milestones of our 3rd birthday
We’re ringing in our bakery’s 3rd birthday this month! A lot has changed so let’s dig in to what’s come to pass.
We’ve been searching for a storefront for a year since we raised funding (investor day recap here), but it’s been a steep learning curve. This is how our experience has been:
- Even learning basic requirements can take some time, but this is what we look for: electrical capacity, previous use, condition of space (note: most spaces are shell spaces, and you have to get plumbing and electrical specific to your business), sufficient parking spaces to accommodate all businesses in the plaza, and square footage in a desired location.
- Oftentimes there are non-compete clauses from existing tenants (e.g. no pre-packaged cookies if there is a grocery store in the plaza, no two bakeries, etc.). This can be a non-starter. Usually you find these things out early, but sometimes it can come up weeks into the process.
- Most brokers gave up on us. Is this a small biz thing? Not sure. We got lucky to get a referral from a friend.
- You’ll almost never speak directly with a landlord until you sign a lease. Some landlords are companies so it can be hard to get a feel for who your landlord is. For the most part, we feel this doesn't matter as long as your lease agreement is thorough.
- Most deals are lost.
- Vetting a spot takes roughly 6-8 weeks of due diligence from both sides.
- We typically need to show personal & business finances/projections, business plan, equipment list, planned operating hours, planned menu with photos and pricing, planned look & feel of the store or plans from an architect, etc.
- Landlords typically require small businesses to put both your business and personal names on a lease, making you personally liable for some or the full amount of a lease - min. lease terms being 5 years.
Unlike a residential purchase, commercial properties are complicated affairs going far beyond bank statements and pay stubs. Lawrance and I agree that luck and timing can be a huge part of finding a storefront, and we're probably towards the unlucky side. While we wouldn't spring to our feet to recommend others open a storefront, we are in this for the longhaul and will keep trucking on.
We’ve always preferred the consistency of local delivery & pickups, but started doing pop-ups each month as a way to add revenue, get in front of more people, and vet new areas.
We pivoted from switching the menu every quarter to roughly every month (sometimes not a full menu switch, but just switching a few flavors helps). We love the festivity of a seasonal menu, and we love this pacing - not too long to let boredom set in, but not too short that people can’t get to the flavors.
We had 9 flavors in 2020 and 20 flavors in 2021. Flavor development was insanely critical we didn’t have many flavors, but now you may notice a slowdown. I tend to choose difficult projects or don’t have the bandwidth to iterate quickly. My goal is to reach 36 flavors eventually so that we can do more full menu changes, but I’ll take my time to produce quality flavors. I’ve also come to enjoy sharing development updates on Instagram. It’s scary to show the process, but I love working through the changes publicly to show the complexity and nuance of cookie development, which is so often unnoticed or underestimated.
Retail partners / wholesale.
Direct to consumer will always be our favorite sales channel, but wholesale adds accessibility as well as consistent sales. At first, the process of taking orders and charging our partners was completely un-scalable, but we’ve gotten into a good rhythm. Once we scale our ops, we plan to add more retail partners.
Rebrand & our 3rd website.
- Our first website was custom-coded by a friend - it was a simple & elegant one-page website that still needed customers to pay by venmo/zelle.
- Our second website was made by me on Shopify. It works, but the look & feel isn’t cohesive and there are some glaring issues in legibility and ease of use.
Many bakery websites are outdated, but our bakery grew up as an online brand. The ordering process shares more in common with e-commerce than it does a brick & mortar, and it must be more beautiful and easy to use especially when we get into a storefront.
We hired an agency (where I used to work, actually) to do a light brand refresh (new font, colors, casing rules, etc.) based on our current branding (potato chef logo, lowercase casual font, pink & yellow colors) and built a new site on Shopify. Our illustrator supplied a new logo & illustrations, and the new site uses a lot of custom CSS to ensure cohesive formatting throughout the site.
This new website and branding will usher in the "third" phase of our branding. It'll signify a move to on-demand operations, 6-7 days of business vs. the current 3, and should help us scale for the next few years.
Flavor development is still my favorite part of the business, but my mindset has shifted to focus more on the business aspects - scalability, efficient processes, expanding our reach, and growing the brand. Each year brings great change, a good deal of stress, anxiety, mild heartache, but so much fulfillment.
You may wonder how we’re doing so much (hopefully). Lawrance runs point on the storefront search, and generally solves all the things I can’t! He is our secret weapon, and I’m glad to have a partner, best friend, and boyfriend who is so different from me. We also have an amazing staff. Without them, I would’ve been run into the ground long ago.
And lastly, thanks for being our customers; for exploring new cookie ideas with us and supporting flavors new and old. Cheers to another year of growth, and here's hoping we'll be in our first storefront by year 4.