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Debut Post: Storefront Diaries - Pursuing the Business Plan

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If you didn't see my recent forum post about changes to our team of contributors, let me quickly catch you up! Aymee VanDyke, writer of From Dough to Dollars, recently departed Cookie Connection, much to our dismay. But we've been blessed with the addition of a new business correspondent - the talented Rebecca Litterell of Litterelly Delicious Cakery. We're thrilled to have her join the team!




Today marks the debut of Rebecca's Storefront Diaries! In this monthly column, she'll be writing about the trials and triumphs of moving into a brick-and-mortar bakery and all of the associated business decisions that this expansion involves. While she'll be chronicling her journey in a diary of sorts, she'll also be soliciting feedback from you about how to tackle various challenges along the way. Should be lots of fun - and informative - too! ~JMU]



For my first post, I thought it would be best to start with business plans, which is funny to me because a business plan is exactly what I avoided the longest in my quest to open my own shop. You see, I didn’t understand its importance at first, and perhaps even thought of it as a waste of time. And then I quickly realized that a business plan is needed for so much more than borrowing money from banks. In all honesty, it’s an intimate look at your business through objective eyes. It's a formal, written set of goals for your business; the reasons you think you can attain these goals; and the process by which they will be reached. A business plan is also a reference point to which to return at any time during your venture to make sure you are staying on target with your goals - not to mention, it's an excellent motivational tool.


Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Then why was it so dang hard for me to sit down and write one? Somehow, I found the process very intimidating. Maybe it was because I do not have a business degree or had never taken one business/finance class in my life! And honestly, I had never even seen a business plan before. I had put off writing my business plan for so long that I was starting to wonder why it was even necessary to write one. I wasn't borrowing from a bank, and my family members who were helping me financially were just as clueless as I was; they wouldn’t have known what to look for even if I did write one.


Needless to say, my ignorance only carried me so far when my realtor asked for my business plan after I put an offer on a space to rent. I had to tell her, with some embarrassment, that I did not have one. I was hoping for: “Oh, that is okay. We will just work around it.” Instead, what I got was: “How soon can you get one in my hands?” Why on earth does my realtor need my business plan, I thought. After talking it over with my husband, it became clear that the reason this plan was so important to my realtor was because she was going to present it to the owner of the building. If you are planning to rent a space, wouldn’t the owner of that building want to know of your plans? Of course! It makes sense now. You and your business might not be considered an asset to that person's business or to the building itself. If you owned something of value and someone wanted to borrow or rent it from you, wouldn’t you want to know of his/her plans - and, more importantly, if s/he was in a good position to make payments to you?


Off to the computer I went, scouring the internet for helpful business plan sites and any other useful information that might pertain to my business. It quickly became apparent that I knew little about the nuts and bolts of my operation. But in the process of writing my own business plan, I learned so much, including how to calculate my profit margin and how much busier I needed to be just to cover overhead. So you see, the business plan is just as much of an asset to your own business as it is to banks and anyone else who is planning to invest in your business.


For a fun little exercise, play around here to see what your gross profit margin is on your products. [EDITOR'S NOTE: And if you don't know the direct cost of making your product, which is needed to compute gross margin, then check out this past Cookie Connection post to learn how to figure it out.]


You might be wondering how much and what type of information I needed to include in my business plan. At the very least, I decided that mine would cover certain topics, such as an executive summary, my target market, competition, my team, my sales and profit forecast, and my business model, which includes things like products and services offered and an explanation of how I will make my business valuable. You can find out more about these subjects here. [EDITOR'S NOTE: If a "Thought of the Day" pops up when you click this link, just hit "Continue to Site" in the upper right, and you'll be directed to the right content.]


Here is my own personal sales forecast table from my business plan, projecting the first three years of business. My table shows direct materials cost as well, but please keep in mind that they are a small portion of my projected costs. My direct labor costs (baking/decorating time) and other indirect costs are accounted for elsewhere in my financial model.



