and try wholesale and retail ala farmers co-op out of my place.  Of course home based businesses have their own plusses and minuses, but that's another story.

I understand about not quitting the day job thing, just a suggestion to think about, because I'm sure you're aware that bakers are like magicians, not always willing to share their secrets to volunteers.  But as they say "You do what you gotta do"

Hope this helps some.

-Mark 

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Kurt's picture
Kurt

Mark, I sent you an email today and it bounced.  I also sent you one yesterday that did not bounce (unless I just got that bounce today and will get today's email bounce tomorrow).

I was going to ask you to list the equipment you use and what volume of bread you expect to create each day.

Thanks.

-Kurt

mcs's picture
mcs

Kurt,

I sent you an email last night regarding the equipment list, let me know if you don't get it.

-Mark 

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Kurt's picture
Kurt

I got the email from the forum about your recent post but not from you personally.  Yahoo can be slow at times.

 

-Kurt

mcs's picture
mcs

I'll try that again tonight when my wife gets home with her computer. The emails are saved on there. In the meantime, I'll give you a couple of examples to get you going. I'll use some of the equipment that tattooedtonka is referring to since a lot of those are 'industry standards'.

A 20 qt. mixer can mix around 20 lbs of dough, depending on the stiffness, temperature...

A double Vulcan stove can hold 6 full sheet pans (three per section) with loaves on them. With cookies or croissants instead of loaves, a double stack can hold 10 sheet pans.

Each sheet (16x24) pan can hold (10) 1.5 or 2 lb loaf pans (4.5"x8.5") tightly or 8 pans comfortably; or 6 pullman pans (4x16") tightly or 5 pullman's comfortably.

A standard slicer slices 1/2, 9/16, or 5/8" pieces of bread.

Therefore, 1 batch of dough from a 20 qt mixer (let's say 15lbs), can fill 5 pullman pans comfortably or 1 sheet pan, which would produce 125 slices of bread 5/8" thick.

or something like that

since you seem like the extrapolating type, that should get you going

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Kurt's picture
Kurt

Mark,

They showed up last night but I didn't recognize the name.  Have since replied a few times.

Yes, I'm the extrapolating type.  Engineer by training, program manager by trade.  I like lots and lots of numbers :-)

 

-Kurt

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I wanted to open a bakery in the wake of the dot com bomb and 9/11.  Here's a bunch of comments, in no particular order.

 

Legal issues are different in every jurisdiction.  In some you need a license.  In some you may bake for sale in your home, in others you may not.  In some you may unless you have pets in your home.   In some areas, the city controlls everything, in oithers it's the state.  So, check with your local health department or a local food service company.  either should be able to point you in the right direction.  You'll encounter issues, depending on where you are, with regards to health certification, business licensing, business licenses, health inspections, building inspections, zoning and fire safety.  And, you have to jump through all the hoops to be able to start things up.

 

The next set of related hoops is finding a place.  I have rented a building and the over head was a killer.  See if you can rent a kitchen on the days when the owner isn't using it.  Some restaurants are closed some days of the week.  Works really well with some farmers market schedules.  Also, maybe you can go into the kitchen as the regular work is ending and be out before their next day starts.  It never hurts to ask around.  Some areas have business incubator kitchens.  Often either your county extension agents or area health inspectors will know where there are kitchens for rent.  Also, some large churches have certified kitchens that they rent out.  If you are using a time share kitchen there are two things they WILL NOT forgive.  Being in there later than you agreed to be there, and leaving the kitchen dirty.

 

The bigger issues are quality and production.   You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Your product has to be good from day one.  Also, you need to know how to meet production goals in a timely, cost efficient way.  Taking classes is good.  Working in a bakery is better.  Doing both is best.  It will let you know of you want to keep doing this at someone else's expense.

 

 Selling from a farmers market is great, you can start with minimal investment.  You get good exposure, and lots of good feedback.  It's also easier to shut down if you don't really get into it than if you rent a store front.

 

If you want to have your own place with employees and a store front, I can not suggest taking business classes strongly enough.  Food service businesses are the most risky sort of businesses around.  The SBA teaches good classes, one I like is the NXLvl class.

 

Good luck,

Mike

 

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

I am not a pro baker, but I am in the food service industry.  I service the coffee needs of bakeries, deli's, diners, restaurants (upscale, as well as local diners).  And I could offer a bunch of info. on what I have seen work for folks, and unfortunately, what I have seen cause folks to crumble.  You had mentioned you would possibly have a deli case or other items besides just bread.  Even if this was just a temporary thing, it would help.  Especially if you are intending on having any kind of seating area.  I have a couple really good bakery customers who have coffee, and espresso for sale with their pastries and breads.  The profit margins are huge.  It is a very quick item to turn around, not much labor involved.  

