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Franci

6 months growing my business challenge

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Franci   
Posted (edited)

Hi guys. 

 

I've been on Egullet for 13 years now. There are many persons here I'd like to thank, I've met many generous and nice people here. Now I want to share more with you what is happening in my life.

 

Since I've started my business, a little over two years ago, I finally found what I want to do in life.  I really really enjoy it. Every day I go to work is a happy day. That's very lucky!

 

Many of you know that I started Dolci di Franci from home and I still was baking from home until last November. Making about 150 cakes a week, with one help. It was not sustainable. Everything got much better when I moved to a commercial kitchen. 

 

Now there are many things going on. First of all my family is going to relocate to Miami by next year. My husband is moving in August and I'll be following with our kids after the school is over next June. I don't want to give up everything I've done so far here in Brooklyn and in NY. 

I want to keep a kitchen here and build an online business. All this require a lot of work. I really need to boost my production in order to make all this happen. I am giving myself a target of 6 months to make it work. 

 

I thought it would be nice to tell you about my daily challenges. Before I started this business I didn't have the appreciation for all the problem solving a small business owner has to go through...I am not sure I'll be able to post all the time but I'll try my best. 


Edited by Franci (log)
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Anna N   

 You know all of our best wishes are with you always!   It will be fun watching you meet the challenges as we all know you will. 

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IowaDee   

Franci, the son of a good friend owns Steve's Key Lime Pies also based in Brooklyn.  Funny, he started the business in Miami and moved to Brooklyn.  We just found out recently that he will having a spot in the new De Kalb Market Hall.  Would that be a place for you to showcase and sell your cakes?  I know nothing about food halls or how you become part of one but they seem to be a growing trend right now.

Whatever you do, you will be successful at it I know.  A customer needs only to see a photo of your cakes and has to have one!

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Shelby   

Franci,  your cakes are amazing and I have no doubt that you will have the highest of success.  I will enjoy hearing about your business.

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gfweb   

Exciting stuff!  I recall your old range in your apartment...you did commercial work on that?! Wow!

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KennethT   

Franci, good luck in this new chapter... how exciting!!!

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Franci   
23 minutes ago, IowaDee said:

Franci, the son of a good friend owns Steve's Key Lime Pies also based in Brooklyn.  Funny, he started the business in Miami and moved to Brooklyn.  We just found out recently that he will having a spot in the new De Kalb Market Hall.  Would that be a place for you to showcase and sell your cakes?  

 

Eh, eh, I'll go the other way around. I cannot afford at the moment to have a retail outlet, it's too expensive. 

Here rent is in general so, so expensive. Already for me, moving from my house to a commercial kitchen and having 2 employees wiped out all the profits I was making. To make it all work I need to really increase the production. The product is not a problem, people love it. But it's NY...it's a very tough market. 

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Franci   
14 minutes ago, gfweb said:

Exciting stuff!  I recall your old range in your apartment...you did commercial work on that?! Wow!

 

Yes. I did for about 6 months! I was baking 4 cakes at a time there. But to be fair, it was only 40-50 cakes a week then. Then I bought the Cadco countertop. But that was terrible for baking. So uneven that I still wonder how I did it and how people coped with my very imperfect cakes at the beginning. 

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Franci   
Posted (edited)

So, just let me start telling you what's going on now. 

This period is very slow, so I need to take advantage to work on many things now, acturally I don't have a lot of time, considering will be going to Miami for two week to look for an apartment for my husband and for when me and the kids visit. 

 

At the moment on my to do list. 

1. One my employee is leaving by the end of the August. I need to find a substitute. I posted on Craigslist and no joke, I think I got at least 35-40 emails in a couple days. Already a person came for trail and I've scheduled other 4. I am not sure how much experience I need but definitely the attitude is what counts most. A person that shows up in the morning, clean and organized is already a BIG PLUS. So I have tons of email to deal with. I don't like to leave people with no answer. 

2. I am launching a new product at the end of September. I thought I'll be done months ago! Wrong. Just to come out with a packaging feasible for me was a huge challenge. For custome made packaging you need minimum orders and can be very difficult for a small business. I need to buy 24 boxes (every box has about 2,500 sheet of paper in it), shipping from Italy. So, already for this paper I've been talking to this Italian company for months! Then I need a label to wrap around and nutritional information. This time I did myself the nutritional info, if you like to know there is a very cool website to do it. Design for the paper and the label is done by the same person who did my cake boxes. 

 

Hold on, going to resume my list


Edited by Franci (log)
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KennethT   

As a small business owner, I would also add that when looking for people to hire, attitude (cleanliness, timeliness, organization) is very important, but if you will be working side by side with this person, it is also good to find someone who is a good personality fit otherwise that relationship will not last long!

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Franci   
Posted (edited)

Yes, definitely Kenneth! The other guy that is working with me is like that. We  go along very well, he is very reliable, maniac obsessive and very proud of his work: like me :D. Very hard to find another person like that. 

