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bripastryguy

Pastry Partnerships

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I have been approached by an equal (in somewhat alittle more experienced) pastry chef and bakery owner to go into a partnership.

Scenario:

The pastry chef in question is either closing her shop and storing her equipment or selling her business outright. The reason she is closing is that it has gotten very difficult for her to make a living in the area she is in due to the fact that there are too many bakeries in that town and the customers are set in their ways and they dont really need another bakery....yada yada.....

She is extremely talented, hard working and organized. She has worked for some high end shops and does beautiful work. Our idea is to pull all the equipment out of her shop and move it to a warehouse commisary along with the major equipment from my shop-together we have enough equipment to get the job done.

We are both on the same wave length as far as ideas, marketing, products, etc...

We really dont battle, but who says that wont happen. What my question is:

Is a partnership between 2 hard working talented pastry chefs who have the same vision, who are getting into business together to help make more money, get more business and increase our quality of life....a good idea? will it work?

My history with partners is very dark and dismal and I've been told that partners are for tennis, but if you have 2 people, evenly dividing the duties and working in "Harmony", does it have a chance?

My shop is surviving after 5 years of being business, I'm not closing, but will re-structure it to serve more items such as soup, gelato and sorbet, lite fare a few seats etc...

The Warehouse will consist of a commercial production (not huge) kitchen that can also accomodate a catering business (we all ready have a exec chef on board that will take care of all the food), packaging area, etc...

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From what you say, it seems you share the same vision and work ethic which is a good start.

But again, in the future, who knows when and why you may butt heads.

I think it can work, but you need to sit down together and draw out details, figure your mission statement, make a contract, and consult an attorney or business consultant. :smile:

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In the glow of the engagement, it's hard to think about a divorce.

But that's where I'd start and as Annie says, where a contract is crucial.

Brainstorm about EVERYTHING - some things that come immediately to mind are hours, compensation, time off, marketing, media appearances, writing (you might write articles or even a book, you never know); who owns the recipes and what happens to them after you separate; a non-compete clause, can you maintain your business in that location if you are no longer partners or would you have to move? Find out do you really mesh on a daily basis: What do each of you like and dislike about being a business owner? A pastry chef? A boss? What makes you cranky? Is it just the two of you or will you hire others? Even the best of partners can have problems - I've heard the Silver Palate founders started the business as strangers, became friends for decades and then they parted ways and I'm not sure if it was a bitter parting or not.

Think about the strengths each of you bring to the business; what are the weaknesses that still exist after you join forces?

What are the alternatives? Can you buy her equipment and hire her or does she only want to be a partner? Is this the right time for you to expand?

I could go on and on.... but these are just the rhetorical questions! Good luck.

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If you have any doubts, don't do it.

I don't know, I would have missed out on a lot of good things in life if I followed that one. I'd modify it to: if you have any doubts, talk about them. Don't not say things because you're afraid it will offend.

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Don't forget that it can be tremendously fun, inspiring and creative working together with someone who is (also) good at what they do.

Don't just look at the negatives.

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It's really a stunner opportunity. I like the idea of a well thought out prenup but that will be vital mostly in a break up not in operating. Mostly you gotta remember that each of you is crazy and allow for that. Being an entrepreneur requires it or creates it.

So I think the way you speak to and treat each other is key. Communication yes? There will be no more important person in the life of your business than each other. I mean it seems all the other desirable qualities are already there.

Each 24 hour day consists of warm and sunny as well as chilly and dark. You guys gotta purpose to keep the exchange of words at a mutually agreed upon temperature far beyond the fevers, viruses and cancers of running a business. At the same time each one willing to empty bed pans, discuss the chemo and brave for the prognosis.

Not to mention heartily celebrate the wonderful successes!!!!

I love the progress. I am so happy for you. Go for it.

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Not knowing anyone involved or any real details, my gut says don't do it.

A business owner who blames their failed business on "too many other bakeries" and "customers set in their ways" isn't bring honest about the real reasons their business failed & until they come to grips with those reasons, they may wind up damaging your reputation. Talent alone doesn't guarantee success.

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I agree with Drewman, those are definitely red flags there. But that isn't to say one can't learn from their mistakes either. Maybe she just chose a bad location like many business owners do, or maybe her sales were great but she was horrible with money, or maybe there was a really good reason customers weren't buying, or stopped buying. You mentioned her shop is still open..... your best bet is to have a quick chat with her current employees. If there's any bitching to be done they'll be happy you're all ears.

If I'm understanding correctly, she'll warehouse her equipment, work from there and expand your business to include a production line and some catering, you'll stay at the shop and continue doing what you're doing? Am I reading you right?

