Hi! I’ve been reposting my Flour + Co blogs here each week, but will no longer be double posting. If you’d like to continue following my journey to opening the bakery, please follow the Flour + Co blog for future updates. Thanks for reading along!
Holy moly, it’s getting busy around here. So much so, that my lists are piling up. I’m pretty sure that, in an organized world, you are supposed to have one list that you add to as needed. It’s just so easy to grab the nearest piece of paper when things pop into mind, or make a “today” list which expands into a “tomorrow” list. You get the drift. I’ve still got it together, but if anyone else tried to make sense of it, we’d all be in trouble.
So, instead of a beefy, topical blog this week, I have a laundry list of quick updates to share. Don’t you worry – I have lots of interesting things going on right now that deserve their own blog, so I promise more beef next week.
Topic 1: Construction week in review
Topic 2: Modern Baking Blog #2
Modern Baking is continuing their blog series on “the road to opening day” by featuring Flour + Co’s decision making process regarding equipment purchases. There have been some updates since our blog a while back, so read up for the latest on how we’re dealing with equipment. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the modern baking blog. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the equipment dilemma!
Topic 3: Fed Ex Small Business Grant Contest
Well, it wasn’t for the lack of trying that we weren’t picked for one of the Fed Ex grants. Thanks again for all of the help in voting. We’d be even further from winning if we all hadn’t worked together to get us in the top 100! Some really deserving businesses did win and they have some inspirational stories to boot. You can take a look here.
Topic 4: the Fancy Food Show
Did you know the great big Fancy Food Show is in town next week?? Yep, I’ll be there tracking down some vendors and picking ingredients and products to carry. Have any requests on canned or bottled bevvies?? That’s one thing I hope to cross of my list!
Topic 5: Hot off the press!
Look what came in the mail today??
Well, that’s it for my hot topics. I’ve been able to cross some things off my list as I post this. Sweeet!!
Happy new year to you! While my new year is happy so far, I’m not sure my jeans would agree. That stretch denim is really being put to the test. Usually, I preach the words of moderation, but the holidays got the better of me. Or maybe it’s the other way around?? Or maybe it’s all of the recipe testing that I’ve been doing this past year. Regardless of how it happened, these days are spent trying to rid my mind and body of December’s toxins. Oh — and dealing with the mounting bakery demands.
I make it sound like it’s a burden, but it’s all part of the fun (I mean the bakery part). A lot of what’s been done so far in this opening a bakery journey is talking, planning, and making decisions on paper (like what’s my mission, what’s my budget, what kind of equipment to purchase, and where the pastry case should go). Now, however, it’s go time. Go time commenced last Thursday when construction began and it won’t end until our doors open for business in two months time. Let me repeat. Two Months Time!!!!
It’s not just that I have two months to complete everything (and “everything” is a tremendous amount of work). It’s also that there are a ton of things to purchase and coordinate (many with long lead times) so that the construction/design project isn’t set back. The last thing I want to do is set back my own project! So, my focus has turned from the big picture to the nitty gritty interior design and decor.
Marites and team at Abueg Morris Architects are the minds behind the interior design (and the architectural plans if you remember). They took my verbal vision and have transformed it into a beautiful masterpiece with interesting textures, colors, finishes, and details. All perfectly in tune with my brand. I love what they came up with and I think you will too. I can’t wait to see it come to life. Thank you Marites, Meredith, and gang!
Here’s one of the rough draft renderings for a peek:
And here are some of the materials:
On the downside, beautiful masterpieces come with a price tag. And that’s where my everything in moderation philosophy comes in. In my mind, it wouldn’t make sense to go all out on everything (even if you have an unlimited budget – which I don’t – it’s just not smart business) or spend money on nothing (and you have beautiful goodies in a bland, boring, characterless space).
I thought it wise to spend money having Marites put together a cohesive, beautiful design plan, plus a few other splurges. Then, the moderation part comes in with me carrying out a lot of the fancy footwork myself. Don’t let me kid you. I love shopping (even for tile and counter tops), and finding deals, and multitasking, and checking things off lists, and finding creative solutions, and I have Marites to support me along the way. It keeps me busy, but if I didn’t like busy, I wouldn’t be opening a bakery. Here’s how I’m breaking it down:
- Things that I’m buying to save money (instead of paying a mark up for other people to buy them) – tile, countertops, paint, mirrors, etc.
