Business and Operations
The Final Proof: The Business of Baking
From amateur to professional: Jane Dummer talks with home bakers who took the entrepreneurial leap
By Jane Dummer
There are a number of motivators to go into your own business. From offering a better solution to discovering a passion while traveling, the entrepreneurial journey has become a sexy endeavour. However, it takes a plan, vision and hard work to create a profitable business from scratch.
Like many other businesses, the mistakes made during the first two years can mean the difference between success and failure. It’s helpful to source mentors and advisors with food experience. Too often I see start-ups working with mentors who lack food know-how and that can limit progress. Skills like general finance and human resources are transferable; however unique factors specific to the industry including regulatory requirements are necessary to understand fully from the start.
As a business owner myself, I recommend that start-ups ask themselves “Is it a hobby or a business?” Stephen Goldberg, Owner of Nates Bagels & Gluten Free Foods in Concord, Ontario didn’t start out in the baking or food industry but at the age of 28 decided he was going to be a “great chef”. Hard work, culinary courses and getting a few breaks along the way including a spot on Cook Like A Chef, Goldberg agrees, “When we started, a wise businessman said, ‘If you’re not earning a living it’s really a hobby.’ Ouch, hurts but it is true. My advice to anyone starting out is to stick with it. It’s not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. I worked 18 to 20 hour days for five years straight when we opened. As of 2017, in our 6th year of business, we’ve already been graced with three awards including best bakery in Toronto, and best bagel (and it’s gluten-free) in Toronto.”
Kelly Kimel, chief chocolate officer of Moroco Chocolat in Toronto traveled to Paris, France and fell in love with chocolate. “The hot chocolate was not the North American style, but rich, velvety chocolate in a cup served with a side of whipped cream. I was hooked!” Today, Kimel a self-taught, award winning baker currently employs seven people. Her biggest accomplishment by far is winning the World Chocolate Awards last fall. Kimel’s advice for going into business, “You have to really love what you do as it will be your life. After all these years I still love chocolate and all the possibilities that can be created with it!”
The digital age has changed how entrepreneurs can accelerate their business. For the baking industry, the social media platform Instagram has been an economical game changer. Instagram has business profiles, complete with a contact call-to-action, allowing users to call, email or text the business. Along with the contact option, business profiles also have access to user analytics. Eric Forbes, winner of the Jake the Baker Award 2017, professional baker, and co-owner of Kimberley City Bakery in British Columbia explains how traditional and social media marketing has made a pivotal step in their business. “Soon after we started the bakery, there was an April Fool’s Joke that went viral. We had the newspaper, radio station, and even the police in on it, and discovered how far of a reach a story like this could have. It gave us new contacts, and helped us learn to use social media to enhance and connect with locals and the world beyond.”
Forbes recommends having a plan going in. “Have a clear vision of where you want to go, and how you intend to get there. That doesn’t mean it can’t change. We found that switching to 100 per cent scratch baking helped people to re-experience the bakery. People came back for the health benefits and for the superior taste of scratch baking. Scratch baking is actually less expensive, which helps us to keep the costs competitive, and sets us apart in the market as a destination bakery. We have customers from Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Chicago, Boston, and even New York.”
Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America. www.janedummer.com