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The Sweet Life Bakery


ohmyganache
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I know that cupcakes are a big deal in NYC now, and $4+ for one wouldn't faze me there--but in Vineland, NJ, no matter how great it looked, I would think "$36 for a dozen?!?"

But that's me--I hope some serious aficianados of baked goods will weigh in!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Yeah, I wouldn't think twice about paying $3.00 for a good, homemade, quality cupcake... but Vineland is not the most culinarily advanced place... $2.00 sounds more reasonable. It's going to be the smaller home-sized cupcakes...

We'll try $2.00 for the iced coffee and see if it flies. It is quite tasty, I must say. We use evaporated milk, honey, and sugar, which gives it a really nice taste.

I guess the good thing about starting out with these festivals is that we can adjust the price as needed. If the cupcakes sell out in an hour, we know we can probably raise the price next week. If the coffee isn't selling at all, we just lower the price on the sign to see if it picks up. I just read 'The Tipping Point' and so I'm seeing a practical application to what was in that book...

And there really is nothing in the area besides Shop Rite and Acme for baked goods. We're after a totally different market than those places, so it's really hard to price accordingly. They charge something like $.25 or something for a cupcake, but you know, it's total crap.

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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I would suggest stopping in to the most popular bakeries in Vineland and surrounding areas (Atlantic City, Philly?) to compare prices and suggest considering your own cost before setting your prices. For example, will you really see any profit from a $.25 brandy ball? That said, I'm all for giving product or services away for free to get your name out there and to develop your reputation locally.

I also recently made a drastic career change, leaving a 10 year music law practice at a top NYC entertainment firm to start my own food-centric website so I will be running to the book store to pick up the book Eric recommended.

Best of luck to you both. P.S. Love the name.

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Hey thanks for all the input. The reason the brandy balls are so cheap is that they're made of all scrap! Cake scraps make up the bulk, there's some chocolate scraps, the only thing that costs money is the nuts (and we're clearing out grandma's liquor cabinet for the booze). Thinking about it though... $.25 is a little on the cheap side of things.

We're in full scale chocolate chip production right now... just took a lunch (and eGullets) break.

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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Oh, my dears, you need some help. 'Scraps' are not free and the liquor WILL cost you money in future, and when you are selling items in the retail arena you must price them based upon current replacement costs, including labor. A smaller cupcake with a genuine buttercream frosting SHOULD be able to command 1.75-2.25. That iced coffee can easily justify 2.00, probably you will find that it sells very well at that price and you may add a quarter to the price. Those brandy balls, well, how tiny are they? .25 is just way too cheap, if you really want to be cheap, I'd say .75, if they're small. But, you have to go to a liquor store and price the liquor, and you have to weigh the scraps and figure out their cost as well, before you price them. NOTHING is free. What if you had an order for those lovely saucy brandy balls? You would have to make those scraps, and buy that brandy. Always keep thyat in mind, keep a calculator handy when pricing, and don't forget to think retail, not fire sale, when you're making your prices. Sorry if my writing is off, I'm not feeling verey well today, and I do so want you to do well, and, well, start ups, marketing and retail pricing was a big part of my old stomping grounds, after all!

More Than Salt

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I was recently gifted a little book called 

The "E" Myth Revisited; Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber. 

Thanks Eric, that will be the next book from the library!

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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Before you get a space, be sure to talk to the local authorities (health dept, planning, etc) so you know what you'll be looking at in terms of cost. Do you need a handicap-accessible restroom, for example? That stuff can really come back to bite you. Check out the electrical box to make sure you either have or can get enough power. Is it single or triple phase? Make sure there's enough room for storage. What about parking? Signage? Find out what you can get away with.

Go to auctions for equipment. If necessary, buy stuff at auctions and rent a storage facility so you can get stuff cheap when you find it, then move it to your space.

Do you have all your materials designed and printed? If not, and if there's a university near you, you might be able to become a class project. They can design all your materials and they'll get a solid portfolio piece out of the deal.

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Ahhhhhhhh! We're really not having good luck with printers... Staples almost gave us a heartattack the other day. So we went with Sir Speedy to print the menus for this weekend. Well we get a call today (the day before the event) that they basically f*ed up our order and instead of printing a nice two-fold double sided brochure, they printed six page one-pagers and stapled them together. Apparently the person who knows how to do the layouts is sick, and no one else knows how to print things at this printing shop.

I'm seriously annoyed right now...

And no, the website did not get worked out yet. Brother still has the password and login ID, and he get's back from vacation today.

On the lighter side... everything is going pretty well on the production side. All the cookies, cupcakes, scones, etc... are done. We just need to bake everything off and finish the cupcakes. They do look pretty cute, I must say... I'll get pictures of everything after this weekend.

Edited by ohmyganache (log)

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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I just found this topic - I love topics like this. I'm so excited to watch the progress you both make opening the bakery. Thank you so much for sharing it with us - and don't forget pictures pictures pictures (just like location location location).