If that's correct, I'll point out 2 things. The first is that you said a partnership could increase your quality of life, but by the sounds of it you won't be putting in any less hours. The second is that, with the partnership, any additional profit will be halved, as will what you're making now, so you'll likely end up with less money for a time. You mentioned your shop is "surviving" (I thought you had 2 of them?) so a partnership at this time could definitely put an enormous financial strain on you. Did you already have expansion plans for some sort of production line (packaged item, online sales, wholesale??) or is this all coming from her?

I think you need to get more information. Yes, it could work, because with the right people anything could work. The question is how likely is this the right person?

After all is said and done, before you enter into any partnership I think you should have her come and work for you for a period of 3 to 6 months first as a trial, so you can figure out how you really work together, what her integrity and ethics are like, what her workmanship is like, what her management and budgeting skills are like, etc. If she's very serious she'll find that a reasonable request.

Good luck....let us know what you decide. :smile:

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If you have any doubts, don't do it.

I don't know, I would have missed out on a lot of good things in life if I followed that one. I'd modify it to: if you have any doubts, talk about them. Don't not say things because you're afraid it will offend.

I should specify, if there are the "this doesen't feel right" feelings in the pit of your stomach then don't do it. You have to be 100% in or 100% out in these types of things IMHO,

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My shop is surviving after 5 years of being business, I'm not closing, but will re-structure it to serve more items such as soup, gelato and sorbet, lite fare a few seats etc...

Y'know you're gonna do what you're gonna do--- but after five years and you can safely say your business is surviving and you're looking to salvage some form of personal life.

Dude, do the partnership.

I mean location location location is the key to any business--especially an impulse business--especially in an anti-carb freaked out world. If you get it wrong, like she did, no amount of good vibes and hard work can correct that. If you blow the market study and there ain't enough people/sales to go around, there is no shame in admitting that and moving on.

Oh yeah sure it might not work. But if you keep doing what you're doing hopefully in five years your business will still be surviving and I mean if you beat your brains out for five more years like I know you did those first five years you'll have a total of ten years of beaten brains. Mazel Tov.

I could never figure out how you were making it without some proteins and salads and stuff.

Just some K8t bakery thoughts for you, Baking Buddy.

I still say go for it.

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You have a lot to think about. A few things that stood out for me,

You are currently doing well, she is not.

How will partnering with her benefit you? My sense just from what I've read here is that it may be more of a drain, both financially and mentally than its worth.

Will having her as a partner cut into your own profits? Will adding her allow you to do that much more business to offset the fact that you'll be splitting revenue/profit in half?

Will it save you time, or add to it?

At first glance, it appears that she benefits from this more than you do.

One of my good friends has two business partners and she's eager to break away and go on her own. Someone always feels like the other isn't pulling their weight, which creates tension. Also difficult is when you both have very different ideas on how to do things, different styles.

I just don't see how this benefits you...but maybe I'm missing something. I'd suggest doing your due diligence and then some to really accurately forecast and understand exactly what you need to do and if it makes sense.

Also love the idea that someone else suggested, of having her come work with you for a few months before agreeing to any kind of formal partnership. That way you can see how well you'd work together.

As an fyi, I recently went through a very similar thought process when I was approached by a colleague to join forces and partner up. At first the idea seemed great, how we could do so much more if we teamed up. So we decided to take six months and then see if we wanted to move forward. I crunched the numbers, and for me, decided that I didn't want or need a partner, yet was happy to work with her on the occasional project. Maybe that is an option, if the two of you want to do an occasional catering gig together or something?

Good luck, with whatever you decide!

Pam


Edited by pam claughton (log)

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Just my 2 cents but I'd be careful about a partnership where you both seem to have the same skills and vision. If you have the same vision...you really aren't making the business stronger. In a way, it's like driving down a street looking for a shop and you both are looking at the same side....you just miss things if you are too similar. Also, it is rare to have a true partnership where both people are equals in ownership and management and it goes smoothly. I think the synergy of 2 people is very powerful and in almost all cases will surpass the energy of a single person but will be more successful if one person's weakness is the other person's strength.

I'm in a similar position as we have some pretty exciting things happening and I plan on bringing on some people who can strengthen the business with their experience. I don't care what their vision is today as I'm the creative driver of the business and it will be their job to sway/influence me if they have other ideas and to accept my decision if I make another choice.

Good luck whatever you do but I'd really determine how much better your business will be if you join forces, not how much more efficient or cost effective it will be today based on the current circumstances.

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I agree about listening to your gut. Look inside and think about your vision...does it include a partner. Will a partner complement you and help you achieve your vision, or are you just feeling a little scared about your abilities to accomplish your vision alone? Perhaps take a drive and spend some time alone and really THINK about what you want. As long as you're sure about what you want, then it doesn't matter whether you do it alone or with a partner...knowing what you want is the best insurance that you will get it.

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