Order The Book!
I’m so excited to reveal my first baking book, “Sweet Bake Shop: Delightful Desserts for the Sweetest of Occasions”, which is now available for purchase!
Sweet Bake Shop Book
Please see the links below to order your copy!
Canada: Indigo, Amazon, Kobo, Google, eBooks.com, iBooks
United States: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Worldwide: Book Depository

Behind The Scenes: What I Learned After Opening A Bakery

_DSC1303

Hello, 2016!

There’s almost nothing in the world that I love more than a fresh start, except cake and cookies and all things dessert. Bubble baths are pretty high up on that list, too. And puppies – oh, how I love puppies!

I can’t believe that it’s been over a month since my last post (!!!), but I have a handful of other things on the go right now that consume a lot of my time – more on what’s going on to come in a later post!

pinkcake12

Today I want to talk about something a little different than my usual dessert posts. It doesn’t involve cake (well, not directly) so I made sure to add lots of sweet photos to this post to keep things full of frosting, sprinkles and pastel fun. As of late, I’ve been receiving emails from former customers and home bakers alike, asking what it takes to run a bakery, what it’s really like and what I’ve learned. To answer all of those questions in one phrase: It’s a rollercoaster ride. I’ve learned so much about myself, my business and humans in general and I’m going to talk about those things and more below!

And in case you’ve just started reading this and feel like you need a little backstory on who I am and what the heck I’m talking about with this ‘owning a bakery’ business, you can click over here for more info.

blush-101

Behind The Scenes: What I Learned After Opening A Bakery

No matter what, your business will always cost you more than you think. {Side note: If you’re one of those very few (and very lucky) people who have an unlimited budget, well, this might not phase you one bit. But if not, read on!} 

I didn’t have much of a budget for my bakery, which meant calling in a lot of favours from friends (helping move furniture, lunch and coffee runs), many DIY’s (my boyfriend spent many late nights filling, sanding, priming and painting walls and furniture) and lots of re-painted junk shop finds (lighting, art pieces, etc.). I chose to spend my money where it really counted: In the kitchen, on quality baking equipment. And even then, I went to a handful of restaurant auctions (where restaurant equipment is sold when one goes out of business) and managed to pick myself up brand new stainless steel kitchen tables for less than 1/4 of the regular retail price and they still added up fast.

Where the money really goes though? For me, it was plumbing, electrical work and finishing surfaces, like chipping out old tiles and installing new ones, crown moulding, merchandise shelving and any custom millwork you may need to have done. Not to mention permits. They can take months to acquire, which means months that you’re not legally able to do certain types of work, nevermind open your business, so make sure to either negotiate a few months of free rent with your landlord or prepare to have at least a few months rent saved just for this purpose. A few other things that are often not accounted for are the cost of proper packaging (boxes of all sizes, cupcake inserts, bags), business cards, website design, as well as purchasing any merchandise you’ll be selling (gifts, cake toppers, cake plates, etc.). The best advise I can give is to do your research, call in favours if you can and be smart with how and where you spend your hard-earned money.

pastelcupcakes24

Your personal life will suffer. Right before opening, I very distinctly remember talking to a friend of mine who owns a restaurant down the street who said to me “I need to tell you something. You are going to be exhausted. Your life is going to be flipped upside-down and you are going to have to adapt and deal with it.” And I was all “Thank you, but I’m a hard worker, I’ll be fine.” Oh, pre-bakery Tessa, you had no idea!

Preparing for it to happen by letting friends and family know that they won’t be hearing from you for awhile will soften the blow – or so I’ve been told. I didn’t prepare for this at all because I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and it was a shocking realization for me when I couldn’t make it to my best friend’s birthday on a Friday night (I stayed late at the shop to finish decorating sugar cookies). I’ve missed countless parties, dinners, baby showers and and even a wedding. Unfortunately, large projects, paperwork and meetings will take the front seat in your new life, which means missing out on your pre-business life, at least for the first year or so, Additionally, anyone you live with, or even hang out with, after long days at work can end up taking the brunt of your stress, even if you don’t mean to project it on them. You’re working long hours, you feel like you haven’t eaten a hot meal since 2005 and you don’t remember what it feels like to sleep for more than 5 hours a night, not to mention the list of things you ‘should be doing’ that is constantly swirling around in your head, means that you will, inevitably, snap at someone you love. It happens to all of us. In my experience, what works best is to simply apologize, explain that you’re under a lot of stress and hug it out. True friends and wonderful family will understand (and bringing them dessert next time you see them never hurts).

