Late this morning I had a meeting with … well, before I get to that, let me say this – my meeting was both expected and unexpected, and it was GREAT!

So what does that mean?

I had a meeting scheduled with the Island County Commissioner and the head of the Economic Development Counsel (for a lack of better terms the Whidbey Island small business association) – what I didn’t know was that I was also getting two additional EDC members – it was a committee!

While I planned to meet in the front of the bakery where there’s a nice room, they came right in to the bakery and we started talking. They were interested in what I do & how I do it, how I got to where I’m at with my baking company, what I want to do with it, and most importantly what I need for my company to grow and be successful. Meeting in the bakery was great, I was finishing up a batch of Lemon Cake and Chocolate Citrus Biscotti for my guests – talking here instead of the fancy front room felt like they joined me in my trench. More than that was not only what they had to say but what they want to do. Not only do they serve as an information source for a small business person like me, but they want to get involved. Frankly, I can use and will take the help and be grateful for it.

They want me to send them some of the information I have built for my company up to this point. They want to assess aspects of my production for efficiency. They want to meet with business people carrying my product to get their perspective of carrying my product. They want to see if there are meetings they can help facilitate with other businesses and better align my business with beneficial opportunities.

I have a lot of ideas and a lot that I’m working on for my company, and I’m glad to be doing it. I don’t admit to know or see everything about what I’m doing with my company, and frankly there are things that are working and things that need to be working better. These kind folks are willing to apply their experience to my efforts, and if it will help the question-marks that exist with WIBC and help bring my product to people, I’ll do everything I can to receive and apply all that they have to offer.

So I knew that I was going to have a meet with two great people, and I was given the gift of four great people who genuinely want to help my company to grow in the way it needs. I’m grateful.

Thanks, Don

PS — That “M33ting” title was not me trying to be hip, that was a typeo … I meant to hit “ee” but working fast hit a couple of 3s, and I liked the look of it so I left it.

WIBC – In-Store Demos

(January 10th & 24th 2015)

I got to do my first in-store demos of my product January 10th & 24th 2015 at Goose Grocery in Bayview on Whidbey Island.

The 10th preceded a professional football game. I’m not a game person but apparently this was an important one locally as the Seahawks were getting into the finals going toward the Super Bowl. I don’t know what the Super Bowl is, but by the name alone I suspect it is a very large bowl and people are very pleased about it. I on the other hand wonder if I can mix a lot of biscotti dough in it &/or fill it with biscotti and serve it to many people. I will set the official WIBC R&D Department on finding out the dimensions of this bowl right away – more will be revealed.

I sampled the January flavour array from WIBC – Double Chocolate, Almond, and Espresso. While I planned to be there for four hours I think I was there for five. It was great! Samples went out every minute. People talked with me about my company. A few even shared ideas they had – I love that! The Whidbey Island County Commissioner met me – COOL – saying that she is pleased to see new businesses on the island and enjoyed seeing mine. A few days later she started a very nice email dialogue and now I’m scheduled to meet with her on the 30th to talk about ways to further my company. All in all it was thrilling to get to this point – nearly two years in the making – getting to tell people about my product and seeing many people enjoy it for the first time. By the end of my time I was nearly out of samples and I had (basically) sold-out Goose’s stock.

January 24th I was back … this time having the nerve to do something in the way of marketing I’ve had in mind since early in the inception … I wore my kilt. I figure my biscotto is not like normal biscotti, so why should my advertising be … plain? Besides, it was the eve of Robert Burns Day (a Scottish poet from the 1700s who is still celebrated today … or, well, tomorrow as it was). My product seemed to get plenty of attention – which I saw as good since I really wanted to not get too much personal attention, kilt attention, or confuse the public. Again, samples flew off the table and much enjoyment was had (yea). By the end of my time I was nearly out of samples and I had (basically) sold-out Goose’s stock.

