A bakery may not make you rich, but it can be a very profitable business that supports community and does well even in a down economy. You also have some nice options for specializing, and for offering services beyond selling cookies and bread.
Here’s what you will need to get your bakery off the ground.
1) A business plan. Before you start buying expensive ovens, or you sign a lease for that amazing corner location, you need to spell out all the nuts and bolts of your business on paper. Learning that you’ve made a miscalculation is much cheaper on paper than in real life, and a good business plan will show you a lot of places where reality and what you hoped for do not meet. That’s not a problem. Do not let problems make you give up. Just give yourself time to ponder them, ask for help, and see what can be done. Your idea of the perfect bakery and the bakery that will actually be successful in your town may not look alike, but your business plan will help you make a good compromise.
A business plan should have a detailed analysis of your market and your existing competition. It should specify what your business’s legal structure should be, and who the employees will be, even if that only you. It should include a marketing plan, and your expectations of the results of your marketing should be realistic. Finally, you will need a whole section of your plan devoted to financials. What will your startup costs be? What will your operating costs be? How long will it take for you to break even? Your business plan needs to make it all workclick, because if you can not get your business to work on paper (where its easy), then it definitely will not work in real life, where nothing goes according to plan.
2) Experience. You might be able to get by with someone else’s experience, but I really do not recommend it. Even if you just got a very fancy degree from a top culinary school, if you’ve never worked behind the counter and in the kitchen and at the accountant’s desk of a bakery, then you have a lot to learn. Seriously consider getting a job at a bakery before you start your own. Even in the worst case scenario — where you find out you hate working in a bakery — you will have saved yourself tens of thousands of dollars finding that out.
3) A business license and local government approval. If you are preparing and serving food, you will run into all sorts of government requirements and monitoring that other businesses don’t have to deal with. This is even if you are starting a home bakery. In addition to the basic licenses, you will also have to pass the dreaded food inspection. It is not uncommon to learn that your otherwise perfect bakery is going to need $15,000 worth of renovations to get the blessing of the food inspector. You need to be knowledgeable about getting past these problems, and you need to have the cash on hand to fix them as they arise.
4) Bakery equipment and supplies. Will you need a $10,000 commercial oven, or can you make do with a used $2,000 model? How many cookies and other baked things are you going to need to bake and sell each day? Refer to your business plan, and it will tell you what you’ll need for equipment.
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