Once you've established that you'd like to be in business (see my previous post for more on that topic), you need to start thinking about the kind of business you would like to have. There can be some financial benefits to keeping a business based at home, but there are also some limitations to it as well. While it's true that many of us start in the home, that's not necessarily an ideal place to conduct business in the long term - and your dreams may include finally getting all those cutters out of the house!
The first thing to think about is what you are hoping to achieve with your business. Success is something that each person defines for her/himself. One person's version of success might be earning just enough from selling cookies to have some extra pocket money each month, while another person's version of success might be having the financial freedom to buy what s/he wants, when s/he wants. For some people, success isn't related to selling cookies at all, but is defined by being able to teach their skills and inspire other people, and to travel internationally to do so. You need to make some decisions about what you want your business to achieve before you can decide what the details of the actual business might look like. For example, if you decide that you really would be happy with working part-time for just a bit of extra money each week, there would be no real need for you to consider renting a storefront. If you decide that you want to create a legacy company that your children could take over someday, then you would probably need to consider a storefront and perhaps even a franchise model.
Having a home-based business versus one located in a storefront does not really have any bearing on what your success might be, but you've got to be clear about what success means to you in order to make those decisions. If, for you, part of your success is defined by money, work out how much money that actually is. Is it enough to equate to a part-time job or is it a lot more than that? Get very real about what success means to you and the details around that success. The only way to do this part is to soul-search and ask yourself, “What is it that I'm trying to achieve here?”
You also need to consider lifestyle choices. Do you want to go to a store each day that has set opening hours, or would you prefer the flexibility of working from home? There are other alternatives as well, like renting a commercial kitchen to create your products but meeting with your clients at home. And then there are the needs of your family, your financial resources, and, of course, time. Businesses that make custom food products nearly always ramp up toward the weekend, because that's when special events take place. If you really treasure your weekends, then perhaps you are better off with a traditional bakery that is open Monday through Saturday, but does not do custom work or deliveries, so that you have your Sundays free. Another option might be to start up a bakery that services the corporate market and therefore really only needs to operate Monday through Friday. There are at least as many ways to run your business as there are different types of cookies in the world!
Even if you've got the dream to open a beautiful store, you don't have to approach it in an all-or-nothing way. It's perfectly okay to have a long-term goal, but set some smaller ones along the way based on your current life. As an example, perhaps your dream business is to own a custom cookie boutique, but at the moment your family is young and your finances won't allow for that kind of investment. In that case, the best option might be to start from home, and work on building the business toward getting out of home. For the years while you're based at home, you focus on establishing your brand and a loyal clientele, so that when the time comes to find a location, you are starting with orders already in progress rather than opening the doors and waiting for people to find you for the first time.
Many of us start out in this business "accidentally", so we never really spend the time thinking about what we want our business to be or what it's going to achieve for us. We spend our days going from order to order and never stepping back to look at the bigger picture of what we are trying to accomplish. It's well worth doing the research and the soul-searching about the kind of business you would like to have, because this then has an impact on the way you will do business and what steps you are going to take from here.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Lots of great food for thought from Michelle! For another take on the home versus storefront decision, check out this post from Cookie Connection contributor Rebecca Litterell.]
Michelle Green is the author of The Business of Baking, the blog that inspires, motivates, and educates bakers and decorators to pursue their sweet business goals.
Photo credit: Michelle Green
Note: This article expresses the views of the author, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To read more Cookie Connection business posts, click here or here.