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How do you turn an in home bakery into a real bakery?

I am in 8th grade. I have recently started a cookie cake business, Bella's Custom Cookie Cakes. I am currently baking cakes in my house. In the future, I would like to have a bakery. What steps should I take to grow my business?

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Katharine’s Answer

Hi Bella! One baker to another, I am so excited for you. I recommend that first you google your state's cottage food laws, and see if any apply. Cottage food laws are for those in a state who want to make food and sell it without a license. For example, in googling "Minnesota cottage food laws" I found the following: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/food-feed/cottage-food-law-guidance

It is crucial that you follow your state's cottage food laws as you look to grow your business. Once you do that, think about what kind of venues you might want to sell at. Farmer's markets? Or do you want to do direct business, where people place an order ahead of time? Either works and can help you focus your efforts on a certain kind of customer and really get to know them.

Good luck!!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Bella
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Megan’s Answer

Incredible! First, continue to believe in yourself and believe in the product that you are selling. Think about what makes your product better than others. Second, Get the word out! Start posting on social media, offer to make cookies for parties or birthdays or any sort of celebration. Third, do some basic food costing to really know how much to charge for ingredients and your time. Be kind, but don’t let people bully you for free items - your time and effort is money. Look up state and local laws for selling baked goods out of your home - knowing these rules will be important while building your business.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Bella
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Kim’s Answer

Hi Bella! How exciting! I am not a professional baker, but have enjoyed baking since I was a child. I just want to say that I knew a woman who had a successful pie business long before there was ever such a thing as the internet. She had a bakery kitchen built in her basement, and received licensing for commercial baking from her state. She even delivered the pie orders herself, driving many miles in rural country, and her famous pies were sold in all of the area restaurants. In order to accomplish the deliveries, she had a custom pie rack built into the back of her truck! She also spent many of her nights sleeping in a chair for a few hours here and there, in order to be sure she could accommodate her customers.

Both of the answers given by Megan and Katherine are very important for consideration in starting a custom baking business. I would also add, be very sure that you will love your business, as it will take all of your heart, hard work, and time.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this story was very inspiring! Bella
Thank you comment icon You're welcome, Bella :D I just had to let you know. Her name was Delilah. Kim Schiavone
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Matthew L.’s Answer

Hi Bella.

Great question. I love to cook but can't bake to save my life. It's great that you've found something you love to do.

I would echo everything Katherine said. You have to be careful about food laws and sanitation when you're selling to the public. Farmers markets are a great way to get your product out there and see what people like and what they don't like. Give out free samples to perfect your product(s).

One of the hardest things about doing business the way you are is finding a steady market for your product. Start by selling to your friends. See what they like and test your products on them. See if they would like your cookie cakes for their parties.

Other options might be coffee shops, convenience stores, craft shows, and even hair salons. I'm not entirely clear on what a cookie cake is (I assume it's like a large cookie). If possible, make smaller cookie cakes too (which may actually be called cookies, I suppose). You may make more profit per sale for a full-size cookie cake, but smaller ones are easier for people to buy at coffee shops, gas stations, farmers markets, etc., and they may buy a dozen or two. If you spend a lot of time decorating each one that may not make sense. Experiment to figure out what works. But if your cookie cakes are truly great, smaller sizes a good way to get more cookie cakes into more mouths. Repeat customers are often key in these types of businesses.

See about getting sales to weddings, graduation parties, bridal showers, and regular parties as well. You could try contacting caterers and see if they would add your products to their menus. Craft shows are another good way to get your products out there. Food trucks might be another avenue. A food truck that sells burgers or tacos may be interested in selling your cookie cakes too for desert (again, if they are small enough).

Also make sure you get business cards printed up. You can get them really cheap on-line from places like Vistaprint and Zazzle (like $10). Put one on every cake you sell. You should also think about setting up a website too with great pictures and customer testimonials. Actively seek out 5-start reviews from your customers. Reviews are incredibly important to succeeding in business these days. Always try to under promise and over deliver. Give customers more than they are expecting (free samples, extra product, coupons for next time, etc.).

Learn your business inside and out. Track your business costs. Learn about business and how much your ingredients cost, how much packaging costs, how much your labor is worth, etc. Make sure your pricing is competitive with other similar products and that you are able to make a profit at that price. Use a computer to track all your costs and sales.

If you start to get more business than you can do in your home kitchen, you can rent time/space in a commercial kitchen. One of my daughter's good friends in high school was a great baker. Cupcakes were her thing. She started by selling to her friends and family eventually out grew her small kitchen at home and found a commercial kitchen where she could make more product. She had way more room to work, more ovens, more decorating area, bigger mixers, etc. Plus it was easier to make sure everything was clean and sterile. I think she may have opened her own bakery.