- Things that I’m buying used to save money – some audio equipment, supplies, craigslist and ebay will define this list
- Things that I’m doing myself to save money (I’d like to apologize to my husband and thank him at the same time for the growing list of things we will be doing to save money.) – painting, wood trim, wainscoting, stenciling, running data and speaker wires, ceiling panels (so you and I can hear and talk comfortably), everything technology, etc.
- Things that I’m skipping to save money – flooring (don’t worry, be happy), wallpaper (even though it would look so nice), custom shelving in a few areas, a fancy facade, pretty tile (it will still be pretty, just a little different), etc.
- Things that I’m splurging on (no money saved here) – creative minds, custom pastry case, a few other custom pieces, branding, etc.
- Things that need to be purchased no matter the money – silverware, glasses, plates, mugs, chairs, tables, whisks, bowls, trays, pans, display pieces, etc. When available used, I’ll save money!
At the end of the day, my goal is for the bakery to look and feel like I spent a lot of money (because I used it smartly), but do it all within the budget that I set as I embarked on this journey. It’s easy to say yes and spend, but it’s more rewarding to think twice and dump in a whole lot of sweat equity to make it just the way you want when the doors open. I’m looking forward to conquering my lists and getting my hands dirty. I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a lot of help a long the way too. So many supportive people surround me, so I know that I’m not in this alone.
She’ll be writing over the next few weeks about the challenges that new bakery business owners face through the eyes of Flour + Co. Check out her first entry and read along – please join in on the conversation too!
And…Happy new year!!! Best wishes in 2013!
After being in kitchen hibernation for the past 4 days working on a big project, I’m happy to be writing this post from a cafe near Union Square. How I do love the hustle and bustle of a cafe…in the city…with Christmas nearing.
Being from Minnesota and living on the east coast for many years, it was hard to get used to Christmas without winter coats and snow in San Francisco. My holiday glow was no longer on autopilot. Thank goodness I’ve been able to put that all behind me now. The glow is back.
I wear my winter coat again due to a wimpier internal thermostat, I see picturesque snow scenes in Christmas movies and on Christmas cards (it’s charming), and I often get out to walk and work around Union Square for a dose of holiday cheer. Union square is the most festive part of the city this time of year (imho), complete with gigantic Christmas tree, ice skating rink, decorated department store windows, sparkling lights, and people in the holiday spirit (could be due to the high density of tourists around here).
But, I digress. I’m really talking “before” pictures here. I thought sharing these is only appropriate after dangling my building permit in front of you last week. So, here goes. I can’t wait to share the “work in progress” and, of course, “after” pics with you in the new year!
I wish you all a Merry Christmas (or happy time off if you don’t celebrate)! May you be with the people and find the places that make you glow…and simply enjoy the spirit of the season. ~ Emily
Well, not so fast. Let the hurdles to construction continue with one BIG hurdle down and the finish line in sight.
Let me introduce you to my latest hurdled conquest…
Yep, that conquest is my building permit, approved, which I picked up yesterday at the Department of Building Inspection. That’s no little feat, mind you. Keith and team at Abueg Morris Architects did all of the work here. Since October, they’ve had their heads down getting the architectural plans and schedules all wrapped up with a bow.
Keith spent all of last Friday maneuvering stealthily through the DBI, with the neatly wrapped package in hand, to submit the permit application. His day went something like this: 7am start at the intake station, followed by historic plan review, then planning, then fire, then building, then mechanical, then public utilities commission, then the bureau of street use-mapping, and finally the health department. I think his day at the DBI, on my behalf, ended at 4:30pm. Maneuvering indeed. It’s an art form when in the context of the DBI. Working with someone that knows this form of art is key to picking up the approved building permit a week later. Best case scenario is what this is…and maybe time for some bubbly. Thank you, Keith (and team)!!
So, my contribution to all of this was by way of two bus rides to the DPI with checkbook in tow (plus some planning department research regarding zoning before any of this began). The first ride (and check) was to the health department so that they’d look at my plans. I’m not talking bribery here. This was legit (and required).
My second ride was directly to the building department to pay for and pick up the approved permit.
Those were a few expensive bus rides, as in 00,000 digits. It’s an open wound, but one that will heal with time.
What’s in my way of the finish line and a caveat-free ‘let the construction begin’? Well, really it’s in the hands of my contractor, ACI, at this point. They’ve got the plans out for pricing with their sub-contractors and will have a contract and final number to me within two weeks. We’ll start construction the first week of January if my (our) hurdling capabilities remain strong. So, just a few more weeks to the finish.