Year   1

Year   2

Year   3

Online Sales




Entertainment room




Walk in Sales




Custom Orders




Total   Sales






Direct Materials Cost

Year   1

Year   2

Year   3

Online Sales




Entertainment Room




Walk in Sales




Custom Orders




Subtotal Direct Materials Cost





How did I decide what to include? It's really not as magical as you might think. I simply looked over sample business plans and plugged in what I could answer and left out what I could not, and researched other topics that I thought would be helpful to include. Thankfully, with the plethora of information on the internet, looking at business plans and figuring out how to write your own can be a little less daunting. Check out these sites to help you write yours:


And for some sample business plans in the food service industry, click here.


What are your thoughts? Are business plans important and why? Tell me about your experience with business plans.



Rebecca Litterell is owner of Litterelly Delicious Cakery. She started decorating cakes for family and friends in 2006 and eventually incorporated cookies into the mix in 2011. She is completely self-taught and passionate about teaching her skill and know-how to others, both online and in the cake and cookie classes that she hosts at her local community college. Before cakes and cookies, Rebecca spent most of her career in the medical field. She is a mother of three and a wife, and loves living in the country. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s riding her horses. 


Photo credit: Rebecca Litterell


NoteStorefront Diaries is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Rebecca Litterell that chronicles her journey of opening up a brick-and-mortar business after years of baking out of her home. Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Rebecca's past Cookie Connection posts here.



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  • Storefront Diaries Banner: Photos/Logo Courtesy of Litterelly Delicious Cakery

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Seriously, what is it about the business plan!? I too put it off for months! Glad I did it though. It was a bit of work, scouring the web for sources and guessing at a couple things...but it got done in a few days! And I am very glad I did it. I felt like such a big girl. Looking forward to your columns, Rebecca!

Smiling at you Rebecca.  I haven't put one together either.  But I'm thinking it may be too late for me to attempt a business.  Anyway, the SBA is a good source to go to for assistance...

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

Smiling at you Rebecca.  I haven't put one together either.  But I'm thinking it may be too late for me to attempt a business.  Anyway, the SBA is a good source to go to for assistance...

Small Business Administration - SBA.  Be careful of online info.  Smiling.  Protect yourself.  BTW, love your post and wait to see more from you.  In online friendship, I wish all success to you.

Thank you! The knowledge I have gained through the business plan has been worth the journey alone. I'd also like to add that even if you don't plan on opening a storefront, but do this out of your home for profit, it would still be beneficial to pursue your own business plan. It's a real eye opener! 

Originally Posted by LDcakery:

Thank you! The knowledge I have gained through the business plan has been worth the journey alone. I'd also like to add that even if you don't plan on opening a storefront, but do this out of your home for profit, it would still be beneficial to pursue your own business plan. It's a real eye opener! 

Here in PA, working out of home the home has to be state approved, etc.  Laws, laws, laws.  lol  And I can't find a business that rents out their kitchen.

Great idea to share the information.  The SBA website is a great resource.  Also Zingerman's, from Ann Arbor, have produced a number of GREAT resources over the course of years describing their development.  These are must reads for a developing business.  Starting as a deli, they have expanded to a bakery, coffee shop, chocolate enterprise and other venture.

Great entry Rebecca! I started my business through a local organization called Enterprise for Equity that pretty much takes a business from an idea to reality. Its funded through the Department of Agriculture and the Economic Development Council. I will say though, the business plan was the hardest part. There were so many details I hadn't thought of, considered or even dreamed about. And the cool thing with this program is that the entire business portfolio that you create by the end of the program is reviewed by a third party. (A volunteer from the business community, who doesnt know you from Adam) and you get real, honest feedback. I think I found that the most helpful. I also agree with you on reviewing it often. Somethings you may have in there might be working, some may not, and its good to check that out. Thanks for the great post, Rebecca!  

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