Hey Besties! We are quickly heading into our biggest and most exciting time of year! October through December is hands down the busiest time of year for baking! For home bakery owners, it presents a TREMENDOUS opportunity for your business. For many bakeries, a high percentage of their annual business comes from these three months. Which is super exciting, but also requires upfront planning to ensure optimal execution. You want to make sure you’re making the most out of this season since it can be a complete game changer for your business.
There are several different business strategies that you can implement to ensure success AND enjoyment! This is the first in a 3-part series to help you prepare for big success this season! It’s your ultimate guide to planning your home bakery business strategy for a successful holiday season! Buckle up because there’s a lot of information here! But I can assure you, this is the information you need to optimize your business’s potential this holiday season! Let’s go!
The Best Operational Strategy For Your Home Bakery
If there is one thing I have learned as a bakery owner and home bakery business coach, it’s that you will not be successful trying to do ALL the things. Unless you have employees or a team supporting your business, you can only do so much as one person. If you try to offer pre-sales, custom orders, participate in markets, and more? You’re going to be crying in the corner before Halloween. It is critical to decide what operational strategy works best for YOUR bakery. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Your goal is to maximize business while also maintaining your mental health and still enjoying your business. In order to achieve that, your first step is deciding on your strategy.
We’re going to talk about several different strategies, the pros/cons of each and considerations for all. You may decide to implement several of these strategies throughout the season, but I caution you from trying to do them all at the same time. That’s the fastest way to burn out, poor quality and ultimately, hurting your business.
Pre-sales are a common home bakery business strategy that definitely has some benefits but also some potential drawbacks too. If you’re not already familiar with this strategy, let’s cover the basics. You determine an offering, or offerings, that you promote to your followers. They can then place orders in advance for fulfillment on a pre-determined date. As an example, maybe you offer a 2-piece cookie set for Halloween. You create samples, take photos and start accepting orders for them in the beginning of October, for pickup on Oct 30. Many bakers use pre-sales as their main home bakery business strategy year-round and have success with it.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons!
Pre-sales allow bakers to decide what they want to make and offer to their clientele. And because you’re only offering a few options, you can mass produce your products, which can be super-efficient. For this reason, pre-sales are typically slightly lower priced since you can make them more efficiently and you’re not designing and creating many different custom orders. There is also a huge advantage in knowing exactly how much to make, based on the orders you have! If you receive orders for 100 cookies, you know exactly how many to make so there is no guessing or waste. For those who love to plan, pre-sales are wonderfully simple to manage!
That said, since you are pre-determining what your bakery will offer, you need to ensure you’re giving the people what they want! If you’re not offering something people love, it will show in the amount of orders you receive. I’ve seen a lot of bakers struggle with this and get really frustrated when they plan designs and then not get the orders. Remember, it’s not about what YOU think is fun or cute to offer, it’s about what the MARKET wants. Just like any business, you need to determine what your clientele wants to translate into sales!
Over the years, we have had some SUPER successful pre-sales and some that didn’t generate the sales we thought they would! No one has a crystal ball, but the more in touch you are with your client base, the more you can succeed in this area.
Pre-sale keys to success: If you are planning to offer pre-sales, I HIGHLY suggest you engage with your client-base now and get their feedback on what they want this season! Create a poll or another creative way to obtain their feedback and it will really help you dial in exactly what you should offer. Plus, when customers feel engaged in your business, they are more likely to support you through orders and referrals.
Custom orders are the next home bakery business strategy and are very popular! Many home bakers only offer custom orders year-round and have huge success with it! Once again, let’s cover the pros and cons!
Many bakers love the variety of designs they get to make since every order is different. It allows for bakers to really play with different techniques and challenge their skills. Especially when a customer asks for something you’ve never done before! And because you are creating custom goods, you can charge slightly higher rates, because these are more time-consuming. Producing 100 cookies that may be 4 completely different orders is obviously more time-consuming than 100 of the same item. Your expenses don’t generally change much, but customs take much more of your time.
You’ve probably already determined one of the cons with custom orders…they are less efficient and more time-consuming. But if you prefer to always be creating new designs for every order and have the time to support this strategy, it can be wonderful!
Customs keys to success: Your clientele needs to know that you are available for custom order requests and your skills level. Post how much lead time is necessary so customers can plan accordingly. You may book several weeks or months out, depending on how busy you are. Make sure your client-base knows that, so you’re not constantly disappointing people when you can’t take their order.
Regularly post pictures of all the orders you produce. This will provide inspiration to your customers and learn your skill level. It will also spark inspiration in them for events or special occasions they may not have considered hiring you for!
It’s also worth mentioning that custom orders require a slightly higher level of customer service and engagement with your customers. They are coming to you to create something really special they have envisioned and it’s up to you to translate that and hit the mark. So, make sure you’re able to provide the customer service level necessary to meet (and exceed) their expectations. The pre-sale strategy does not require this same level of customer service since it’s already pre-determined what you are offering. If engaging with customers doesn’t excite you, pre-sales might be a better option for you!
