6 Things to Think About Before Opening a Retail Bakery

Hey-hey home baker, I’m talking to you.

Yeah, you.

The one who has outgrown their kitchen and has lost all free time on the weekends.

I have been right where you are.

Dreaming and obsessing over all the things I would do if I had my own cute little cake shop. How I would decorate the front of house and how I would charm every customer with a free sample as they strolled in the door. How people would FINALLY take me seriously as a cake decorator!!
Oh yes, I’ve been there.

I’ve also been on the other side of there.

I’ve actually owned and operated a real life cake shop. And that, my friends, is why I’m here today. To talk to you about the reality of it all. You really MUST think about these things before you take the leap and dive in!

Six Things to Consider Before Opening a Retail Bakery

1. Know WHY you are doing this.

I know why you dream of doing this, but why are you really doing this?

Do you want to make more money than you are now? Do you want the fame of having a wildly successful bakery?

Do you want to be busier with more customers? Do you just want all that cake stuff out of your house and to stop taking over every spare inch you can find to shove more supplies?

Do you want the opportunity to hire employees and delegate some of the work so that you have more time for your own family?

If you are only opening a bakery to satisfy your daydreams, you may need to think about the next few things first.

2. How much time are you willing to devote to operating your business?

Operating a retail bakery will take ALL of your time. I truly mean that.

As the owner, you will work 24/7/365.

Not. Even. Kidding.

If you have a storefront you will most likely be busier than you are at home. Not only will you need to spend time on actually making cakes, you will spend time on the book work, paying bills, ordering supplies, taking inventory, hiring/firing/managing employees, handling advertising, answering calls/emails only you as the owner can respond to, creating recipes/menus, shopping, etc., etc.

It’s what you already do, but 100 fold. So take the amount of time you spend working on your cakes now and multiply that by 100.  Now you have how many hours you will work in a week. What’s this you say? It’s impossible to work a 175 hour work week? Rubbish!! 😀

3.  Do you have a plan?

I don’t just mean a plan of how things are going to look and how everyone is going to think your yummies are the best in town. I mean a real deal business plan.  If you are going to finance this venture, you will be required to have a plan anyway.  But even if you aren’t financing you MUST have a plan!!

Know what your operating hours will be. How many employees you will need and what schedule they will work. If you will purchase ingredients locally or if you will use a food service. Have your menu and recipes ready. Have business cards and brochures printed before you ever open your doors.  Know exactly how much your items, supplies, packaging and ingredients cost per unit. Know exactly how much your overhead will cost you. How much will your workers comp insurance, unemployment insurance and liability insurance cost? Will you pay sick days or maternity leave? How much will you pay out in salaries, sales taxes, business licenses, and deposits? Call the utility office and ask what an average bill costs for the unit you are going to operate in. Is your building already set up for a food service business? Will you need to get permits or build out your building? What is the cost of your equipment? How long will it take the Health Department to allow you to open once you’re ready? Shop around for internet, phone, advertising, insurance, etc. KNOW HOW MUCH THINGS ARE GOING TO COST. Now you can use that information to decide how much you need to charge for your products! See??? Have a plan.

4.  To finance or not to finance?

Speaking of knowing how much things are going to cost…  How are you going to fund this venture?  If you are going to finance you will need to have that business plan ready. There are different types of loans you can get, so be sure you research them all. You can find tons of free information on small business loans and other funding options over at sba.gov.

Decide if you need a down payment, collateral, or if you will be using credit cards. Also, be sure to think about how you will handle the financial situation if you are not able to make those payments. How is that going to affect other aspects of your life?  Are you using your home or vehicle as collateral and will you lose those items?  Are you about to sink your entire life savings into this?  Will you be maxing out those credit cards?

Once you decide on how you will finance your startup don’t forget about those operating costs. Be sure you have some kind of cushion for slow times whether that is a personal stockpile of cash you have set aside, a line of credit, or one credit card you held back from maxing. Whatever it may be, just be sure you have it at the ready.  You will need it.

5.  Are you ready to be a boss?

Are you really prepared to be a boss?

Now look, I’m the first to admit I can be considered to be a bit bossy.  Or so I’m told by my younger sisters, my kids, my husband…. well you get the idea. I’m the eldest child, what can I say, I come by it honestly, right?  But here’s the kicker. I am may be great at being bossy, but I’m a terrible boss!!!

There’s more to being a boss than bossing. You’ve got to be able to manage people. You need to be prepared to interview, hire, delegate, and even fire people.  Trust me, it’s much harder than it sounds.  You also need to be able to be respected (and be respectful), you need to be taken seriously, you need to be fair, and you need to be able to set standards that you expect to be met by all your employees.  You also must remember, you are their employer, not their friend.  You must keep those thoughts separate, even if you’re friendly with your employees (and you definitely should be!).  If you don’t you will never be able to manage employees to your best ability.