 

To resume the list. 

 

3. I've started my cooking videos so there is a lot to do also on that side. Now that I took other 8 videos, I am waiting for the editing and meet up for final check. Then, I am rewriting my recipes very carefully for my website and passing to a person that just edit my bad English grammar 9_9. This needs to be done before I go to Florida, on August 5. At least the video editing and a couple written recipes to cover me until I get back. 

Also I'll have to experiment for other 4 recipes for the next round of videos to shoot by the end of August, beginning of September at the latest. 

 

4. I am starting to sell on line by the end of September. Just this, comes with it's own issues: 

  • Shipping solution. Some of you egulleters have been part of a little test. I thought I had a good idea to ship the cakes without compromising the apprearence but I was totally wrong. The cake crumbled in pieces. If I sacrifice the look and wrap the cake with a polypropylene sheet and then insert the bubble wrap the cake is shipped without breaking but the aesthetic of the cake suffers.  A lot. It will require a lot of trials and money to fix the issue. A clamshell for example. But you need to make a custom mold...find a place that is not going to cost me an arm and leg and, as usual, that doesn't require to buy  1 million pieces.  
  • In the mean time I am thinking of shipping the limoncello with no sugar, provide a small bag with some powder sugar for customers to dust their own cake for a fresh look. I will also leave the option to buy on my web site the same stencil I use for my cake and leave people the option of buying it. It's one time investment.  For the pistachio cake I need to find a sturdier glaze most likely a very, very thin layer of royal icing slightly flavored with orange oil. The one I am using now it's too fragile for shipping. 
  • Setting up the online shop. All the technical aspect of it and also getting organized for the shipping itself. We'll start shipping only in the area where ground shipping is done in one day. After a couple months, before Christmas, once we have mastered it I can broaden the shipping to  3 days ground shipping. 

Edited by Franci (log)
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Franci   
Posted (edited)

5. Selling the cakes. I am the one that does all the selling. So far, I've loaded myself with cakes on Friday and dropped off cakes everywhere in Brooklyn and Manhattan. These couple months have been to busy for me to do that. But I need to start again by the end of August when work will pick up again. 

Brooklyn and Manhattan are very, very different markets. I had such an easier time selling in  Brooklyn. The buyer of Zabars told me: they don't know money in Brooklyn...and he is most likely right. He said to me, without even trying, that my cake was most likely delicious but too expensive for them. 

So, totally a much more difficult market in Manhattan for me. So far there are only 2 places in the city that regularly, every week, always carry my products. So my followers know where to find them but to get into new places it's pretty tough. I am guessing I'll have to get into more restaurants in Manhattan so during my holidays in Florida, I'll work on making my own map. 

The difficult part is also that I cannot get in any places but I'll get in only in the places that are in line with the image I have in my mind: upscale supermarkets, butchers and restaurants. 

The good thing is that my new product will have a much longer shelf life than the cake which will open some doors that have been close until now. 


Edited by Franci (log)
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Franci   

6. Talking about the new product. Other stuff to do on that front.

  • I sent one product to the lab for testing but I'd like to have a more definitive expiration date, so I'll have to ship a batch to analyze after 1 month and after 2 months. 
  • I need to work on scaling up the recipe
  • And @Kerry Beal, maybe, after all, I really need a Thermomix since the Hotmix didn't work for me...but I'll buy new, just in case. I want a guarantee. 

This is the big picture. So, from now on I'll start writing what's happening that day. Things that need to be done etc. 

 

 

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You probably don't really NEED to do the nutritional info right now, it is only required when you're pretty big.  If you sell less than $50k or 10k units per year, don't even worry about it.  It'll be nice to have eventually, and some stores may want it, but it's not actually required until you're high volume.  I'd say put that on the back burner for now, more important to have clear ingredients labels listing allergens.  https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm053857.htm

 

Would acetate strips wrapped around the outside of your cakes help with shipping? 

 

I like the idea of including the sugar separately for a fresher look.

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Franci   
Posted (edited)

Hi @pastrygirl  Last year I didn't need the nutritional info but this year definitely I'll be over both numbers and I'd need the nutritional value. I am at about 1000 cakes a month. 

Cakes have already a strip of acetate around them! But doesn't help in that aspect. Only if there is no space for moving inside the box the cake will arrive with no problem. 

 

 

IMG_7068.thumb.JPG.f11e751e448b11c22fcd72cf82d59739.JPG

 

Cakes are pretty tight inside the box but still shake up and down. 

 

IMG_6874.thumb.JPG.b5ad01f687421936f58fdb0f8ffb9339.JPG


Edited by Franci Added pictures (log)
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MelissaH   

Might it be worth checking out some of the other companies that ship cakes, to see what they do and how they deal with the challenge? I know Momofuku Milk Bar ships cakes across the United States.

