The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help! I need to get my feet wet REAL fast...

lamariem's picture

Help! I need to get my feet wet REAL fast...

Hello all! First of all, please excuse any type-os or misspellings as I do not have my spellchecker option available to me . :)I need some advice about a becoming a 'pro' straight from being a novice home baker.

Some background: I have been a barista for 5 years and coffee is my "thing" but I do home baking of cakes, cupcakes, pastries, etc. I recently began making breads at home (pita, baguettes, rolls...) with better than average success. I am about to become a partner at my small-town coffee shoppe (in July)-- in fact, I will be owner/operator with 2 silent partners (the current owners). I mentioned adding baked goods (I was thinking muffins, scones, etc.) to the menu. The City caught wind of this plan and mentioned ot me that they have been trying to lure a bakery to town for some time and there is apparently a large sum of grant money available for whoever wants to bring in this bakery. I have the space for expansion and the drive to succeed but what I lack is the experience with commercial baking.

Any tips on things like equipment needs (I have a fairly good idea on this, but maybe something I had not thought of), how to read those crazy Bread Formulas, how to practice for this (I have some equipment at home that I can practice with)... Any advice or resources would be so helpful to me. I essentially have 4 months to get really good at this. I have thought of hiring someone with experience but am worried about the financial end of that....

nbicomputers's picture

you are asking to learn a lot in 4 monts
forgot to ask where you.

Here are some other things you should be thinking about

do you have a floor plain.
have you decided on a product line
do you want to do scrach baking
if so machine formed or hand work
sheaters dough formers paners depaners pot and tray washers machines
or rollings pins work benchs (wood or stanless) and a 3 compartment code sink
or go with frozen ready to bake product
or just thaw, finish, and serve.
storage space,  frezzers referation dry storage
mixers vertical or stationary 
oven large deck or rotating shelf or single or mult rack.
steam injected or dry
fermantation control or will you be able to adjust for shop condations
what is the area like
what compatition do you have withIn walking and driving distance.

you have a lot of questions to ask your self.

I don't mean to scare you off but i would not be fair to you if i just said do it.
you are talking about your money and your partners as well
it is better to do it right and be sucsessful than run in blind and lose it all.

maybe by now you have relized by the questions i am asking you to ask your self that i have done this before (many times)
their is much more to baking as a business than playng with dough (allthough that is a big part of it) making a great product comes with skil.  but when starting from the ground up you need to plain carfully.

do you think that on your own you will be able to plan all the things i asked about and still have the time to aquire the skills of a baker. 
if you can realy answer yes to that then go for it. 
If not hire some help now before you are sorry later.

feel free to call me and i will help you as much as i can 
as all the other people here will as well.

SORRY Floyd In know you are watching and this is the last nail in the coffen before you ban me this but this poster sounds like there is real money at stake and i though he should the facts befor he gets in over his hesd. i may get banned but at least i will sleep good at night knowing that this is right.   ill edit this after i know you have seen this (if im still here that is)

lamariem's picture


Thank you. I really do appreciate your reply. This is exactly what I was looking for.

I am in a college town in Wisconsin. During the school year our population is around 15,000 but in the summer it is 1,400. Oddly enough, the coffee shop is busier in the summer because the college kids do not spend money. :)

The coffee shop is profitable and I do not want it to support the bakery financially. There is space in the buliding where the shop currently is to add on... about 300 sq. feet is my very rough estimate. I have the building floor plan but have to work with the landlord about the set-up for the addition. He has been more than helpful in the past though.  The only "bakery" within walking distance is the grocery store as the other bakery in town closed 1 year ago (I intend to find out exaclty why but my guess is that they were uncooperative with local businesses and they made mostly donuts). Right now the coffee shop is bringing in baked goods from a large bakery 45 minutes away and a homebased bakery that does not advertise or do retail baking. I am working on replacing their products slowly-- if I could only get my muffins to crumble just right....

