Advice for starting... bread business?

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hegesippe
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Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by hegesippe »

Hello,

I am looking for advice for how to make to make the best use of my skills as a baker. I have too much ideas in my minds and I need some outside opinions.

Long term goal
Semi-ERE. I wan't to live frugally but keep baking bread 4 to 5 days a week because I enjoy it. In that way, I can earn some money to pay food, insurance, rent, etc..

What I want
There are many ways to bake bread. I only enjoy it when I work with good flour, fire oven, wood materials. I don't wan't to be too bothered with administration papers, marketing and bullshit in general.

How to achieve it?
The different ways I can think of:
  • Find a good artisanal bakery and work there.
    Cons: Very hard to find, not so stable in the long term. I won't be able to do everything I want.
  • Find an investor (already did) and make the bakery business myself.
    Cons: Lot of useless work and stress (administration, rentability, loans, marketing, working with other people)
  • Same as above, but have a partner that likes to do the boring stuff and evil stuff (marketing).
    Cons: Less flexible, the partner might make decisions based on money and not quality.
  • Have a deal to produce bread for some Food Coop or already existing business. So that I don't have any marketing to do and have help with administration.
    Cons: Hard to find and they have to want to invest.
  • Go to the bank and borrow the money myself
    Cons: Ooooutch.
  • Go in the wood or garden or garage, buy 1000$ worth of bricks to build awesome fire oven, sell bread for locals with money or trade.
    Cons: Illegal, no permits, risks of denunciation.
Any opinions, others ideas, inspirations, employment hack for me?
Mobile bakery? Any loopholes?

UK-with-kids
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by UK-with-kids »

I have a friend who started a bread business. She did it in her house using a domestic oven. She makes sourdough loaves and sells them in her local area. It's an affluent area so it has been possible to charge a premium - this is the reason for doing it at home, as premises are prohibitively expensive in such a neighbourhood. There isn't really any marketing, just a mailing list which has been built up through word of mouth. She should have automated the ordering and payment system in some way but she hasn't, everyone just collects the bread and pays her in cash, which must be very inconvenient as she's also trying to bake. At the start she used to deliver all the bread on a bicycle, but that's quite a commitment in itself so now people have to come to her house and collect. I guess the neighbours could complain about that as you're not really meant to run that kind of business from home.

I wouldn't call it semi-ERE though, it's incredibly hard work to make enough loaves to earn a living. I think she probably has a paid off house so it must be just living expenses that she's trying to cover. On the plus side, you can just tell all your customers when you're taking some time off and you don't have to get anyone's permission, though you risk them going elsewhere.

I don't understand why you think you need investment to start this kind of business? What would you be looking to spend the money on?

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Alphaville
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Alphaville »

hegesippe wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 5:17 am
Cons:
Your instincts are likely correct, e.g. I have no doubt you have cause to hate paperwork; but your decision-making system looks pretty bad. With the "pros" followed by intolerable "cons" it reads like you're setting yourself up to be doomed no matter what path you take. Reminds me of this poem:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/ ... 22692abdbc

And that's a great poem, but no way to live.

Also you're defining fixed outcomes without possibility of optimization through iteration, testing, experimentation, modification, evolution, refinement etc. It's a bunch of Platonizing about the future. You're not leaving room for the unknown, both good and bad.

I think you need a smaller, more empirical approach to reality rather than choosing between predefined outcomes. Observe, hypothesize, test, observe again, etc. Keep yourself flexible, learn by doing and observation as well as theory, but don't platonize by thinking that theory is all or that you already know everything.

I'd work on that end of things before making an actual decision. I.e. your decision-making internal software needs upgrades. How do you bake yourself a good "decision loaf"?

I'd suggest maybe...
-Kahneman, "Thinking, Fast and Slow"
-Nassim Taleb, "Fooled by Randomness"
-Dan & Chip Heath, "Decisive"

Also while the idea of marketing may be tedious for you, framing marketing as "evil" will not do you any favors. Imagine if you approached baking with a "nutrition is good, taste and appearance are evil" attitude. What would the resulting bread be like?

Read maybe some Seth Godin to put you in a positive frame of mind about what marketing is or can be when done right.