Oh yeah, and remember that how much time do you want to invest thing?  Well, that’s one other thing you get to think about.  YOU are the employee of the month. Of the year!  You will need to know how to perform every job and be willing and able to do so.  If you have an employee call in, be prepared to jump into that position.  Be prepared to work every position at once because sometimes you just might have to! There may be times when it’s slow enough that you need to decide if it’s worth it to pay another person to do a job you can actually do yourself.  Holidays and weekends are another time when you get to work but may decide to let your employees enjoy the time off. You will need to consider these things when you are deciding on how much time you’re willing to put in as well when you are creating your business plan costs.

6. Are you ready to develop a thick, and I mean THICK, skin?

Once those doors open, you are now considered by those that be- a professional.  If you are still working on those decorating skills and you’ve only been doing this just a little while, it doesn’t matter. As soon as you establish yourself in a brick and mortar store, the customers will expect you to be an absolute expert.

There will not be much room for error. Everything you do will be under scrutiny.  Everything your employees say and do will be under scrutiny.  Anything and everything that goes out your door will be criticized and picked apart.  The fact is when you grow your audience you open yourself up to more opportunities to be put under the microscope.  Not everyone will like your work. Heck, not everyone likes your work now. But when you become a storefront, you lose that personal touch.

People aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings anymore if they aren’t completely pleased. Now they’re racing to social media to let the entire world know how awful you are, all without ever letting you know they were unhappy. It’s just reality. The thing is, it will bother you. It will ruin your weekend when you get that first call complaining about your work.

The first time, the next time, and the last time will all hurt the same.  Just be prepared and know that not all people had mothers to teach them that golden rule. You know the one.

The first time, the next time, and the last time will all hurt the same.  Just be prepared and know that not all people had mothers to teach them that golden rule. You know the one. There are plenty of people who are ready to spew whatever junk comes to their thoughtless minds. So you have to decide how you will handle the situation when it comes.  Because unfortunately, it WILL come.


So there you have my six things you definitely need to think about before opening a bakery.

Now that you’ve thought about these 6 things, it’s time to decide if you have the three must-haves for operating any business.

Have you considered working from home may be just where you need to be? Regardless of where you work from, you need to be sure you’re charging properly for your cakes and not being the cheap cake lady! I’ve even created the perfect packet to help you be more organized in your home or retail bakery. 

What other things have you thought about when trying to decide if opening a storefront is for you? Tell me in the comments what would make it to the top of your list when considering opening a storefront.

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14 thoughts on “6 Things to Think About Before Opening a Retail Bakery”

  1. Thanku for sharing all the information. One does tend to get carried away with the daydreaming but it’s good to know what awaits you when you open your own venture!

  2. Still thingking over to accept a friend’s offer to put up a bakery… after reading this gave me a bit understanding of the bussiness thing … i like challenges.. but then i never want to end up broke , everything is risky…

  3. This was very helpful and eye opening! I “dream” about my little cake shop and my kitchen is over run with my baking stuff and on a busy baking day my kids look at me crazy when I say make a sandwich and get out of my way, as loving as I possibly can while making swiss butter cream and piping cupcakes. I also work full time and looking to step away from that and really dive into my cake business. It is overwhelming, so again thank you

    1. Shae,
      Sounds like you are a very busy lady! I know exactly what you’re referring to when you mention your kids looking at you crazy! I’m glad to see you are really looking at all sides of the coin when it comes to going full time in your cake business. Let me know if you ever have any questions that I haven’t covered here. I’d also love for you to consider being a featured baker in the new newsletter The Baker’s Corner, where I spotlight bakers from all walks and their personal baking business experiences. If you’d like to be a part of it, just email me at features@cautiouslyoptimistickitchen.com, and let me know!

  4. I totally agree with every little thing you have written in your article. I am running a restaurant in Goa, India….loved the whole idea initially….i work through out the year…i work on all massive public holidays n easy days too..i wake up every morning thinking let this day go perfectly and without any hang ups. There r days when staff done turn up or equipment suddenly stop working… Phew!!! A very challenging job….and one must totally n mentally prepared to take up all challenges. But i am a person who always loved challenging job…so i love it and very passionate. It’s an experience.

  5. I’ve been searching for some article like this to get more ideas, it really gives me a second thought.Thank you!!

  6. Thank you for the article!! Such great valid points! I am looking to open a cheesecake bakery from a section of my home and you are the first article I read! Thank you for the honesty and not “sugar” coating it 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sue! Running your own business can be very rewarding, but it’s difficult to be prepared for all the things that may not immediately come to mind. I’m really glad my experience may have helped you think about some of those things. I sure wish you all the luck!

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