One other thing to remember is that your business reputation is very important. Make sure you provide the highest quality product all the time. If you commit to providing products to a coffee shop, wedding or party, follow through on your commitment. Don't accept jobs that you are not absolutely sure you can complete. If your reputation is that you are unreliable or that your product is inconsistent or tastes bad, your business will not survive. People talk and you want them to be saying good things.

When you are old enough, get a job at real bakery so you can see how it all runs and if you like it. Bakeries are always looking for help, at least in my experience.

Eventually you can absolutely grow your business into a full bakery. And what you learn now about the business and sales will be invaluable.

Good luck!

Matthew L. recommends the following next steps:

1. Learn the rules about making and selling food to the public. Every state, city and county have their own rules. Following health codes is important.
2. Perfect your product by getting it out there and getting lots of public feedback on sizing, flavors, pricing, etc.
3. Find places to sell your product (craft shows, coffee shops, weddings). Always under promise and over deliver. Protect your reputation.
4. Learn about business, track your costs and inventory, and make sure you are able to make your product at a profit, if you want to run it as a business, not a hobby.
5. Slowly grow your business as you learn. Find what you love and make a business out of it.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking the time to help. Bella
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Daniel’s Answer

Hi Bella!

Below are some steps for you if you want to start your own business.

1. You need to register your business with the Secretary of State (SOS). Most businesses register in the state where the business is actually located (HQ Address). At the same time you will need to decide the entity type for your business such as a LLC, Inc, LTD. Make sure you register with a state so your business can operate legally.

2. Come up with a business plan. This would include items such as operations, location, capital/funding, vision/mission statement etc. You can easily get lost in the weeds on this part. Don't get caught up in details that you can figure out later. Think big picture and ask yourself what is your business really trying to accomplish? That is always a good starting point on a business plan!

3. Lastly, come up with different business goals and set dates when you want to accomplish them. Setting a timeline will help you stay on track and know where you are in the process. It is very difficult but don't let yourself get caught up in the whirlwind of the "day to day." Meaning, set yourself and the business up with clear goals and do your best to not let the "daily fires" use up all your time. Inadvertently, you will have to attend to some of these daily fires but make sure you block off time to keep the vison of the company alive.

Out of the many business books I have read, if I could only suggest two books to you, it would be the books below. Hope these thoughts help and good luck on the journey!

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

Read Dream Big by Bob Goff
Read the The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! Bella
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Abby’s Answer

To grow your business, you need more clientele. For me, I work at Wendy’s for now and I get my coworkers and friends to try them whatever I bake. I also get my family and in high school I made a lot of band friends such as my band director and I got him and them to try my pastries. You get more people to want your baking, and you’ll get to where you want to be. From there, you’ll keep growing and so will your business.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Abby! Bella
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Anna’s Answer

Hello Bella!

In Southeastern Minnesota, there are lots of resources. You could email local bakeries, such as Hanisch in Red Wing or even Sweet House bakery in Rochester. Research with actual bakery owners about where you are and where you want to grow. They can tell you of hurdles they have overcome and what it takes to make that move. Another resource in Rochester is called Collider. They provide support to entrepreneurs and start ups. Maybe they can connect you with someone who can give you that help as well:

https://www.collider.mn/

Hennepin Technical College also offers a degree for Bakery and Pastry Entrepreneur.
https://hennepintech.edu/academic-programs/service-and-education/culinary-arts/baking-and-pastry.html

Good luck!
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Elena’s Answer

Hi Bella!
That is so great that you have found a passion so early in life. Baking is very fun and lucrative, a baking business is a great idea. I would advise you though that it is a saturated market. The baking industry is highly competitive and you would need to greatly differentiate yourself to successful. That's not to say that you wouldn't be successful! But it might be more fun to use this passion as a hobby with income than your main source of income. You are still very young and you could always go to Pastry School and work for a very successful baking company as well. Don't let my opinion put you off your dream, I just want to advise you that a lot of people like to bake but not everyone has the foresight and time like you do to plan for your future. I would research business education, cooking education, location research, and market analysis to really prepare yourself for the realities of starting your own business.
Supportively,
Ela

Elena recommends the following next steps:

Continue your mini business, its fun and educational!
Research the necessities of successful businesses in the baking industry.
Coordinate with friends who want to work with you now, and in the future.
Divide the educational requirements to fully run your own business between these friends.
Work together with different roles in the company and go for your dream!
Thank you comment icon Elena, thank you! Bella
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Sergio Adrian’s Answer

You must identify your potential customers and likewise give direction to the products that have the most sales rotation, so you can maximize sales. They must include innovative and rare products in your country of origin. I recommend you look for Colombian potres for your menu so you can expand it.
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