And everyone needs partners, one way or another. Whether it's a wheat farmer, or wild yeasts, or a decent accountant, or the legal framework that defines a market, things beyond you must be part of your process in a world of dependent origination--without "them" there is no "you" and viceversa.

TL;DR: learn a better way to make decisions before thinking of starting a business, because running a business is all about decision-making. And also learn more about business, both through study and practice.

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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by jacob »

Read the e-Myth (e is for entrepreneur, not electronic). The short summary is that every business needs a combination of vision, technical skill, and management skills. I'll add that I also think it needs sales skills. The point is that most people only bring one or two of those skills to the table and that this is why businesses don't succeed.

IIRC, the suggestion was to identify the missing links and partner up with someone to supply those. This, of course, comes with its own can of worms. However, a lot of success stories are due to a pair of complementing people one of which is usually less well known (Jobs and Wozniak). It's seldom that one person has it all (Musk).

Also, if you demonstrate great vision and technical skills, it's quite conceivable that someone with better management and sales skills will simply take your ideas and run with them (Tesla vs Edison).

From personal experience, the desired combination or weighing of those skills change as the business gets more mature and/or bigger. E.g. you might start up with a great vision and the technical skills to implement it but a few years down the line, management and sales will take over and that'll be all you're doing.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Dream of Freedom »

Maybe a farmer's market? They already have foot traffic so your marketing could be as simple as a single sign. I think they have fees but those would be less than leasing a place. You could always switch to your own place if there is enough demand or hand out price list and phone number to costumers to sell from home.

As for the oven you should talk to the people who work for the city about that.

How much do your other artisan bakers charge for the products you want to make? What is the cost to make your products?

You should start with only a few products but keep in mind that there may be room to expand your offerings. For instance you might start with french bread and baguettes to take home then add coffee and croissants that people could eat while shopping. Maybe have a few spreads that go on some bread.
Last edited by Dream of Freedom on Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

hegesippe
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by hegesippe »

Thanks for all of your replies.

I actually have a business plan in the work and I have a pretty good idea of how to start the business (technical, quality, marketing, start small, have a niche, few product at the start, web sales, social media). I have already a partnership with a miller, I have met my investisor and it is going well, I have a meeting soon with a potential partner interested in the project.

I just had a moment before going too deep in it. Is it the only way? Can we think of business in a more sane way, less complicated, especially for bread baking, because is so low-tech, and has been done more or less the same way for 3000 years. To date, there is no recent technological advancement that makes it tastes or is nutritiously better. On the contrary, it often makes it worse.

It is because I am studying the business and studying marketing that I had a big "Century of the Self, Adam Curtis" vibe from it. Exploiting the psychological for turning people into your product. Sure it work great, but I don't feel so good doing it.

But yeah, suck it up, right? This is how business works.
I am a bit too poetic about this stuff.

Thanks for all of your suggestions, I really appreciate it, I will check out the books!
@Alphaville Very valuable insight, thx!

UK-with-kids
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by UK-with-kids »

I don't agree with most of the other advice in this topic or your conclusions. If you just want to bake bread and avoid the bullshit as you mention in your first post, why not start the same business as my friend, but with maybe some slightly smarter low effort marketing and a CRM? I still don't understand why you need an investor to bake bread. If you just start baking and you get customers (e.g. at an event as DoF suggested) then you have a business... If your business plan doesn't work out because people don't want to buy your bread, then you don't have a business. Better not waste too much time and effort finding that out (also known as failing fast).

In the back of my mind I'm thinking of somebody else I know who isn't a planner. She just started making something and found it sold on Etsy and then at events. So she put up a website, did some networking, and before you know she has a fast growing business selling both online and into retail outlets. Only at that point did she start bringing in others with the skills she lacked and did she seek investment. Having said all that, she now doesn't have time to make the product any more because she's too busy running the business. But she's made more money than my baker friend. Horses for courses.

Seems to me that what you want (as described in your first post) doesn't match your current approach.

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Alphaville
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Alphaville »

hegesippe wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:48 am

It is because I am studying the business and studying marketing that I had a big "Century of the Self, Adam Curtis" vibe from it. Exploiting the psychological for turning people into your product. Sure it work great, but I don't feel so good doing it.

