LIVING AND LOVING IT : Business lessons from a baker

On a day off I had last week, I got the baby girl and sat her next to me on our brown comfy seat in the sitting room. It was a bit chilly so we got a mini blanket to cover ourselves. We sat with steaming cups (warm for her) of porridge mixed with orange. We were set. And so we put on the TV and changed the channel to one of mummy’s favourites, The Food Channel.

A reality series, Bakery Boss, was on. The show is about a successful baker, Buddy Valastro, going around the country helping little bakers fix their failing businesses. I love cake as does the baby so we put the remote down to watch this. And we learnt lessons her, how to ask mummy convincingly for cake, and me, a few tips on how to run a business. It also reaffirmed some things I had been thinking about and started doing.
Because I am trying hard to ensure our little shop that sells sugar, posho rice and the like, succeeds, I lapped up everything Buddy said on the show. By the end of that episode I was a wiser person. Here is what I learnt.

Stick to the things that work: The bakery Buddy was helping that day was Bings Bakery, owned by a couple Tom and Carla Guzzi. It was a little one but it had way too many types of pastries. Most of the stuff tasted good, Buddy said. But it was overwhelming. So, he told them they had to let go of some stuff and keep that which would encourage customers to come in. That sounded so right. When we opened our shop, business was slow but as it picked, our shopkeeper Rehema got too excited and started stocking whatever people came asking for – pens, books, washing soap However, only a few people bought those things. I therefore learnt and told Rehema that just because one or two customers ask for something does not mean we should stock it, otherwise they will stay on the shelves and we will lose out. We need to stick to what the bulk of our clients want.

Records, they will make or break you: Bings Bakery was not doing proper record-keeping. They just sold stuff and bought more without thinking of whether they were making money. As such, Carla had to bail the bakery out a lot of the time with money from her full-time job. When Buddy got them to actually calculate how much they were spending on raw materials, they found out they were using $4,000 more than what they thought! Buddy said they needed to start planning better, to ensure that whatever they bought had a high chance of being sold and actually brought in a profit. I did the same for our shop.

Rehema had been doing some records but something did not sit right. I sat with her and told her for every item we bought, we needed to know what profit we would get from it and if it was enough. I also told her not to buy anything during the week above a certain amount, without consulting me. Otherwise she would think we have a lot of money and buy lots of stuff that did not get bought. At the end of the day, we would lose out.
Be willing to change if your clientele does: Another thing that Buddy told Tom and Carla to do was tap into the student market.

The bakery sat less than a mile from a university of about 20,000 students and yet hardly any was walking into their shop to buy cake. He told them they had to drop their old style confectionaries and adopt new ones, such as colourful cakes, different style cookies and a coffee maker, to attract the students. Back at our shop, Rehema let me know that we would do well to invest in a fridge, however old or small. “Many people keep coming in to ask for water. We can make money from that,” she said. She also said she would be able to make juice and bushera, and cut pineapple slices and put them in the fridge ready to be served chilled.

At the end of the day, the Bings Bakery looked much better. They started to get more customers and things started looking up. The last I read, they said it would take a while to get to a good place, but things were getting better. As for our shop, I am happier with the way things are. Each of the above ideas have helped and profits are looking better. Not yet where we should be perhaps, but closer to there now.

cbeyanga@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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