bistrotablesandchairs

Learning when to say ‘no’ is key. Of course, as a business owner, it’s only natural to want to take on as many clients, projects or, in my case, custom orders as possible. More of those things only mean more money for you, which is fantastic! The not-so-fantastic thing? You’ll probably burn yourself out and the quality of your work, not to mention your health and sanity, will suffer as a result. In the beginning, I made the mistake of saying ‘yes’ to as many orders as possible. My staff and I worked incredibly hard to fill as many orders as possible, often staying late or coming in extra-early to complete our order list. It was ok for awhile, but we were absolutely exhausted! As much as it upset some of our lovely customers who wanted to place orders, I had to draw the line at what we could realistically accomplish in order to stay sane.

sbs155

It’s ok to ask for help. I’m still working on this. Initially, I hated asking for help because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, and I’m still not a fan – I know we’re all so busy with our own jobs and lives! What I’ve realized is that not asking for help is a sure way to burn yourself out completely. As a new business owner, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a bind of some sort at some point, whether staff call in sick, leaving you short-staffed on a Saturday or you desperately need something picked up at your local supplier on a day they don’t deliver, but you can’t leave the store. I was hesitant at first, but eventually, I got over it and called a few girlfriends to help with customer service and sent my boyfriend to pick up supplies. I’ve done this on many occasions, and not only did it make my day easier, but we actually had fun working together and got the job done.

Another thing I was really hesitant about asking for help with? Company events and PR (public relations). I opened my shop in July of 2014 and the following month, I wanted to throw a grand opening party, but had absolutely no time (nor the know-how) to plan and organize such an event. Who would I invite? What goes on at one of these parties? My business is my baby and of course, we all want what’s best for our babies (whether that’s a human baby, fur baby or business baby), so it was scary to think that I had to bring in outside help for this. I was so terrified to hire the wrong person that I actually considered taking on all things PR related myself. You know, with all of the extra time I had 😉

Enter, Sparkle Media. Erin and I met at a networking event in 2013 and it was super-awkward. We both only knew a handful of people at the event and didn’t really have anything to talk about for some crazy reason, which is nuts because we now go for long dinners where we talk for hours and have become great friends. But I liked her energy and positive attitude. Anyway, when I realized that I couldn’t handle the opening party or anything PR-related, Erin was my first call and I have to say, hiring her was one of the best things that I ever did for my company. I was really hesitant though, but she has a knack for understanding what I need, want and what’s best for my company, as well as making me feel comfortable. My advice? If you can, hire someone to tackle this kind of stuff. They’ll book media events for you, plan parties with you and take a major load off of your already-sore shoulders.

blush-047

You can’t please everyone. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. Everyone has and is entitled to their own opinion. Not everyone likes the colour pink, not everyone likes chocolate cake (crazy, I know!) and some people will decide that they just don’t like you, for whatever reason that may be. Of course, making sure the customer is happy with their purchase is important, but if 1 out of every 500 people tell you that they aren’t into your best-selling cake or cupcakes, just let it go. Some may not like the chairs you’ve chosen for seating, some may think that the colour of your aprons doesn’t do it for them. Sigh. It can be difficult not to take every little thing personally, since these are things you’ve picked out or decided on personally. Whatever it may be, just learn to let it go.

blush-097

I hope that this post helped answer some questions, as well as informed you of what you might expect if you’re planning to open a bakery of your own! Of course, everyone’s experience is different, and this was mine. If you have any additional questions, please comment below or email me here.

Have a sweet weekend, friends!

Tessa xo

20 Comments
  • Mimi
    Posted at 10:58h, 23 January Reply

    Thank you for sharing this Tessa! I love all the photos you included and eagerly wait to see what you have in store this time while you’re in Vancouver again! Xoxo Mimi

  • Margaret Nelson
    Posted at 11:09h, 23 January Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! So very helpful. 🙂 In my mind I sometimes think “it’s so hard to have a home bakery with kids around- surely it would be easier if I opened a ‘real’ bakery!” 😉 and then I read stories of what it takes and it makes me stop and rethink this plan lol!

    • Tessa
      Posted at 12:38h, 23 January Reply

      Oh, home-run bakeries are hard too, for sure! Opening a shop is a whole new ball game though 😉 Happy weekend!

      • Kimberly
        Posted at 10:54h, 28 January Reply

        Thank you for sharing your story. It’s been my dream to open my own bakery. I have no clue where to start, any advice? Also was thinking of starting to sell on Instagram

  • J
    Posted at 11:19h, 23 January Reply

    After an exhausting week this is just what I needed. I own my own store and design firm. As much as I LOVE it – it is hard, hard, hard. It was nice to hear I wasn’t alone. Thxs Tessa. PS I’m on the hunt for the perfect PR and Erin seems amazing.