But yeah, suck it up, right? This is how business works.
I am a bit too poetic about this stuff.
Oh, well, business school is full of bullshit. Don't listen to those people ha ha ha.

I did a bit of business school back in the day. I quit after a semester because the only value they held was money. But money is not a value. Society rewards sociopaths, but I don't want to be one.

A lot of what is taught in business schools is for corporate bureucrats. It doesn't apply to artisans or entrepreneurs. And there are many business models but it's up to you to identify yours. Also there are many kinds of business schools and business thinkers and business teachers.

Reason I like Godin is because I think he supports authenticity in marketing as well as good relationships with the customer in a non-cynical sense. He believes that you can provide real value to your customer, rather than just suck them dry. That's good business.

I also recommend reading e-myth but not as a fountain of values--the guy thinks McDonalds is the greatest business in the world. And maybe it is, but it doesn't agree with my values. But read it for the concepts, because it shows you the difference between being an artisan ("technician") and being a business person and it shows you how a business can kill what you love.

And having run a business I can identify with every single problem the writer presents, that being a business owner can be double the work if you don't do it right, and being self-employed and having a business are different things, and that you have to be smart about scripting roles and functions according to your values rather than be at the whim of randomness.

I don't agree with necessarily having a franchise, but that book made me realize was that it was better for me to have a profitable hobby than a "business." I hate business :lol: (But ok, maybe some day again.) But yes, it's a great book, it hits the nail right on the head with the diagnostics. The cure may vary. But it's an important book for small business owners.

I get that you want to be an artisan and keep things "pure" but since you have to operate in the real world you will have to find a way to join or make a place for you to inhabit. Someone has to make the bakery happen for you to function, and being able to earn a living, with all the things that it entails. So it's either you or someone else. You decide. Whatever you choose, you'll have to make some concessions ("cons" ;) ). These concessions don't have to be "bad," they can just de the demarcation of the limit of your capabilities. We all have limits.

And if you start a business, don't be afraid to tinker. This is the success of many startups: they start small, they try something, if it works they expand, if it doesn't they change it, etc.

And it's ok to fail, too, you're young and have nothing to lose. Failure can be experience if you don't let it burn you. Just don't go to jail because of "denunciations," that's a little too much experience. :D

But seriously, America is great at startups because people are not as afraid of failure as Europeans. We see no shame in trying.

Anyway, don't be afraid to try and test and try and grow things organically with little expense. Don't use up the whole investment upfront but rather try to create a profit from the start, even if it is small, then as you build on success you can draw on more funding from your investor. Not sure if that makes sense? This way you learn by doing and you minimize your downside.

Of course being in the food business you're going to have health regulations and licenses and other things that are required and it's a good thing to follow to minimize risk for yourself and your customers. E.g. nobody wants rat shit in their bread, or a case of ergotism :? Some regulations are important.

Anyway it would be a good exercise also to figure out what your values are so you can operate your business accordingly. Running your bakery by the business standards of a robber baron is not going to be for you, And again it takes time, practice, thinking, experimenting, etc. It's good to start young.

As a customer, I'll pay extra for values I find agreeable, and I think I can spot a phony (eg "greenwashing").

Good bread is essential, especially in your continent, and you've chosen a noble profession which is to feed people with a quality product, I don't see why your community would not welcome you with open arms.

Oh, and you can always be a monk if the business doesn't work. Check out this guy and this movie:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Espe_Brown
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0943512/

Best wishes!

Frita
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Frita »

+1 to @UK-with-kids

Here people make things at home to sell. (Our state no longer requires one to have a commercial kitchen. No inspections either.) They throw up a post on the local selling sites on Facebook. Often they just take their items outside of a community area and sell out of the back of their vehicle or deliver for an extra $5. Some have ended up also selling at the farmers’ markets, setting up a more formalized home business, getting a food truck, and/or opening a brick and mortar store.