As for the equipment, it is true, huge costs.  But you can save thosands if you know how to shop, and where to shop.  I have mentioned to folks here before, I go to alot of business auctions, and highly suggest others try it out.  Ive been to two this week, and you can save big.  A $35,000 Ansil system went for $3800.00. A Hobart 20 quart mixer went for $750., Vulcan Double ovens that sell for about $8000.  went for $2700.  One of my co-workers has a property he is going to open into a bakery/coffee house.  And so far everything in the place has been purchased at auctions.  His goal is to be able to open his doors, debt free, owning all the equipment.  So far, it has worked great he's only missing a couple more things and he will be set.

For equipment you do not want to buy used there are a couple great places to start.  "Big Tray", is one of those places.  They offer free shipping on everything over $250.  and if you are looking at s/s prep tables or a deli case, shipping can get pretty high, so every little bit helps.

Anyways, if you want to chat let me know, you can contact me direct if you would like at bearlittlefalls@twcny.rr.com .

Either way, best of luck..

TT

Kurt's picture
Kurt

I did a brief search on the net for auctions the other day and was overwhelmed.  I have no idea who is reputable and what various pieces of equipment should sell for.  Heck, I don't even know what equipment I would need. 

I can only work backwards from sandwiches and coffee (and, if I move back to MI, apple cider and doughnuts!) and wine and try to determine what is required to offer each.  By profession, I'm a planner and scheduler so this approach is natural ("tell me when you need it and I'll work the schedule backwards").

 Anyway, never a dull moment.

 

Thank you TT.  I'll certainly ping you.

-Kurt

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

I should have been a little more specific when I said auctions.  I mean I actually go to an auction.

Say for example, in central NY,  there are about 2 or 3 restaurants, pubs, pizza joints, bakeries that go out of buisness every couple of months.  Well when they close down, they have a property full of equipment from the kitchen stuff down to the napkin dispensers.  Well all that stuff is usually sold.  Too pay off outstanding debts, or just to get rid of, in case the building is leased and the owner has no place to put it.  I follow my local auctioneers websites to see what auctions are coming up when, and then I go to the auction and see what I can get cheap.

The best way to describe it is to show you a website.  Here go to This.  It is an upcoming auction of a pizza joint for the 28th of Jan.  At sales like these you can do your homework first.  Get yourself a rest. supply catalog.  Most places will send you one for free.  And there you will be able to see what some of the going rates on items are.  From there, you go to one of these auctions and try to get a good deal, unless someone outbids you of course. 

Hobart for instance makes great commercial mixers.  And a 20quart Hobart goes new for over $2400.  I have it set in my mind though, that I will eventually get one for less than $250.  in working condition.  Now the last one I went to the bids got up to $750. like I mentioned earlier.  Oh well, I will wait till another comes around.  I have seen a 60 quart mixer in 3 phase electric go for $80.  As well as a 4 foot round bagel boiler go for $5.00  You just gotta be patient till the right deal comes around.

Anyhow, have a great night.

TT

Bluetoft's picture
Bluetoft

I'm also a hobbiest looking to jump into the professional world of artisan bread baking. The main option i'm looking into right now is renting out someone else's commercial kitchen. I plan on starting up late spring here in Colorado for the Farmer's Market Season. This will get me doing what I want without plunging into debt. Very little overhead... In the meantime I just bake bake bake bake bake! There's lots of learning to be done from books, but nothing has helped me like the hands on experience and experimentation.

Renting out either an inspected church kitchen, vfw kitchen or pizza kitchen in the early hours are all options i'm looking into right now. That way you won't have to try to work out of your own if that's even legal...

Hope that helps.

Eli's picture
Eli

I am interested in how you are doing and what avenues you are currently taking to get your business off the ground. I too, just left the corporate world and am interested in getting into a sandwich/deli/bakery situation here in my area. I already have some customers that I cater for but I need new avenues to pursue.

Any help would be appreciated. Also, I am petrified after going from a six figure income to hocking sandwiches but I am enjoying it so MUCH!

Thanks,

Eli

msbreadbaker's picture
msbreadbaker

Hi Eli,


Was just reading this old thread from 2008 and your post was on it. Can you give an update, how did you fare? You had actually left your job to try your hand at the sandwich business and I am dying to know of the path from then until now if you would be willing to share.


Thanks and hope all went well. Jean P. (VA)

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

I think your idea of working at a friends bakery is the best way to start.  The business side of this is extremely important and where most people who do this fail.  Gain as much experience and ask many questions about operations as possible.  Really suggest that you look into a local technical school that might have a cooking program or a professional cooking school and take a short course to give you some insight of the real world of this business.  Great dream that could turn into a nightmare if you don't approach it with the right set of skills.


Best of luck,


Patricia