    • Tessa
      Posted at 12:37h, 23 January Reply

      Owning and running a business is HARD, you’re so right! Hope you get some rest! xo

  • Shannon
    Posted at 11:28h, 23 January Reply

    Thank you so much for that information. I am trying to figure out myself how to open a business in baking cupcakes but starting out more just for orders and courses and doing it along side of my 9-5 job (the agency in Sweden who helps companies get started do not believe in my first dream of opening a shop like you had (she said cupcakes are a dying trend here) so this is a start to convince them otherwise and to try to save for the possibility of eventually getting the shop). I expect it to be a lot of hard work when I get it going just to do it part time so I commend you for going at it full time and putting your heart and soul into it. I’ve just recently found your page but I am definitely going to continue following your baking and your adventures.
    ps…..where do you find the pink gloves?

    • Tessa
      Posted at 12:41h, 23 January Reply

      Best of luck with your business! It’s tough but can be so rewarding 🙂 Thanks for reading! The gloves are from esafetysupplies.com

  • Chahrazad
    Posted at 14:32h, 23 January Reply

    How would you recommend to improve my baking and cake decorating skills? Take classroom courses or videos or just try out recipes?
    From this post it seems impossible to open a bakery if you have kids though, what do you think?

    • Tessa
      Posted at 14:45h, 23 January Reply

      For me, it was a little of all three things – courses, videos and A LOT of practice! I can only speak from my experience, as I don’t have children yet, but I will say that a new business will consume your life, at least for the first little while. I didn’t expect that it would be as much work as it was! I worked 18-20 hour days for the first few months. I think if you go into a new business prepared for how tired and busy you will be, it may still be difficult to find a balance with your family, but knowing what to expect may help, even just a little 🙂

  • Lisa
    Posted at 22:00h, 23 January Reply

    Hi Tessa! Thank you for sharing this! I’ve had my own little cake shop in Singapore for about half a year now and you’ve just described my experience!

    I’m still grappling with the financial side of the business. Did you have help with this?

    • Tessa
      Posted at 14:45h, 24 January Reply

      Hi! Send me an email (here) and I’d be happy to help! 🙂

  • Nuha
    Posted at 00:39h, 24 January Reply

    I love hearing the back stories of bakeries – especially those I admire. Thanks for sharing yours! If at all possible, I’d be interested in hearing the business aspect of it. How you hired staff, set up budget, programs you used to stay organized, and how you figured out a way to pay YOURSELF. I hope you’ll consider a post on sharing a bit of info on that!

  • Elizabeth Houde
    Posted at 15:42h, 24 January Reply

    Tessa, thank you for sharing your story. I run a cake studio in Mass and I know is hard, hard work. The permits and dealing with all the red tape in my town was very difficult. I even had to go in front of a board to get one of my licenses. We are huge fans of your work!

  • Felicity
    Posted at 16:16h, 24 January Reply

    I just adore all your baked goods and photogrphs, they are very inspiring. The only problem I have is you are not in Australia so I can taste them!! Congratulations and thank you for sharing!

  • Grace K
    Posted at 16:37h, 24 January Reply

    I miss the bakery and all your amazing goodies so much! I hope you are doing well and enjoying some down time in addition to your new projects. No one else in Vancouver seriously even compares to your stuff or comes close. xo

  • Jen
    Posted at 17:11h, 24 January Reply

    Thank you for sharing!! I will be opening my 1st storefront May 2016. You hit everything on the nose!! It’s a lot of work already trying to get everything prepared, but my busy is my baby and I am determined to do well. Luckily, I am single with no children so I won’t have to worry too much about family. Friends, well they’ve already used to not seeing me on a Friday night b/c I’m busy 🙂 Again, thanks for sharing!

  • Martha Carmona
    Posted at 22:26h, 24 January Reply

    Im new to your blog and IG and I want to compliment you on how beautiful all of your pics are. The amount of time you take to make such beauty in your photography and your baker, and baked beauties, speaks volumes to your professionalism. Thank you for providing so much beauty and showing how elegance is still alive and well. Your hard work has paid off as you have the eyes and ears of many attentively captured by it all. Wishing you continued success in your very lovely business.

  • Erin Liedigk
    Posted at 21:29h, 26 January Reply

    Hey Tessa!! This is ON POINT for my life!! I just took over a very well established bakery, and I have been looking for ways to explain to friends and family why I am exhausted, why I am not around as much, why my bakery is my baby haha. I never thought my life could be flipped upside down so quickly and drastically! But it is so worth it. If you wouldnt mind, I’d love to share your blog with those around me to help them understand what I am going through! I especially love the part about your supplier not delivering on days you need your product… yep, that’s my life! Keep up the amazing work! You’re such an inspiration!

  • Kristie
    Posted at 12:23h, 02 February Reply

    Tessa,

    I love your story! Can’t wait to see what you have coming in the future. Was hoping you could recommend some books and resources you found helpful when you were in your planning stages?

    Many thanks!
    Kristie

Post A Comment

ORDER TESSA'S BOOK

GET YOUR COPY OF SWEET BAKE SHOP: DELIGHTFUL DESSERTS FOR THE SWEETEST OF OCCASIONS