People seem to charge the same price regardless. The artisan bread loaves are $8 to $12 each. Smaller items are $2 to $5. There seems to be a rotation of what is made. Some just take orders (i.e., “I am making $8 sourdough baguettes, $10 caraway rye, and $12 stollen for Saturday pickup. PayPal or Venmo by Wednesday with your order.”). One place only sells at their shop on Saturdays and Sundays but supplies all the bread products at the restaurant where my teen works. Partnering with a restaurant that only sells fresh and local ingredients seems like a win-win with less hassle. One could adjust quickly like @Alphaville suggested.

hegesippe
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by hegesippe »

@UK-with-kids
I agree with you about starting with nothing and slowing developing. But I am slowly realizing that starting with a home oven or a garage bakery might not be the best option for me, even though it might be the most exciting one.

The reason I need investment is because the kind of baking I am specialized in is artisan/old fashioned baking. I have knowledge about fire oven and all of the tools you would see in a really old picture of a bakery. It wouldn't be a good strategy for me not to capitalize on this and also I like it. A good fire oven costs 40 000 euros. I could start with a small one, but it would still be a few thousands.
I would go for this strategy if I hadn't already an investor and a potential partner interested in my project.

@Alphaville
Yes I think even in a future very probable collapsed world, business would still be a valuable skill. If used for good and responsibly.
It is also one very easy way to get into a community and practice social skills and meet people with different skills. This will be, I think, very important in the future.
Nice monk, great philosophy about food, this is the kind of philosophy that my favorite chefs have about food. This is also the way I make bread, I recommend it to anyone with access to fresh food.

Thx for the feedbacks, I can already see things with more focus.

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Alphaville
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Alphaville »

sounds great. looking forward to reading abour your boulangerie, and here's wishing you a great relationship with your business partners.

sky
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by sky »

If you take a loan, you are tied to the business. If you start small, you can walk away or transform if anything doesn't work out right.

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Alphaville
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Alphaville »

sky wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:26 pm
If you take a loan
i think the money belongs to the investor? so you trade away some control in exchange for that funding.

a lot of businesses work that way, with some division between the economic and the functional and the creative aspects.

eg movies, where the director butts heads with the actors and the producer butts heads with the director. and the below the line crew makes the trains run.

sometimes you get magic, sometimes you get mud. it's all about the team.

restaurant is the same thing. an owner, a manager, a chef, the staff (front/back)... different roles that complement each other. division of labor helps with focus & performance.

construction, same thing: the architect alone can't finance, design, lay brick, sell.

even the most able renaissance person can't do it all. the great figures of the renaissance had patrons above (popes, kings, princes, etc) funding their projects and making requests, and helpers/apprentices below doing the background work.

eta: and i just watched a documentary ("king georges") about a famous chef (georges perrier) burning out and failing while trying to do everything in his restaurant (le bec fin). closed after 40 glorious years basically from exhaustion--you see the man coming unhinged from the pressure. he seems to have had a nice retirement since the film was made, but seeing him lost in the weeds at the end of his restaurant was a bit sad--a decorated chef, in what was once the best restaurant in america, sleepless and exhausted, vacuuming water puddles while the customers ate. 20h workdays...

eta, 2: here's a good free business ebook: "the myth of the garage"

https://heathbrothers.com/books/myth-of-the-garage/
the heath bros wrote:“Two researchers from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, Pino Audia and Chris Rider, have debunked the Myth of the Garage in a recent paper. The garage, they say, “evokes the image of the lone individual who relies primarily on his or her extraordinary efforts and talent” to triumph. The reality is that successful founders are usually “organizational products.”

Excerpt From
The Myth of the Garage
Dan Heath & Chip Heath
https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-myt ... d477026431
This material may be protected by copyright.
more in the book, the quote is for reference purposes
Last edited by Alphaville on Wed Dec 30, 2020 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Alphaville
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by Alphaville »

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nomadscientist
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Re: Advice for starting... bread business?

Post by nomadscientist »

jacob wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:33 am
Read the e-Myth (e is for entrepreneur, not electronic). The short summary is that every business needs a combination of vision, technical skill, and management skills. I'll add that I also think it needs sales skills. The point is that most people only bring one or two of those skills to the table and that this is why businesses don't succeed.
Conversely, surely it means that several people should definitely be running businesses, i.e. people who do bring all those things to the table (or three of them, or who are really good at two - maybe).

But while we aptitude test people for corporations and academia by default, do not run such aptitude tests by default for these business skills.

So, several of those people who should be running businesses may not realise.

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