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Cronker   

Fascinating stuff.  Will follow with interest.

i think you are probably at the stage where you need a "mini-me" especially if you plan to run this business from another state.

you seem quite switched on with the inter webs, so you're going to need Skype etc to make sure you can communicate with everyone on the other side of the country (staff, vendors and customers).

good luck!

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10 hours ago, Franci said:

6. Talking about the new product. Other stuff to do on that front.

  • I sent one product to the lab for testing but I'd like to have a more definitive expiration date, so I'll have to ship a batch to analyze after 1 month and after 2 months. 
  • I need to work on scaling up the recipe
  • And @Kerry Beal, maybe, after all, I really need a Thermomix since the Hotmix didn't work for me...but I'll buy new, just in case. I want a guarantee. 

This is the big picture. So, from now on I'll start writing what's happening that day. Things that need to be done etc. 

 

 

What are the reviews saying about the newest TMX? I know when it first came out there were issues with the programs - but I expect that will have improved by now. 

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curls   

@Franci wishing you all the best with your business expansion & move. Thank you so much for sharing with us! Looking forward to being able to order your cakes!

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liuzhou   

I'll be honest. I'm not a cake sort of person. Not a sweet sort of person.

 

But I remember your posts from when you were still operating at home and remember thinking "How the hell does she manage!"

 

It is amazing how much love for what you are doing makes you somehow manage. And I'm sure everyone here who "knows you" is confident you'll manage. It may be rocky, but you'll get there. I know good wishes don't pay the bills, but they sure make struggling easier.

 

Good luck. And keep in touch when you can.

 

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Franci   
1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

I'll be honest. I'm not a cake sort of person. Not a sweet sort of person.

 

 

Me too xD that's the funny part. But I like to come out with a product and I have my idea of how it should taste. Also, the usual phrase I get from people is that: I don't generally like sweet stuff but your cakes are not that sweet!

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Franci   
11 hours ago, Kerry Beal said:

What are the reviews saying about the newest TMX? I know when it first came out there were issues with the programs - but I expect that will have improved by now. 

 

I need to look into it. 

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Franci   
Posted (edited)

Today was kind of a relaxing day. A girl came for a trail. She didn't have a lot of experience but not bad. 

It looks like I am going to get my money back on the Hotmix so I can invest in the Thermomix instead. 

 

Also, I  learnt to upload videos from YouTube to instagram. Getting to lean all this odd things. Still need to figure out how to manage well Instragram using some programs late Later, making life easier. 

 

Today I sent two cakes to Florida. They should get there not broken but the sugar on top will suffer. 

 

This is how I did today, very low tech. For a couple of months, until hopefully the volume will permit me to find a better solution, most likely I'll go this way, with no sugar and the option to buy the stencil.

 

IMG_7120.thumb.JPG.0e7cd3b04e200e7a00c6c620321b8984.JPG

 

Even if this is a no melting sugar, after the shipping will lot look great

 

IMG_7121.thumb.JPG.4a95ce63d6770eb86ce3e3976faf9f49.JPG

 

IMG_7124.thumb.JPG.53f0fb0e86941078713c2530602c45c5.JPG

 

then the boxes got wrapped in bubbles wrap, more wrap in the shipping box. 


Edited by Franci (log)
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dcarch   

Food business has always been work and no money. You know that. Everything is expensive, and no one wants to pay you a fair amount for what you put in.

 

It's all about promotion.

 

Think David's Cookies. The guy is a great promoter. David's Cookies is now a 100 million $ business. 

I know a guy (forgot his name) who was a computer programmer. Never cooked or baked. One days he made a sweet potato cheese cake, promoted it, got on TV shows. He made a huge amount of money having someone else making the cheese cakes and selling them.

 

Good luck to you. A video is a great idea.

 

Have you looked into female minority help?

 

dcarch 

 

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Franci   

All true @dcarch

 

I cannot believe the amount of email I received for this job. I think I found my person. I'll try to confirm with her today. I hope she is onboard because she has tons of experience, like the way she moves in the kitchen. 

 

I am almost done with the labels on the new product. I am waiting for the quote for transportation for the paper wrap I am buying from Italy. I doubt I'll get it by middle of September. 

 

Last Friday I went around in Manhattan with samples. I am not quite sure on what is the best strategy. I left in 2 very busy places that don't have a big dessert menu and another restaurant under a big hotel midtown. What  I've started to do is to go on menu pages and picked restaurants that  seem to be a good fit for me (in terms of image, price, clientele) and look at their dessert menu. If I see that they are weak on that aspect I add them to my list. 

As retails points, like supermarket, upscale groceries I feel I already went in many, many places...

We are leaving for Miami on Saturday and for the next couple weeks, while my kids are swimming in the pool. I'll be working of a map of Manhattan and a list of possible recipes. 

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