I baked off a dozen cookies this morning... half chocolate chip and half oatmeal.  We put them in bags, wrapped in a little deli paper (without, the bag gets a little greasy looking).  Folded them twice, and stapled a business card to it.  I gave one to the real estate agent we met with this morning, two to the ladies at the library, and one to the guy where we get a bunch of our paper products.  Well the ladies at the library liked them so much, one of them ordered a dozen for a dinner party tonight... she gave me the money, and we're dropping them off later!  Sweet!

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This is a fabulous idea - and it should bring in business. When we moved our business last year we did a similar thing with the local gift shops, banks and hair-salons on our street and it definitely pays off.

Hey thanks for all the input.  The reason the brandy balls are so cheap is that they're made of all scrap!  Cake scraps make up the bulk, there's some chocolate scraps, the only thing that costs money is the nuts (and we're clearing out grandma's liquor cabinet for the booze).  Thinking about it though... $.25 is a little on the cheap side of things. 

We're in full scale chocolate chip production right now... just took a lunch (and eGullets) break.

OK. I agree completely with Rebecca. Do not think of these as scraps and 'extras'. Hopefully you're busy and sell out every day - but there will be times when you don't. There will be waste - and using the scraps will help to make up for those. So if you charge too little for things like that, you'll end up losing money. How big are they? How much alcohol do you add to them?

I live in what the rest of the country refers to as a 'wholesale town'. Everything here is cheaper than everywhere else and people will not pay what they pay elsewhere. But, I've learned that if the product is good not to sell it for less than it's worth.

Are they the size of a truffle? Charge 75 cents for them but also tray them in half dozens and charge 2.50 for them (or something). I also make large ones - larger than a golf-ball, smaller than a baseball - and charge $2.50 for them.

And good luck!!

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Experienced retailers can give the best advice, like Pam R, but personally I think 50 cents is reasonable (from a consumer perspective) for smallish rum balls. I probably wouldn't pay 75 cents and I wouldn't want a large one for $2.75... For 50 cents, I'd easilly be tempted to add a bunch on to what ever the rest of my order was.

edited to add: I think Tartine Bakery in SF has Scharffenberger Nib meringues for 50 cents. I was always add some of the on to my order to bring home... :smile:

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Good morning! So everything got baked off yesterday (thanks to my parents, who were a BIG help). I got up early this morning and am baking scones as we speak. We just need to load up the mini-van and head to Woodstown...

Coffee is my friend...

We got change yesterday at the bank in small bills and quarters. We picked up our chef jackets from the tailors... we each had one nice, clean jacket remaining with our names stenciled onto it that now fit very nicely. We made the iced coffee, but the brand new cooler leaked, so I'm going to try the backup cooler now. It was maddening doing everything out of the house... the oven is SO small, but this is how it's got to be done at the moment. At least we're being clean and as effiecient as we can possibly be...

By the way, the costed to brandy balls out to be about $.11 each, so yeah $.25 was too little. We're going to charge $.50a pop, 5 for $2.00. I'd love to charge $.75 plus, but people in the parts wouldn't have anything to do with it. Everything is running about 15-20% food cost, which seems about right on.

Oh, the timer is going off... have to run. Wish us luck!

-Stephen

edited to add: mmmmmmmm Tartine... I miss thier croissants...

Edited by ohmyganache (log)

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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Does anyone have any suggestions for a way to treat an allergy to airborne flour?  I have known for a while that I am allergic to flour ( I hear it happens fairly often in this business), but I have not found anything to successfully treat it.  I have tried allergy medication, but it did not last for long.  I am going to try and get accupuncture once we can afford it, since a few years ago I got accupuncture for migraines, and it was really successful.  Until then I am sneezing like crazy when I scale recipes for cookies & cakes, but don't worry, I wash my hands a lot!

Use a better quality mask--like the ones promoted during the SARS epidemic. They're more expensive, but they work better than the cheap ones.

If you really don't want to use a mask, I think your best bet is to use a Neti Pot several times a day. If you go to the link, on the right side of the page you'll see a link to a video on how to use one. It may seem gross, but it's works very very well. It might take some practice, though. I've been using one for about a year and I still shoot water up to the back of my head sometimes (ouch!).

About cake scraps, there's a filipino sweet called silvanas that uses cake scraps mixed with buttercream. It would be a more expensive way to use up your cake scraps, but man, is it good!

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This is sort of related to the mask thing -- many bakers develop baker's eczema. It itches like crazy and the usual methods of treatment don't seem to work. Our doctor either misdiagnosed it or wasn't familiar with it. It's not as common as it used to be since so many "bakeries" now use frozen or par-baked dough and thus don't have ambient yeast in the bakery. They're not really baking but don't get me started on that.

But you know what does work? Monistat or the generic knockoff. No kidding.

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FYI

I work on NYC on 42nd St and a few doors down from my office is a bakery called Crumbs..cupcake minis at $ 1.75..regular ones with lots of cheap sweet icing.. sell for 2.95, selling out fast every day..

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prasantrin,

I will look into a better quality mask, it would be worth the money if they do actually work.