Here’s a few things with these in-store demos …

  • For all the performing I’ve done, wearing my kilt or as with the first week wearing jeans and a fitted dress shirt, I found myself extremely nervous. I believe in my product, and my baking has already made many people very happy; now that I am doing it professionally I have become very critical and I want it to show well. I want people to give it a chance.
  • When talking with people, while I had some speaking points, I wanted to not be scripted. I wanted to connect with people, and that’s what everyone gave back to me. We talked, we laughed, I told them about my biscotti, some told me some of their flavour ideas and baking tips, and I was flattered to hear many compliments on my biscotti.
  • In my now two demo experiences I’ve found that there is an energy level that comes up as you meet many people and talk constantly about your product. A few hours into each demo I found myself about as dingy as I could possibly be. The experience cooks your brains. Although I was pleased with what went on each day, afterward I was tired. I felt like I had spent all day playing my (bag)pipes at a festival with my Celtic-rock band – high energy, hard work, put all of your passion out. As much as it lifts you up, it can also wear you out.
  • In addition to samples I gave out small bags of my cookie crumbs. I’d look for kids, give these to them, and tell them to take them home and put the crumbs on their ice cream. The kids were pleased with this and so were their parents. No kid was more pleased than one little girl who I saw on the 24th. After I gave her a bag of crumbs she said thank you. Her and her mom came by my table about 3 more times as they did their shopping, and each time she said “THANK YOU FOR MY CRUMBS!” and the whole store knew it. As she passed by my table she did a skipping little dance holding up the bag of crumbs. I hope to never forget her – she was AWESOME!

Until the next one,

Two Months

(End of December 2014 and January 2015)

So I’m the baker who blogs, right? But you’re asking yourself “Where then are the blogs, why haven’t you posted lately?” While I may be a semi-blogging baker, I’m also a quite busy baker.

December 2014 proved to be all about finding my feet and getting my process to be as efficient as possible. The act of producing a high quantity of biscotti took a number of changes in my baking space. First I thought this would be limited to the layout and rearrangement of my space until I found the greatest ergonomics. Other elements followed – obviously I found how I needed to coordinate mixing & baking my dough with dish-washing and packaging, but what was unexpected was finding aspects of how I need to move in my workspace (really this too is an ergonomics thing but I’m not sure how better to describe it).

By the end of December, having sought the consultation of my SBA associate and a friend who has been further coaching me in sales, I identified that I needed to reduce my cost of labor. Please don’t mistake this as meaning I found I needed to pay my employees less because I am all of my employees – my costs where in my time and energy (and by the way, for the sake of my company, I’m not paying myself yet). In producing for businesses to sell my product, I had been offering that they could order any of my flavours, which had me drawing from a wide assortment of ingredients to make a variety of biscotto flavours having to wash my equipment at every turn.

Starting in January I made a shift – every location would regularly receive two flavours, Double Chocolate and Almond, and the flavour-of-the-month, with January being Espresso (a little caffeine to start the new year you see). I’m happy about this approach, not just for the efficiency of my baking production, but because I like what this does with presenting the public with my flavours – two tried and true flavours and one highlight.
TO BE CLEAR – Anyone wanting to place a retail order direct from WIBC may purchase from the complete flavour list of biscotti and shortbread.

So what’s the score-board look like now at the end of two months?

When I’m in the bakery my production is flowing. My company has established business with a few new groceries and restaurants and private orders are beginning to come in. Frankly, WIBC is operating below viability but I’m seeing good growth in a short amount of time. The lack of business has been an asset, giving me not only time to reach additional businesses but also to be able to refine my process with available time.

Getting placed in restaurants and stores has been going okay, however I’ve needed to get more locations faster. Frankly, I’m concerned about running out of my start-up funding before the company takes … which may well be a legit concern or may just be common new-small-business jitters. I’ve been told that there is good money to be made with selling at area festivals / events / conventions and I’ve begun looking into attending a list that has kindly been shared with me by a fellow small business person.

Whatever the case, I keep thinking back to a paper in college – moreover the subject. I wrote on the 100th Battalion & 442nd Regimental Combat Team – the all-Japanese American soldiers of WWII. Without going into a dissertation on the subject here, I will say it is a fascinating, powerful, and inspiring piece of history and I encourage everyone to do some research. Those men had a motto – “Go For Broke”. All out – that’s how they worked and that’s how they played – that’s how they gambled and that’s how they fought. Every time I wonder if the up-hill to this company is too up-hill, I remember their astounding trials & tribulations and I think “Go For Broke”.

I also remember something I learned from Journey …

Don’t Stop Believin’,