If you're starting a business that involves some baking, here are some tips you may find handy:
Start with a product that is not easily "boot-legged". You may think this is common sense but someone once came to see me about starting a company baking brownies. When I asked whether the idea came from a special family recipe or a special batch that everyone craved, they informed me that the brownies would be "regular" brownies that are made from store bought brownie mixes. Be certain that your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, church family, school family, etc, all come to the consensus that your home baked goods taste good. Better yet, they should tell you that they've never tasted a brownie that good.
Stick to what you do best. Like any other business, you want to start with some knowledge of what you have to do. Do not attempt to start a business by baking brownies, cookies, cake, cupcakes, healthy pies, etc. Find one or two products that you excel at baking and stick with them to start. Don't worry, as you go along, your customers will then tell you what they would like to see you add to your list. By then, you will have figured out whether a product addition is feasible.
Learn how to calculate your cost of goods sold. A lot of people cringe at this process but it's not as difficult as it sounds. You first want to figure out the cost of baking one item or unit. For you, it may make sense to calculate this using a baking sheet as a unit. So the question becomes, what do you spend on baking mix materials in order to produce a cookie sheet of delicious cookies? This process is important because it helps you set your price high enough to cover your cost of goods sold and labor.
Buy smart. Find a warehouse, grocery store club or some similar store that sells all the items that you would need. Bulk pricing is cheaper and convenient because you don't have to shop around.
Create "fabulous packaging". A lot of small businesses tend to miss this step. This is an important step to ignore. Don't forget, first impression counts. Look around you: ever wonder why assorted chocolates are so pricey when they sometimes taste worse than cheaper chocolates. Their packaging for Valentines and holidays entice consumers. Tie a bow around your packaging. Design your packaging like you would decorate your house at Christmas. Pay special attention to detail because your customers will too. While you want them to talk about your baked goods and the taste, don't forget they also want to be proud to have your product delivered to a friend.
Free tasting equals free referrals and testimonials. Give free samples in order to attract new customers. Quit being stingy. Too many small business owners refuse to take this very crucial step. One way to make someone try your product is to give it to them. Learn from companies that came before you. Take Mrs. Fields Cookies, Inc. for example. Mrs. Fields opened her first store in 1977. On her first day, she hadn't sold any cookies. So she took a tray of cookies and walked around the shopping mall handing them to customers for free. Within an hour, customers were at her store placing orders.
Become the tele-mailing king or queen. Whether you sell cookies, cake or bread, try to establish some form of a mail order. Although customers may not purchase your items every month, they may become repeat customers if you make it easy for them to do so. Give them a way to get a fresh batch of bread automatically sent to them every other month. Or perhaps a tin of cookies sent on birthdays or Valentine's day. And what about family-size dessert for the yearly Christmas dinner? In order to accomplish this, you would have to keep a great customer database, call your customers once in a while, have frequent mailings, and take initiative.
Do you have any additions to this list that you think should be included? Or do you own a home-baked goods business and would like to list something that has worked for you? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment on this post.