There’s no shortage of career options once you’ve graduated from a baking and pastry school…
You could be prepared to work for a restaurant or catering company, run your own food truck, or consider opening a bakery.
Baking is a huge industry in the United States – the American Bakers Association suggests that the industry employs over 700,000 people and creates in excess of $102 billion in economic benefits.
Like any entrepreneur, when you’re opening a bakery you have to plan carefully. Here are four key tips for making your new enterprise a success.
1. Get experience
Successful baking requires a great deal of trial and error…you’ll need to experiment and also learn alongside successful bakers to get their tips and tricks under your hat. You’ll learn techniques for cake decorating, how to consistently make fine pastry, and how to make the softest dough.
Joining a professional organization will also help build your knowledge base – we suggest a group like the Retail Bakers of America. They can help you with the specifics of managing a bakery, including administrative tasks – taxes, permits, promotions, marketing, securing a supply chain.
Networking is always helpful when you’re working your way up in the pastry arts.
At last count, there was a total of 2,800 commercial bakeries and over 6,000 retail bakeries in the United States. If you’re thinking of opening a bakery, you’ll want to make sure your product stands out in the crowd.
Take time to do some market research – either informally or professionally – to figure out the product line that will appeal to your market and work to your strengths and skills.
Do you want to focus on wedding cakes or cookies? Doughnuts or savory pastries? Will you cater to a kosher market or perhaps go gluten-free? What did you enjoy the most during your training at a baking & pastry school?
Spending time at the outset to get laser-focused on your niche and your brand will give you the leg-up you need when you’re opening a bakery.
3. Raise the dough
Like any other start-up, launching a bakery won’t be cheap. NerdWallet cited research from 2015 that set start-up costs between $10,000 and $50,000…you can bet those numbers have climbed in the past five years.
You’re probably going to need a bank loan…or find investors…and that can be a lengthy process.
Securing a lease will take time and possibly involve paying a consultant to make sure you cover the legalities and liabilities properly. Sourcing your equipment, ingredients, staff…all these things will take both time and some financial investment before you’ve even turned on the oven.
4. Location, location, location
This doesn’t just ring true for home buyers. It’s vital to pick the right neighborhood when you’re opening a bakery.
It probably seems like obvious advice, but really scrutinize the size and demographic – based on what you decided in Tip #2 – and make sure your market is a match.
Think ahead, too. Be optimistic…and realistic. Do you have a plan for growth, or do you want to start small and stay small? If not, will there be room for more ovens, bigger refrigeration units, more staff?
Is it going to be a commercial kitchen or a retail space? Will you need a bathroom…will it have to be accessible for customers or employees or both?
Check in with your city planning department and ask questions. There will be local rules that aren’t necessarily state-wide – and some of them might surprise you. The local regulators are there to help you succeed…check in with them to make sure your business space will be up to snuff.
And if you have a plan for growth, make sure you put some effort into looking at the ‘next’ location…where would you move if you needed more space? Or, where would you open a second location if you decide to franchise?
There are so many options once you’ve finished baking and pastry arts school. Really, the sky’s the limit. And where you start in the industry is rarely where you’ll finish. If opening a bakery appeals to you, be sure to follow these four tips – they’ll help you succeed.
If you’d like to learn more about our programs, feel free to contact us. We’re here to help.
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This article was originally published on February 24, 2016, and has since been updated.