You’ve seen them and we’ve all been to them! And during these three months of the year, they are everywhere! Whether it’s a farmer’s market, a craft fair or community festival, these can be opportunities for HUGE success! But there’s LOTS to consider here…let’s get into it.
I’ve personally seen bakers make thousands of dollars participating in successful markets and that’s not by luck! There is a ton of work that goes into the planning and preparation for this business strategy. You have the opportunity to get in front of hundreds, or commonly thousands, of potential customers, who are literally shopping. If you play your cards right, it can be a cash cow. Not only can you potentially make great profit, but you can gain awesome exposure in your community which can lead to further business growth.
However, one of the hardest parts of markets is that you do have to pre-make everything, based on your best estimate of what you might sell. Now, if you do markets enough, you can probably get really good at dialing in exactly how much product you’ll sell. But if this is new to you, it’s a bigger risk. I’ve seen bakers spend weeks making product and then sell virtually nothing and they are CRUSHED. Always ask the organizers what their attendance number was in the past so you can better gauge product levels you should have.
The other BIG piece to consider with markets is your booth setup. Presentation is everything at these markets. If you are just standing at a boring table, you will not get the sales results you want. You need to be prepared to invest in a fantastic setup to draw the people in. You want to appear as professional as your bakery is! So, think tablecloths, canopy, great banners or signage, displays cases or racks to create varying heights to feature products and more. There are endless ideas on Pinterest and Facebook for vendor booth setups.
Market keys to success: Make sure you are set up to accept electronic payments and have change if customers can pay with cash. Ask the organizer if there will be other venders offering similar products as you are. You’ll also need to weight the cost of participating in the event. Many of these can be expensive to have a booth. Between the investment in the booth fee and your setup, you’ll need to ensure you’ll be profitable. Also make sure you plan for weather conditions! Heat, rain and wind can wreak havoc on your goods or setup if you’re not prepared!
This is a less commonly discussed strategy that has amazing potential. While most bakers focus on their general community, businesses and corporations have BIG bucks that they spend on goods you make! Whether it’s for customer appreciation, staff recognition or holiday parties, YOU want to be their baker for all their needs! And speaking from personal experience working for a very large, global corporation, they spend ridiculous amounts of money on things like this.
Catering to the needs of corporations and businesses is not something many home bakers do and presents a huge opportunity. It’s also a great strategy if you are in a lower-income area where maybe the general client-base can’t afford luxury baked goods, but corporations can.
Create samples of your work, catering to the needs of businesses and drop off these samples. Introduce yourself while also ensuring all your samples are dripping in your labeling so they know how to connect with you. The person you meet is likely not the person who makes these decisions, so make sure the information you leave will get into the right hands. Let them know you are available for any custom needs for their events. Also offer cookie card examples! We offer several free cookie cards designed for customer and staff appreciation in our weekly newsletter. Create a sample using some of these so they can see what you can offer. Companies love a gift attached to a special message and cookie cards do just that!
Corporate orders keys to success: The saying, “the fortune is in the follow-up” applies here. Ask for who you can contact to follow-up. Then actually follow-up a week later and ask if you received your samples and if they have any questions. You’d be surprised how often they’ll say, “Oh yes! I’ve been meaning to call you about this event we have coming up!” But if you didn’t call, they probably never would’ve reached out.
Deciding On A Home Bakery Business Strategy
While the world we operate in is full of sprinkles, sugar and icing, home bakery businesses are still serious business! It requires strategic thinking, marketing and planning to reach its potential.
The four distinct strategies we’ve covered are the biggest, most successful for home bakeries during the holiday season. There are additional strategies that can be implemented, such as catering your business to colleges, military bases and fundraising efforts. I cover these in-depth within posts in our cottage baking resources, which you can find HERE.
In this first of the three-part series in planning for a successful holiday season, I encourage you to decide which strategy, or strategies, you want to implement. Maybe you’ll be participating in a big market at the end of October which will require you to be focused on the baking and preparations for that all of October. But then pre-sales make more sense for November and December. Or maybe you’ll just participate in a few markets throughout the season! Which home bakery business strategy you use depends on your strengths, your time, your market and more. One or a mixture of these will be your answer to capitalizing on the holiday season. But please, I beg of you, don’t try to do them all at the same time…it’s a recipe for disaster.
In part two, coming up soon, we’re diving into the next stage of planning! You’ll know which business strategy you’re going with, so we’ll get into the details of planning for each holiday. You’re going to want to use this planning method to lower the stress while also optimizing sales!! Stay tuned!
If you’re not already receiving our weekly newsletter, this is the perfect time to subscribe! Never miss out on part 2 & 3, in additional to new recipes, techniques, product recommendations, Featured Bakers and free printables! Happy Baking, Besties!
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