Archive for May, 2014

The Importance of Taking Deposits

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

I received another distraught email yesterday, complaining about an order that was not picked up by their customer. My response is always the same: What is your written policy on orders, deposits, and refunds? Almost always, their response includes the admission that there is no policy.

Made to order cakes should always be paid in full before you begin baking.

If a customer orders several loaves of bread, take a deposit. Unless you don't mind getting stuck with a dozen or more loaves.

If you have a table at the farmers' market, deposits are not necessary unless someone orders quantity.

Without having paid a deposit, many customers can simply cancel their order – without even the courtesy of contacting you. In other words, you find out they cancelled their order because they do not show up.

It’s good business sense to state that orders are not reserved until a deposit is received. The deposit holds the date for the order, the full payment allows preparation to begin. For large custom cakes it’s common to request payment three to four weeks in advance. A good policy should state that orders are not confirmed, nor dates reserved, without a deposit or payment.

How much for the deposit? Many businesses require a 50% deposit with the balance due anywhere from one to four weeks before the event.  It all depends on the product ordered and what you are comfortable with. Your policy should also cover changes, cancellations, and refunds. Without a written policy, customers can request last-minute changes, or decide they no longer need their item and request a full refund.

This policy should be posted on your website and written into every contract.

After your initial discussion with the prospective customer but you have not heard back, it’s acceptable to send them a gentle reminder:

Dear Ms. X, we just wanted to remind you we have not yet received your deposit of ($xx) to reserve your date. Your order is not confirmed without the deposit. Until that time, your date is available to other clients.

Please let us know if we can be of any assistance in your decision making process. Our baking schedule is filling up quickly and we may not be able to fill your order if the deposit is not sent by X date.

If you have chosen another bakery, please accept our best wishes and think about us for any future needs.

Best regards, Us

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Cinnamon Buns With a Difference

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Cinn-fully Sweet!

In last nights class, Cinn-Fully Sinful, we made cinnamon buns and sticky buns. We substituted part of the white flour for whole wheat. As you can see above, the buns baked to a golden brown but were still a light color inside.

Think about your target market. Are they basic white bread eaters perhaps willing to try something new? With the definite trend toward healthier eating, it’s worth a venture into the health food market. How much whole wheat flour you add depends upon your perceived customer.

While the dough was rising, we made and divided the sticky bun syrup.

Dividing the dough.

Rolling out dough.

Downtime after shaping, waiting for the buns to proof and bake.


Sampling our buns! Delicious!!




Packing for home.



Home-Based Baking at its Best! Most consumers love sticky buns and cinnamon buns. Adding some whole wheat flour may increase sales. It’s important to think about your potential customers.

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Farmers’ Market Season!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Fresh, seasonal, and local!

The summer markets are almost here.

Do you sell at a farm stand or farmers’ market? Now is a great time to think about summer sales. No matter what size market you attend,

large market

medium-sized market

or small

they all cater to shoppers interested in fresh goods. Take a new look at both your target market and your product line. Did last year’s customer ask you for products not on your menu?

Think about adding new products to capture more sales.




New products can be as simple as adding fresh produce from your local farms; or tweaking your visual application by changing the product size, packaging, or labels.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Have you done your market research? Will you be adding new products this season?

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Make a Million $$ with a Special Family Recipe?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Is your salsa recipe really better than all those already on the market?

I often receive these kinds of emails. “Help!!!!!!” the email begins. “I have a special family recipe! Everyone raves about it!! Everyone tells me I should go into business!!! I want to see my food sold in national chains and specialty stores everywhere! Tell me what to do…”

If you are thinking about selling in the specialty/gourmet type marketplace – the kinds of food products (salad dressings, BBQ sauces, chutneys, chocolates, etc – that need to be made in factory quantity then distributed and sold regionally or nationally, be prepared for a difficult, demanding, and expensive journey.

These types of products cannot be produced at home, so entry into this field requires far more money and dedication than most people realize. In addition, the market is already saturated with too many people selling their “to-die-for” family foods. As excellent as your product might be, it’s going to take several hundred thousand dollars to start, and then this much and more to sustain your business until your products are selling well. Given the high failure rate and abundance of competitors, that’s a lot of money to throw away.

Be prepared for constant sampling.

As discussed last week, a profitable business sells products that are targeting a market segment. You don’t have to please everyone in order to make money doing what you love, but you must think about how your family recipe fits. You must be realistic about your product, the potential customer base, and how much capital is needed to fund your business idea.

  • What product(s) do you want to sell?
  • Who will buy those products(s)?
  • Who are your competitors? How is your product better than theirs?
  • Are you being realistic?
  • Who is advising you?

Another very important point: there are many professionals who make a living giving food entrepreneurs advice. It’s unfortunate that many of these professionals seem more interested in keeping their own businesses going, than in helping entrants to this industry come up with realistic plans. It pains me that food entrepreneurs with sweet dreams of getting into the marketplace, are exploited by the business world.

Take an honest look at the competition.

Stephen Hall’s book, Sell Your Specialty Food: Market, Distribute, and Profit from Your Kitchen Creation gives clear, honest information on what it takes to achieve a profitable business. This book is not about producing your product, but rather focuses on marketing your product, the most important component. A reviewer wrote,  “After reading in the first few pages I would need around $100,000.00 capital to get my syrup and jelly on the ‘big market’ I lost interest. If I had that kind of money why would I need to sell anything?”

Exactly. Unless your ego dictates coast-to-coast sales and you have money to burn, it is far more profitable to produce and sell your products on a small, local scale.

Nonetheless, the media continues to fuel the food trend with food as entertainment and romanticized articles about how lovely and easy it would be to whip out a few treats to become instant millionaires. One such article is Why Woman Are Trading Power Suits for Aprons with a full color photo link at the bottom for 61 pie recipes. Really, just more media hype.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! It’s important to think about your motivation before heading in a direction. If making money is the motivator, look at your local market. Staying small may bring in more income. If ego is the motivator, then expand all you want. The point is to know and fully understand your options before moving ahead in any direction.

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