Funny you mentioned a Neti Pot, I was given one about 5 years ago by a friend at my yoga center, and I tried it once or twice but never really felt that it did much. It has moved around with me 4 times and I found it the other day. I guess the key is to be consistent with it, so I will give it a try again. Thank you for the suggestion!

Edited by chefjillm (log)

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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How did things go on Saturday?

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Hello! We had a successful weekend! Hooray!

We got up early on Saturday, baked off the scones, loaded up the van, and took off for Woodstown. We got there, set the table up, and quickly sold our first scone. The weather was not on our side though... it was kinda grey all day, and actually rained on us (twice). Obviously, the iced coffee was a bust. After the first rain though, business picked up becuase everyone took that time to eat lunch or sample the chili's at the chili cookoff. We sold a good number of everything, the scones were a big hit, as were all of the cookies. The brandy balls did really well (only after we started giving out samples... we didn't sell any before sample time). The cupcakes didn't sell too well, even after we dropped the price to a dollar. So although we didn't sell as much as we were hoping, we made a lot of really good contacts. We talked to a few brides (I'm so glad we printed pictures of our cakes and stuff, people seemed to really like them and I think it helped show people we're legit and not some Betty-homebakers). We met a couple that have an organic herb farm in the area. We met realtors. We met local press... and we gave out a ton of business cards and menus. So many people told us that Woodstown needs a bakery! We even had people showing us where to open up, where there are spaces available, and what to sell. We met the owner of a tea shop in town that is interested in buying tea pastries from us... So all in all, a good day.

That night, we went to the wedding that we made the truffle wedding favors for. They turned out super cute, and everyone seemed to really like them. The cake was awful, considering how much money they spent on everything. It really bothers me when brides have to get the cake from the venue the wedding is at. They are most always crap! The venue knows that the cake is sold no matter what, so they don't care about it. I mean the cake looked nice, but the pearl border looked more like Hershey Kisses (amateur-ish at best), the ganache icing was poor because you could see many spots where the under-layer of buttercream came through... and the ganache was cracked throughout the cake. It looked like they hade made it the day before and it sat in a walk-in... the edges were not clean, etc... ah!!!! It drives me crazy... but you know, not many people notice such details I guess...

The next day, the event didn't start until noon. It was grey out again, and this time is was straight up raining the whole way there. This event was a grape stomping festival, and thank God they moved it indoors! But after we set up, and right about when the event started, the sun came out and it became a beautiful day! That brought the crowds out, and long-story short... we had an amazing day and sold out of everything. We sold our last cookie about ten mintues before the event ended. We met more people this day, made more money, and everyone seemed super-impressed with everything that we did.

It was a lot of fun. My parents helped out the whole weekend, passing out samples, selling Jill and I, cutting samples, cleaning up, taking money, etc... They rocked and we couldn't have done it without them. Jill and I are really happy with how everything turned out...

We learned a lot as well! Such as...

-Invest in a tent, it will keep the sun and rain off of us. It'll also add a bit more professionalism to the display.

-Get more business cards and menus. We gave them ALL out.

-Events at wineries draw a higher clientele. We figured that the winery was a destination event as well. People went expecting to spend money, and they did. We asked higher prices on the scones ($2) and cupcakes ($1.50), and no one batted an eye at it. People at the town festival went not so much to buy things, but to check it out and browse the street...

-We need to push the mailing list. We didn't have a clipboard or anything for the mailing list, so it wasn't as easy for people to sign up or even notice it. It was one of those things that we didn't really think about until it was too late.

-Samples are very important! It brought people over, created a crowd around our table, and let people know why they would spend more money on our stuff. We pushed the all-natural, nothing artifical thing and people responded well.

-The waiters apron is very important for taking and keeping money, and we need to get another. (We only had one.)

That's about all I can think of at the moment...

I actually have a question for everyone as well... How should we charge for delivery? We're delivering in Vineland for free at the moment because we don't have an actual storefront, and the town's not that big. But what if someone wants a cake in Atlantic City? Or anywhere that's a little ways away? Suggestions???

Thanks everyone! Here are some pix from this weekend...

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The booth at Woodstown.

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We sold the Brandy Balls $.50 each, or five for $2. Almost everyone took the deal...

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Oatmeal cookies...

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Chocolate chip and PB fudge cookies...

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Chocolate cupcakes...

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Lemon cupcakes...

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More chocolate cupcake...

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The truffle boxes...

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The inside of the boxes with our stamp (the website is still not up!!!)

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The truffle box on the table...

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The booth at Renault Winery...

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SOLD OUT!!!

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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Stephen:

Congrats to you and Jill on a very successful weekend! Everything looks delicious and it's nice to see your pictures to put names with the faces.

Let us PhilleGullets know if you'll be having a booth at any festivals or food events in or near Philly. There's the Haddonfield and Manayunk Arts festivals, as well as lots of bridal fairs and other venues where you could introduce yourselves to potential customers that might slightly widen your sphere of influence. I'm sure we'll be there to support you and try those delicious looking cupcakes!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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