3 Things I Know (about opening a bakery)


It’s been a minute since my last post on May 17th!
As I write this on July 9th, it is hard to even remember the gjillion things about the opening of Sticky on May 27th – and the weeks since then.
And even if I could remember all the details, that would be a boring litany anyway.
Suffice to say that the HVAC broke and then was fixed, that many deliveries were late and then replaced, that lots of batches flopped and were redone.
There is nothing really interesting about those incidents or the many others, and for sure occurrences like that are not unique to Sticky’s opening.
So today I will just tell you 3 things I’ve learned about opening a bakery:

1.You will never know what the customer is going to like (ie buy) until you open.
As blog readers know, I spent the better part of the pandemic baking and asking friends and family to try everything many times.
They gave me their opinions, I had my opinions, and in a bubble like that, it’s easy to think you’ve nailed the menu.
Having now opened two bakery concepts, I’d say that is wishful thinking.
For example:
• we started with one type of sticky bun (lotsa goo, lotsa pecans) and now have 3: the original, goo without nuts, and cream cheese iced.
• the front runner (or so I thought) fudgie will likely be replaced soon with a sweet and salty fudgie of some sort, because it turned out to not be such a front runner
• much to my surprise, the chocolate peanut butter banana pudding has not been embraced as quickly as the OG Banana.
• And so on…
None of this is a problem – to the contrary, learning from the sales trends is what makes being in the food business super interesting…it’s just good to know in advance that this is what will happen.

2. Hiring and building a team is EVERYTHING.
This was true in my last business and is true in this one.
The more time you take in meeting with applicants and then training them, the better it will be.
For baking roles, take time on crafting a job posting that really captures what you are looking for, have a trial shift (or at least a hands-on baking exercise of some sort) and listen to your intuition as to whether the person will be a positive contributor to the kitchen culture you want to create.
The same applies to customer service team people: a couple of meetings and some time spent with them doing store set-up will tell you a lot about their ability to connect with customers.

3. You have to work really hard in the first 3 months.
I was really lucky with the opening of Sticky that Andrew and I did it together, Andrew having retired from the bank earlier this year. There’s so much you need to do as owners of a small business and if you are able to do it with someone you like spending time with, it is so much better.
During the intense phase, remind yourself that the period of all-in intensity WILL end because it always does. Suddenly you will realize that you’re not going to Business Costco every single day and that the team has developed a rhythm of its own that doesn’t require the same level of involvement on the production/storefront sides.
That’s it for today’s post…I will go further into menu evolution and team building in posts to come!
And to all of you who have come into Sticky and made the opening such a success, THANK YOU a million times over.

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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