Even with wounds and hurdles, I smiled all of the way home with my plans and permit in hand. It was a good day.
…oh my! ‘Oh my’ can be applied in oh-so-many ways to packaging. Let’s play a game. Just insert ‘oh my’ before each of the following phrases:
- …that packaging is cute!
- …it takes a long time to get this stuff printed!?!
- …each sticker costs what???
- …that’s a whole lot of printed bags to make this run price effective!
- …these are going under lock and key!
You get the drift. And…it’s worth it!
What I’m really talking about here is branding. My logo is the foundation of my brand. Things like packaging, printed goods and materials, website, and store aesthetic are built on top of this foundation. The goal is to create a consistent and clear face to the business. A personality, if you will. A business without personality is like a person without personality – drab, boring, and invisible. Harsh, I know. But, if you don’t open up and show them who you are, you might be sipping punch at the punch bowl alone.
In an effort to sip my punch with you, branding is a priority for me. At the moment, we’re working on the packaging piece of branding. Packaging, for the purpose of this blog, includes merchandise, printed marketing materials, stickers, stamps, bags and boxes. Having branded packaging accomplishes three things (at the least): it communicates what Flour + Co is all about with a single sticker (or bag, or cup, or…); it helps to spread the word of our brand without words; and, it makes the ordinary extra special. Here are a few examples.
Before: pear cranberry jam in a plain glass jar. After: pear cranberry jam in a sleek jar with a super cute sticker just begging for someone to break the seal. Which one do you want to taste?
Before: sipping your coffee from an old, stained coffee mug. After: your coffee served up in this sweet mug featuring butter, sugar, egg and milk. Which one sparks a conversation with your coworker at the coffee pot? (sorry if you were hoping for peace and quiet before your first cup of coffee!)
Before: a plastic gift card handed to the recipient or dropped in a birthday card. After: a gift card slipped into this extra special wrap that can be personalized for the perfect gift. Which one will make you look like you put in some extra effort?
After seeing these packaging examples, you should have a better idea of who Flour + Co is. Let’s just say we’re on our 2nd or 3rd date. There’s a lot more to uncover, but you’ve got the gist of our personality. (Gosh, I hope you want to go on date #4!)
I’m far from doing this whole branding thing along, by the way. I’ve enlisted Rubber Design Co, a small, local, firm to lead the way. I chose them because I love their work, and I felt like my brand vision was in line with their creative style. Of course, they started with my logo (which I LOVE!) and have built up from there. Just look at the examples above, my logo, and the awesome illustration of Flour’s friends (thanks to Desiree!) and you will understand why I couldn’t be more pleased with their work and my investment. I can’t wait to unveil the rest when we open!
On the topic of the investment, I think it’s worth saying that too often people see this branding exercise as expensive and optional, so it’s cut from the list in the beginning. I, on the other hand, think it’s a necessity, albeit expensive, and will push and pull in other areas of my budget to make it work. It’s the foundation of my business for goodness sakes. That’s the epitome of money well spent.
As with everything else, it’s not all or nothing. You have choices to make. For the process of creating your brand, there are some standard steps not to be missed. But when it comes to packaging, smart decisions will get you where you need to be. Print some bags, stamp others (which is A LOT cheaper). Get one sticker that can be personalized as needed instead of a personalized sticker for each item (what happens when you stop making a product, but have 5,000 stickers for it?). Skip the logo pens, but get the logo coffee mug that people will drink from each day. Prioritize your wish list to get the necessities now and the splurges down the road.
Living in San Francisco, it’s only natural that I want to have a technology savvy business. Innovation runs rampant in this neck of the woods. I hear about new cloud based apps and tools every day that can potentially make guests’ visits easier or help my business stay on track. I believe in using these tools and will do just that, but first there’s choosing the right ones and the overall mix to make the biggest operational impact with the littlest cost impact.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. In fact, lunch can get pretty pricey when you start to talk tech. Everything comes with a monthly fee, often a setup fee, and all things are not created equal. Dodging the flavor of the week is the name of the game because usually there are multiple tools that tout the same capabilities. Some are new and good, some are new and mediocre, some are tried and true with a price tag to match, some have just enough to get you by (which is sometimes all you need), some may be gone tomorrow.
