So, you want to open a brick-and-mortar store̷...

So, you want to open a brick-and-mortar store…

Spotlight On
MIek Paulus at work in The Shed

Success isn’t simply a dollar value or a particular achievement across the board for everyone. Success can come in many forms, and for some bakers it comes in the shape of opening a brick-and-mortar store.

Thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns baking became increasingly accessible to people in their homes and, for some, hobbies soon shifted into a business. For some people this evolved into selling their baked products direct from their home or at markets, and opening a permanent brick-and-mortar venue was simply—the not-so-simple—next step of business evolution.

From a broad, birds-eye-view perspective the running of a business may seem fairly straight forward. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent for those who do wish to open a permanent store. The many elements that make up the inner workings of a business come into play on a much larger stage when opening a permanent store. From business plans to meetings with suppliers, purchasing equipment, and finding a location, the list goes on.

Two businesses that have successfully opened a permanent bakery or are in the midst of doing so are Ket Baker and The American Doughnut Kitchen, both based in Victoria. Although both of these businesses sell extremely different products and have a different background and business model there are aspects of opening a permanent store that are shared between the two.

The Shed at Ket Baker

Ket Baker is a 100 per cent sourdough bakery in Victoria’s Bellarine and Geelong region.

Having started out of a garage and then selling at different markets, Miek Paulus, the owner and head baker at Ket Baker, has successfully set up a permanent Shed Bakery that operates as a production facility and store.

The prompt to open the Shed Bakery came after demand for Miek’s products increased and she needed a larger space to work in. Her unique products have become wildly popular in the region and across Melbourne for not only their delicious taste but also the ethos surrounding good food that is good for your gut that is instilled in every product.

Belinda Donaghey, the third generation of the famous American Doughnut Kitchen (ADK) based in Melbourne, is currently in the midst of opening their first permanent store at Prahran Markets.

With a history that dates back more than 70 years, the products sold by ADK are well-known and loved across Melbourne and wider areas of Victoria.

Having had a long-time market stall at the Queen Victoria Markets, shifting to a permanent store at Prahran was the next opportunity for Belinda and her team to deliver more of their delicious products to customers—who happily spend a lot of time lining up for their doughnuts.

Although ADK is well known in the Queen Victoria Market community, the step into Prahran was the perfect fit.

Although these two businesses sell very juxtaposed products, there are elements of their business development and experience so far with opening permanent stores that are shared.

Collaboration not competition

The new American Doughnut Kitchen premises

Australia’s tall poppy syndrome hubris is the downfall of many areas of development—businesses, skills and talent and plenty of other areas of life.

As far as businesses go, sure enough there is healthy competition, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the case that you’re excluding an opportunity to learn.

The baking community is very close knit in that businesses are very aware of each other, but some bakers see collaboration as a huge avenue for growth and development as a business—particularly if you’re looking to open a permanent store.

Miek is one of those bakers who sees it as such a huge opportunity to learn and grow as a business, learn to get your preparations right and tick all the right boxes along the way.

“I talked to bakers from the other side of the world, mentor bakers. [I asked them] ‘what were your challenges’ and there were a million hurdles that I didn’t know about,” Miek says.

“You need to be able to go into the smaller details. It’s great to have this big vision but if you can’t do it, somebody else needs to do it for you and go into those details.”

It isn’t always about getting yourself and your business right though, collaboration can help you better understand the market you operate within and find appreciation for people who have perhaps paved the way before you in one way or another.

Belinda knows all too well the difficulties of operating in a market environment and the challenge it brings—particularly now shifting to a permanent location.

“Stepping into a new market like Prahran, there’s always opportunities to collaborate with other traders and it means that we can celebrate each other,” Belinda said.

“It might be doing a limited time offer with a really beautiful jam that you can get from another trader, or [for example] there are bees that produce honey at Prahran market on the rooftop. So, you might see some kind of limited time offer… one afternoon where we’re serving up doughnuts in a paper boat and they might have drizzled honey over the top.”

Finding opportunities to collaborate with other bakers could help develop your skills and knowledge, or finding the opportunity to collaborate with other traders can help increase your product offering. Canning the tall poppy syndrome could be a bonus to your business.

Leave no stone unturned—even the little ones

Miek Paulus at work

As Belinda from ADK says “you don’t know what you don’t know”. You can prepare and prepare and prepare until you are red in the face and still forget something—or a few things. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’re not going to succeed as a business.

Both Belinda and Miek spoke about being prepared to be unprepared and allowing room for flexibility when opening a business. Belinda, currently immersed in the final stages of securing approvals for the new site at the time of writing, commented on aspects she hadn’t anticipated would consume a significant portion of her time.

“I like to be as knowledgeable as I possibly can. There have been moments through this whole process where I’ve been beating myself up relentlessly and go, ‘you should have done this differently and you should have done this sooner and should have, should have, should have, should have’. Calm down. It will work out and nobody’s died,” she said.

“Just having that space, the mental space and the actual physical calendar space, to free yourself up because you’re going to see new suppliers, you’re going to see sales reps for equipment, you’re doing a whole lot of market research, you’re doing a whole lot of equipment research, and then there’s timelines involved as well.”

Flexibility and an openness to stumble but being prepared to get back up is an approach that can help get you to that finish line. Whether its coming with a backup plan or being happy to pivot in a moment of what feels like crisis. Defining your business before it opens means there is space for it to be a work in progress.

Your staff are your foundation

The entry to Ket Baker

It seems like an obvious thing to say, but having a solid foundation of staff to help you achieve your goals is what will get you where you want to go. Although treating staff right and supporting them is a key element, Miek also outlined how removing yourself from the picture can help get you there sooner.

“First, find the staff that aligns the absolute best with your vision. Then, you need to be able to get your own ego out of the equation, which can be uncomfortable, but it’s not all about you, it’s also about your customers and, yes, your staff. It is essential to know what is important for your staff and take on board the feedback they give to thrive your business.”

“You need to do that in an unemotional way. There is a tremendous amount of personal growth in owning a business. and you need to be able to look at your own baggage because if you don’t do that, you will get into trouble with customers or you will get into trouble with your staff.”

The hospitality industry makes up such a huge portion of people’s incomes and experience in workplaces, so building a foundation with your staff by looking at yourself first then providing what they need will only create a greater return for your business long term.

Both Ket Baker and ADK already had a solid team of staff on board that they have been able to support, but as Belinda puts it, “it is such a privileged position to be in, where you can expand your business to the point where you can offer employment to people.”

“When you grow your team, that is huge. To be able to then have our existing team and new people that are coming through to the Queen Vic market team see that we’re not just this two-bit little food truck. There is opportunity here for you to improve yourself to expand your knowledge to move up within the company as well,” she said.

It’s daunting and a step into the unknown, but opening up a permanent, brick-and-mortar bakery is achievable—no matter the kind of business your run or the kinds of products you create.

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