Your cakes win raves from friends. Your pies garner their share of awards. So you're thinking of opening a bakery. Before you risk all to see whether your dream will rise or fall, here are 12 important tips to keep in mind:
Experience counts. A degree in the pastry arts helps, but a lifelong passion for desserts has fueled many bakeries. What you can't skimp on is experience in running a business. Take those small business courses. Join baking organizations like the Retail Bakers of America. Work in a kitchen for a time to understand how to make the most of your ingredients. "It's more than baking a nice cake or making good cookies," warns Tina Casaceli, director of pastry and baking arts at The French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Money matters. Mike Kalupa, a 30-year veteran of the baking industry and owner of Kalupa's Bakery in Tampa, Fla., recommends that before printing your labels, be sure to have enough funds to carry you through 18 to 24 months. And if you need outside funding, hit up the local community banks, not branches of national banking corporations, for a loan. "People making decisions about your loan are not living in your community," he says. "Get to know your banker."
But given the risky nature of the food industry, don't be surprised if you find it hard to secure outside funding. Self-financing is the road often traveled by baking entrepreneurs. Still, don't leave any stone unturned. To finance a new flagship shop in Phoenix, Slade Grove of Wicked Witch Bakery tapped select customers as investors because "they know what we do."