My mom knows a bakery across the state that just closed and is selling all of thier equipment. I am in contact with that owner already and have her equipment list. I will want to purchase a few things outside of her list but her prices, based on my comparisons online, are at a great discount. She does not have a sheeter (which I know I want) and her mixer is small and her proofer is broken. I think I want to do scratch baking with a mixer-- because this is all I know. A bakery about 30 minutes from here does baking from frozen and is successful but I am a little too snobby for that.:)

I have also considered hiring someone who is more knowledgable. There is a bakery and pastry arts program at a local college and I have thought of hiring a new graduate from that program. If I can write some extra money into my grant proposal-- that will make that decision easier. Though is may be the right move since my bakery will NOT be profitable if I have no idea what in the hell I am doing. :)

I know that this is an artisan and amateur site and I have been using it for my home baking recipes and LOVE the non-threatening atmosphere here. I just didn't know where else to ask my question other than the advanced forum and I got just the answer I was looking for. Thank you again.

pmccool's picture


Some while back, another poster named kevroy gave his account of opening a bakery

Dunno whether it will make you laugh or cry.

Best of luck with your venture.


nbicomputers's picture

i had a longer post but it got lost so this one will be short

i am a pro baker now retired for many years and have setup many shops

Now i work as an indpedent consultant and setting up bakeries and fixing problems in bakeries is what i get paid for

if you are going to open a full line bakery (breads sweet dough pasteries, cakes, and cookies you are going to be in way over your head with out professional help.

consider taking on a consultant such as myself just to get started.

i will give you a little help in shop design if you can get me your floor plan and equipment list. i will look and see what is missing and make some recomendations.

trust me when it comes to comerical shop production (smaLL SHOP)  you will knead (pun indended) even more than the expert skills of a seasond jorneyman baker  you just can't get that in 4 months.  and a student just out of baking school will just not have the skills.

so please before you lose your shirt---(god knows i have seen that happen to many times) spend the money and hire an consultant..... remember its not like your getting married to the guy he as i would be there only to get things set up and going

everytime i have done this i am uasuly gone after the shop is open and running 3 weeks or so after the doors and open.

but please hire a consultant.

lets take this off line  contact me by phone or other means.


so start the right way


Pro Baker for over 25 years-----Ret

LindyD's picture

Since you said you want to learn how to read those "crazy bread formulas," the first thing you should do is read the preface to Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman. If that doesn't change your mind about becoming a good baker of artisan breads, then read the entire book. There are more basic books available, but Mr. Hamelman is the director of the Bakery and Education Center, King Arthur Flours and commercial amounts are included in his recipes.

Best of luck in your endeavor. I hope it is a great success and brings you many rewards.


lamariem's picture

Thank you. I looked at the book on Amazon and it looks like one I'd want on my bookshelf anyway. :)

mcs's picture

First off, I'd go through the items that Norm suggested above; and REALLY go through them. Assuming that you want to continue...

I guess what I would suggest, is to mostly specialize in one area, rather than try to do too much initially. In my view, it's better to be known as the 'best place for croissants' than the place where 'the bread is OK'. Since you're a barista, you've got the coffee thing wired. What goes best with coffee? Pastries. In one month of hardcore croissant making, you can become more experienced than someone who comes straight from culinary school who gets a smattering of a million different skills. Pastries are more predictable (in my opinion) than breads, and you can add the breads as you become more established. Of course you'll need a pastry sheeter (not a pizza sheeter), and if you want to know how to use it, I'll make a video tutorial for you using mine.

In the meantime, if you're the visual type, I would suggest some DVDs by Ciril Hitz


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Having started a baker and having had to close it a year later, I'll have some jaundiced thoughts.


Being in an area with such a large swing in populatiopn is a major problem. You have to put enough money in the bank during the busy season to tide you over the quiet times.


A bakery is a low margin, high effort business that exposes you to high finacial risk.


