All posts by BiscottiDon

Supersize Me and Food, Inc.

I made the gross mistake* of viewing these two films in the same day, back to back.  At the end of these I was so disturbed I thought I might not eat for weeks.  To sum up each of these films … Supersize Me is a ground-level, personal view of the issues with our mass-produced food; Food, Inc. gives both a local & global view of massive production of food and how this affects health, national economies, and political decisions.  Watch these, just maybe with a longer break in between the two films than what I took.
(*and I mean ‘gross’ in both ways)

Super Size Me on IMDB.com

Super Size Me on Wikipedia.org

 

Food, Inc. on IMDB.com

Food, Inc. on Wikipedia.org

 

Kitchen Tips – Yours & Mine

Do you ever find yourself in your kitchen making something tasty thinking to yourself “You know, that one thing that I do in my kitchen is a good idea and other people would benefit from knowing about it.”?  Yeah, me too.  Well, here’s your chance!

Over this past weekend while doing a little baking I thought of something I might add to my current in-process baking book — KITCHEN TIPS!  What’s a Kitchen Tip?  Well, one of my ideas — and I would hope this should be obvious — is to always keep your oven mitts or hot pads in a consistent place so you’re not scrambling for them when the timer rings.  I thought up & wrote down about another 5 and then I thought “ENGAGE YOUR PUBLIC” — so……..

WHAT ARE YOUR BAKING-RELATED KITCHEN TIPS?  Comment below ….. yes, I’m actually going to allow comments for once.  These would be suggestions related to setting up your kitchen for baking or around the process of baking (etc).  Write your tips, hints, & ideas here — they might get included in my baking book!

“Collect your cookie crumbs – they go great on top of ice cream! For best results, serve soon.” Marion C. – Milwaukee, WI”.

If I publish your idea I will try to let you know in advance.  Also, I would like to put your name & location as written above.  Now, I should also say — while I like this idea for my book, I’m not sure how I might include them.  My original idea was to disperse these notes throughout my tome but that doesn’t fit with my mental image of the contents – so these might end up as their own section instead.

Submit your ideas & you just might get your name in print!
Enjoy ~ Don

WIBC Change Announcement

Yesterday was a big day, and today has been at least as big.

Around November 2015 I came to realize a number of issues for me/WIBC to continue doing business as it has during the past year+.  To this end, I identified that I wanted to keep going with a baking business in a different form and would need to cease my production of baked goods.  Yesterday & today I informed the managers of the various businesses WIBC sells product through, and today I’ve made my first general-public announcements.  It is my aim to transition (or in business language “pivot”) WIBC into a company that is about baking & other food preparation.

A number of things have gone very well for WIBC as a production baking company – particularly for being in business just over a year.  Of these attributes I have brand & product recognition, a loyal customer base, and the company has broken even.  The challenges, on the other hand, are numerous – and every new business has these – and as a small business owner you keep your chin up, eyes forward, and you constantly exercise your resourcefulness muscle.

In my case & for WIBC, there are a few primary issues and myriad secondary issues.  More than anything, based on hard data & my objective considerations, the company is not making enough money to be able to grow both as a company and to where I can help provide people in my community with much needed employment (these are related).  Additionally I have found the demands of this particular form of business to be very ‘grindstone’ – my passion for cooking lays in creating recipes and sharing the enjoyment of good food with others, and the labour involved in mass production leaves little time for any of this.

As said, I look to turn WIBC into a company ‘about food’ sharing my passion for creating recipes & the enjoyment of good food – but what does this mean & how do I intend to do it?

My plan is to start with producing cookbooks* and grow into presenting cooking videos and classes.  Since my November awareness I have started work on my first cookbook and I am PLEASED to say that this is already going very well!  At present it will feature the recipes for all WIBC products along with the recipes I had intended to bring to market – around 50 or more recipes along with other interesting beverage & cooking to-dos.

Some individuals may view the changes I am making to WIBC as meaning that the company has somehow failed or been unsuccessful – that would be a mistake, short sighted, and even to say dismissive.  In no way do I consider the past year, three months and three days to be in any way bad, in error, or failed – horrendously challenging at times, sure, however never unsuccessful**.  I am glad to have tried my hand at making a production baking company; I believe I have developed as an individual, a professional, and as a business person.  Also important to me, given the ingredients I chose to use and not use in my WIBC products, is having to helped further the local food movement both in content & concept.  From these past 428 days I have many experiences that I am grateful for and will always remember.

In practical terms ceasing production is relatively easy – on the day I determine as my last I will discontinue baking & deliveries, pack up my kitchen supplies and go home.  On a personal level however, while I see ‘brighter horizons’ ahead, stopping what I have been doing is not without difficulty – I have a lot of time invested in WIBC, enthusiasm for the products I have brought to market, and the relationships that I have built with others are significant to me.  While I am not closed to the idea of some day re-launching as a production baking company – it all depends on where my ‘about food’ cookbook-etc approach to WIBC leads and what looks like I will enjoy doing.  In the mean time as an accent to the new direction of WIBC I may consider re-launching as a cottage business – for now, however, my focus is on everything ahead & I am excited however about what I’m going toward.

As I worked toward launching WIBC I referred to the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’”.  I had a dream of launching a baking business – and I’ve done it!  Now it’s just changing.  I am thankful for the support I have received from my customers – individuals who I share the view with that food should be tasty, healthy, and made locally – and I am grateful for the loving support my friends & family gave me when I started this venture and that they continued to give me when I said that I am looking to modify WIBC.  I will be pleased to have each of you join me as WIBC grows in this new direction.

