I often wonder about businesses in terms of planning vs luck. As much as I would like to say I’m a planner, it’s become quite evident to me that I’m a novice. I’m organized, but there’s a big difference between being organized, and being a planner. I admire people who are planners – they are always prepared, whereas I often feel like I’m running in a race I didn’t even realize started a half an hour ago in a different town.
My business is a great example of an unplanned entity. When I finally decided to get back into baking and started babycakes in 2005, my only plan was to say ‘yes’ to every request that came my way. I often joked with my friends that I was a PP (pastry prostitute) – I will bake whatever you want. This worked well when I didn’t have a lot going on. I could take my time decorating cookies or designing a cake. I had a logo, I had a mixer, I had some customers, so therefore…I had a business. But, was the business good? Was it profitable? Did I have goals? In 2005, I could not have answered any of those questions. All I knew is that I loved baking and people liked what I made.
My business forever changed when I got a call from a member of my synagogue, who also happens to work at Idylwilde Farm in Acton, MA, asking if I made Passover desserts. Because I had already established myself as a PP, I, of course, said…yes. Her next question was a bit more tricky: Do I sell things wholesale? Hmmmmmm…Sure???? Maybe??? Great – what can you make for Passover and what are the prices? I vaguely remembering rattling off some desserts, promising samples, hanging up the phone and wondering what door I just picked:
The Door of Joy: One of my favorite stores wanted my products!
The Door of Doom: What if they don’t sell?
The Door of Rhuh Rhoh: I AM IN TROUBLE.
In the end, everything worked out, and worked out well. A couple of weeks after the holiday, I received another phone call from Idylwilde, asking if I sold ‘regular’ items. The Passover items apparently sold well and they would like to offer one or two of my items on their shelves and see how they do. My first order to them consisted of cinnamon rugelach, lemon shortbread cookies and linzer heart cookies. And with these two initial orders from Idylwilde, my business completely, and permanently, shifted course.
If left to my own devices, I don’t think I ever could have planned this transition from a custom baker to a wholesale bakery. There was a lot to quickly figure out, and for the first year or so, I distinctly remember feeling off-kilter, always racing to catch up, not sleeping very much at all. I needed retail packaging, a delivery system, more storage space, but most of all, I needed help. I was lucky to have a lot of support from my family and friends, and with them, babycakes was able to take a leap into something unknown and make it to the other side.
Getting a chance to sell to Idylwilde was lucky and utterly unplanned. Being able to grow my product line and increase the number of wholesale accounts feels lucky too, but there’s no denying that I have had to put a lot more planning and thought into the business these days than I ever did in the past. I don’t know what babycakes and confections would look like today without that phone call about Passover. All I know is that there is seldom a day that goes by when I don’t say a quiet little thank you to my customers and especially to Rich N and Jane F at Idylwilde Farm for giving me a chance.