February 24, 2022

There’s no shortage of career options once you’ve graduated from a baking and pastry school. Depending on the direction you want to take, you might 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 800,000 people and creates in excess of $154 billion in economic benefits.1

If you’re wondering how to start your own bakery, following these steps can give you a good start.

Are You Already a Baking Expert?

First, we should mention that education and experience are equally important for entrepreneurs in the baking industry.

A degree or diploma from a baking school can help equip you with both the creative and the practical skills needed to run your own bakeshop. Joining a professional organization can 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.

Baker piping frosting on to cupcakes

Exploring the fundamentals of baking as well as learning about menu design, restaurant management, and cost control can help you succeed – and reduce the likelihood of making big business mistakes and wasting precious time and capital. Plus, attending school and getting professional baking experience is great for networking – which can help you make valuable business connections for your future.

Determine Your Product Niche

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? One of the best ways to determine your specialty is assessing what you most enjoyed during your training or education.

Spend time at the outset to get laser-focused on your niche and your brand. It can give you the leg-up you need over the competition when opening a bakery.

Cake decorator adding white frosting to a cake

Location, Location, Location

It probably seems like obvious advice, but really scrutinize the size and demographic of your desired location and make sure your market is a match. Be optimistic… and also 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?

And if you have a plan for growth, make sure you put some effort into looking at the “next” location… where would you move to if you needed more space? Where would you open a second location if you decide to franchise?

Raise the Dough

Like any other start-up, launching a bakery won’t be cheap. The process of securing the capital you need to start your business can be lengthy, so it’s a good idea to get started as early in the process as possible.

Most business owners fund their founding with a combination of different streams. You’re probably going to need a bank loan. Getting investors is another helpful source of funding, and whether this is done through pitching your concept to investors with lots of capital or through crowdfunding and receiving many small donations, getting other people enrolled in your goal is becoming more possible through the use of technology.

Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Steve Konopelski“However much you think starting a bakery might cost… double that. When all is said and done, once you open, you’re not making money. You’re paying back your investment. For this reason, you want to have about 3-6 months’ operating capital in the bank to cover unforeseen expenses and possibly even payroll.”
Chef Steve Konopelski, Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor*

Additionally, check out your local Chamber of Commerce or small business association. There are sometimes start-up grants or tax incentives for new businesses. These organizations can also prove to be very helpful in connecting you with local businesses that may look to partner with your new bakery, or even local investors who want to support businesses within the community.

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.

Close up photo of a baker sprinkling flour over dough

Get Your Permits

Check in with your city planning department and ask questions. Any food service establishment will need special permits and licenses, and typically you’ll need to get an inspection from the Health Department.

In fact, it’s best to involve the Health Department as soon as you can – the earlier in the process, the better. The laundry list of requirements they have may actually help you decide on location. If the requirements are lengthy, finding a space with a pre-existing, fully equipped kitchen will save you money in the long run, instead of having to outfit one from scratch.

There will also likely 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.

Equip Your Facility

Baking certainly requires specialized equipment. You’ll need to consider your specialty – are you making cakes, cookies, or croissants? You’ll also need to consider the size of your facility – can your space hold industrial-sized fridges, freezers, mixers, and ovens as well as cooling racks and display cases?

A Pastry Chef is icing a cake in an industrial kitchen

Find out what you need, what you can fit, and where to obtain this equipment. Many budding bakery owners scour the internet for secondhand equipment that’s still in relatively good condition.

Do your research to find where you can save on wholesale ingredients. Running a bakery means baking in large quantities, so you’ll want to be smart with your ingredient purchases and stock up on any deals you can find. Most large scale food providers also offer assistance with food costing and menu planning/design. They can be a great resource in planning a menu.

Build Your Team

Finally, you’ll need to hire employees to help you run your shop. This task in itself can require a lot of time, consistent job marketing, interviewing, and follow-up communication, and typically some trial and error.

One key – and we can’t stress this enough – is to start small, ensuring that you can support the salaries of anyone you hire. The last thing you want to do is overestimate what you’ll be bringing in and end up having to let go of the people you just hired.

Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Steve Konopelski“Teamwork is dream work, and you need to have one eye and one ear on everyone else in the space at all times.”
Chef Steve Konopelski, Escoffier Pastry Arts Chef Instructor*

In fact, many bakery founders exclusively do the work themselves until they reach a comfortable level of profitability. But even hiring one or two people to join your team can save you exhaustion and potential burnout, and help you keep the shop open for more extended hours (potentially meaning more money in your pocket.)

Business Planning for Aspiring Bakery Owners

Opening your own bakery is no small feat. Each of these steps will require grit and determination. But beyond that, having foundations of knowledge in writing business plans, networking, and – of course – baking itself can significantly impact the success of your future operation.

Escoffier’s degree and diploma programs in the Baking and Pastry Arts can help you develop the skills you may need to launch your own bakery and make your dream a reality.

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This article was originally published on February 24, 2016, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

1American Bakers Association 2020 annual report