There is a reason that the other bakery is closing and selling their equipment. You could wind up being the next person to sell that equipment.


In addition to talking to consultants, which I didn't do and should have, I have three suggestions. Take a class from the SBA on running a small business. The NXLevel class is excellent.


Go work in a bakery for a few months. You'll learn how a bakery works, you'll learn production techniques, and most important you'll learn if you want to run a bakery. If you don't have time to do this, I will suggest that you don't have the time to open a bakery either.


Finally, join a profesional organization. The Bread Baker's Guild of America is an incredible resource and they have a professional email list that is amazing.


Good luck,



Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

I cannot imagine being successful without the aid and direct guidance of a consultant. This goes for any industry, anywhere. Retired people in just about every profession imaginable are ready to jump in and make themselves useful. Your next investment in time should be finding THAT person, and that person should have just as much interest in the success of your shop as you do. He or she should be there in person to help layout your equipment for the most efficient flow, and then be willing to commit to at least 4-6 months of building recipes and production schedules. You can't believe how fast 6 months goes by until you look back...

Mark's suggestion of specializing in one thing (or just a few things) is the most sound advise you will get from your questions. Absolutely, and without any doubt, you need a unique item or two that will get people to go out of their way to visit your shop. You have to get them in the store. Once in, they will also usually buy more than what they came for.

4 months? I just dunno... I'd say that's just about enough time to develop a plan of attack and submit a proposal for the grant. The actual developmet of the baking side of the business will take a minimum of one year, and since your economy swings so wildly, it might take more like 2 or 3 yearly cycles to know for sure if you can make it. I wish you all the best.. : )

- Keith

Janknitz's picture

Perhaps the grant can cover the cost of bringing in a consultant or professional baker to get you started. 

monzy's picture

I'll follow Keith and say listen to Mark's advice, simplify, excel and focus on one thing at at time. Take small bites.

You don't really know what the customer's needs are yet, do you? What impression do you intend to give them? You may not necessarily open a full fledged bakery but a place that sells good baked goods on top of some you bake in-house. There are options.

If you don't have a vision then, as Norm is suggesting hiring a consultant will give you momentum. But I'm guessing you'll still want to define your future rather than react to it.

I don't know how close you are to these folks: 

They seem to have a good program. You may want to poke your toes in at least to find out how deep the water is.

Good luck,


farina22's picture

I agree with Mark, Keith. I am a chef & restaurant consultant--I don't do commercial bakeries--but I'm in agreement with the bakery consultant that you need an experienced start-up person. I would strongly recommend that you do NOT use a recent Baking & Pastry grad. They are babies in terms of experience and skill and still have a lot of learning to do. I would also suggest that you look at courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute. It will give you the opportunity to work with commercial equipment, scaling formulas, etc. You'll also be able to get many questions answered, as well as contacts for the right kind of consultant for your needs.

I think it would be a good idea to start small. Rather than investing in a lot of expensive equipment, perhaps you can start with a couple of easy items, like muffins and scones, to see what the market is like. Oh yeah, and take some deep breaths!



sicilianbaker's picture

they sell tubs of mixed muffin batter, they are actually great quality, not the best best but you can always tweak a recipe later, it'll save on labor costs and time.

they look gorgeous, we use them at the store and the bakery we get our goods from uses them also.

they also have David's Gourmet Cookies that are frozen dough, all you have to do is bake them. these are time savers but you should focus on specific items and do them great.

what kind of demographic are your customers? wealthy area , people expect better quality stuff. I make 3oz choc. chip cookies at home and they are amazing.

I'm in NYC so I'm kind of fortunate to have alot of good stores around but the poster who said about the reputation of a bakery is what matters is right, their are alot of bakerys here but there is only one I goto. the other ones just have products that they did in the 70s.

breads are lower profit margin goods so how many can you obviously make for your storefront that will sell, 8 loaves?

specialize in a few items and do them great then branch out.