Hmmm….luckily I have a tech savvy husband who is helping me with my technology plan. I know exactly what I want when it comes to online ordering, gift cards, loyalty program, all of the industry specific stuff. These things I’ve researched and have narrowed in on the winners. But, when it comes to the more generic, boring if you will, phone, internet, or SEO service, my interest (and knowledge) dwindles. Of course, I want to do much of the research myself and/or have an understanding, but my husband is savvier (we’re talking tech here) and more patient than I (we’re talking everything here). He’s in the tech industry himself, so this has his name written all over it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Last note: ‘Team’ is the key word when it comes to technology (and every other part of starting a business and running a bakery for that matter!). The tools that I’m speaking of aren’t loners in the cloud. They are teammates that must work together, living in the same small space, to get the job done. That’s why this requires research, strategy, and an overall plan. We’re looking for technological nirvana here (deep, isn’t it??). Scene One: [clouds split…sun beams through…a capella choir sings “ahhhhhh”]
So, here’s the partial list of my business needs that I hope can be met with a tech tool, along with a few notes:
Online Ordering – I want to make it convenient for people to order and pickup, skipping the line
Mobile Payments – Again, convenience for those guests that don’t want to have to take out their wallet
Loyalty Program – Lots of ways to skin this cat
Gift cards – Some POS systems include gift card functionality, others require use of an outside service…physical card or paperless?
Phone – I want the functionality of a land line business phone system without the infrastructure
Music – Cloud based services are easy, flexible and legal!
Internet – Need speed and reliability
POS System – Want an IPad POS system, but there are so many (unequal) players. Efficiency, usability is most important to me. Cloud based reporting is pretty sweet.
Mail list – Using Mailchimp and love it!
SEO – Ugh! research required!
Email – Using Google Apps which is a great service and integrates with all of the other google tools, such as calendar, docs, etc.
Feedback – Using fdbk.com – simple tool for collecting real time feedback from guests
Security – Top secret!
Scene Two: [me baking, husband with 3 laptops, printer, routers, writing code, and lots o’ fun tools in tow]
This is a good scene. I wish that I had a picture to share.
Well, well, well. Who knew that cranberry bread could be so persnickety. I mean, growing up I loved Thanksgiving, and it’s still my favorite holiday. The simplicity, inclusiveness, and meaning behind the holiday is what got me. It’s not about religion (which excludes people) or about gifts (which becomes greedy and wasteful) or focused on a fictitious character (I have nothing against the Easter Bunny!). It’s just about celebrating togetherness.
Our Thanksgivings were always spent at home, often with extended family and friends, cooking, baking, and eating our homemade feast together. We’d spend most of the day in the kitchen, with a sprinkling of new recipes, the untouchable recipes (the stuffing was a non-negotiable), and the recipes that we had to make, but we’d try to perfect with little twists and tweaks. These tweaked recipes couldn’t be too fancy, mind you. Pimped out recipes did not meet our tradition and comfort quota. We have standards, people.
Other traditions came and went throughout the years, such as running in the Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot 5K (brrr…that was a cold one in MN!), and our annual Thanksgiving Day dessert contest between me and my sisters. Umm…yeah…I think that I may have won one of these contests, but my selective memory has blocked out the cold, hard facts. Please don’t judge, unless your judging my resilience.
The tradition that never faded and one that comes to mind first when thinking about Thanksgiving (beyond the day of cooking and eating) is Cranberry Thanksgiving. Each year, my Mom would read the book to us as the holiday approached and we’d bake cranberry bread from the book’s recipe. Mmmm…I can smell it baking now…
Yep, I’m a traditionalist. So, you better bet that as Thanksgiving is approaching and I’m testing recipes for Flour + Co, cranberry bread made the list. You may wonder why I don’t just use the book’s recipe. It’s a simple and good quick bread recipe. I even recommend trying it at home. But, for the bakery, I think that it can be better. Cranberry bread is often a bit dry, so my plan is to moisten it up and make it slightly more interesting without, of course, departing too far from the tried and true.
Easier said than done, apparently. I’m heading on to try number 6 and it’s still not right. It has to be super moist as mentioned, but it also has to be perfectly sweet because of the tartness of cranberries. Nuts really help make it more interesting, so I’m playing with some different nuts, some different flour combos, and I’m also trying different flavor accents from the traditional orange to ginger. These are barely there accents, but they pump up the finished flavor profile.
And so my tale of perfecting the Cranberry Bread recipe continues. You will be the first to know when I’ve got it down, and you will be able to try it for yourself come next Thanksgiving at Flour + Co! In the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and a meal shared together!
Oh, and, I’d love to hear that special tradition or dish that makes your Thanksgiving tick tock, so please share!
[Read more about the opening of my bakery in San Francisco here]