Don’t Stop Believing – I still do!

All the Best, Don
Whidbey Island Baking Company – Owner & Soon-To-Be Author

* Before anyone (else) says something about the amount of effort and the years of work it takes for a company to begin to see a profit OR that you don’t make any money off of writing – trust me, I know already.

** Consider what I have done leading up to and during this production period of my business…

  • Founded a business with name, logo, and image
  • Developed & brought to market an array of original products
  • Established brand & product recognition in the market
  • Website development & online marketing
  • Managed all financial aspects of the company including purchasing, accounting, and taxes
  • Cultivated personal business relations with outside companies
  • Lead my business & support staff to markets & sales events
  • Contributed to local food banks & connected with military service personnel & their families by offering a military discount

I Am A Documentary Junkie

It’s true – I love watching documentaries.  I also love Sci-Fi and a slew of other types of shows, but documentaries hold a special place in my little entertainment heart.  Of all of these, in the past five years, three documentaries about food come to mind.  Really, I should say four – I’m watching another as I type this – but why am I blogging about it?

The documentary I’m watching right now, simply titled “Ingredients”, is making me think about what I’ve been pleased to do with my WIBC products.  What I’m doing is what you can do as well – in your home cooking, with the recipes in my coming cookbook(s), and when you go out to dine.

The ingredient labels on my products read the same as you will see in my cookbook – real ingredients with no added preservatives or artificial flavour enhancers.  I only used pure extracts, I use Shepherd’s Grain flour, Bob’s Redmill oats from Oregon – essentially, my recipes and ingredients are no different than what someone would themselves use & make at home.  Over the past year some individuals and businesses have challenged me with questions around the price and shelf life of my products.  These have been hand-crafted with real ingredients – much of what is produced on the market is mass produced from machines and full of things most of us can’t pronounce much-less easily identify.  Much of the food industry is about numbers – how much product is output and how much money is coming in – I see this largely as being completely regardless of quality and considerably regardless of the health of people.

On this topic, what follows are the four documentaries I encourage you to view.  I found them – and continue to find them – thought provoking, and I believe you will too.

Supersize Me and Food, Inc.

A Place At The Table

Ingredients – Who’s Your Farmer?

Fed Up

Food Stamped

 

Baked Goods On The Horizon

Products I’m Considering

  • Scones – I considered scones, experimented with them (Blueberry, brown sugar, and a little lemon zest), but I have decided to shelve the idea for the time being – scones only hold (decently) for 24hrs and don’t travel well.
  • Muffins – I’m thinking of a variety of muffins.  Like some of my products I think they’re going to come out in two general classes.  Products that are ‘healthier’ and tasty and tasty products that are relatively no better than other things on the market.  Still, no added preservatives & blah blah blah.
  • Breakfast cookies – I frankly don’t know much about these, but they seem to be quite popular right now.
  • Granola – I’ve been turned on to this idea.  Sounds easy, sounds like something I can express with, sounds like something people enjoy.

GF products

  • Other Cookie Square flavours – Chocolate Peppermint, Lemon Orange, Lemon Ginger, Lemon Cranberry, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
  • Experiment with biscotti flavours I’ve had in mind

If you have biscotti flavours or other cookie/baked-good ideas, please send them to me.

Make it Tasty,
Don

Fall 2015 – The Months To Come

I would like to title today’s post quoting a line and character from a film.  Without further adieu, I give you…

SHIFT IT!” ~ Magenta

The farmers’ market season was great — that with the couple of other events I got WIBC into over the summer.  I enjoyed reaching new customers, getting to talk about my product & company plans, getting to meet both The Public and my fellow vendors — all of it.

Before the season started, I was told that my business would be influenced by the tourism light-switch — that one day I would be doing my thing and then the next I would be unbelievably busy, a few months would pass, and then suddenly I’d be at a near stand-still.  Well, that stand-still has come and THANK JUPITER FOR IT! 😉

Long short, I needed the change of pace.  Now I’m diving in on a number of things — working on….

  • Getting my business into upcoming events — Xmas bazaars, other conventions, and events into 2016
  • Myriad things I haven’t had time to work on for my company over these many months including developing new & additional products
  • Personal projects, work I haven’t had time to do these past months, and generally working on my to-do list

Among the many things for my company I haven’t had time to work on is new-product development.  I have so many ideas they are too many to tell ….. and until I’ve released them I’d rather keep them a bit of a secret.

Yeah, okay, there’s the quick update.  I’m in the kitchen & I have a little bit of stuff to turn out ….. and by ‘little bit’ I do mean only a little bit.

Tacos, Don

Sumer 2015

To put it lightly, WIBC has kept busy & kept me busy these past months.  In addition to supporting the shops & restaurants my products are carried in, most Thursday evenings and Saturday mid-days my company could be found at farmers markets.  On special occasions WIBC had the pleasure of appearing at a convention and a few annual events.

Farmers Markets – There is a pleasant number of markets on Whidbey Island, and WIBC participated in the Oak Harbor and Coupeville markets.  Similar to the product demos I’ve done at a couple of Island stores, it was great to connect with folks.  I enjoyed getting to introduce my products publicly and to talk about the direction of my company and my ideas for products – and often people would give me ideas for products, which was a real gift!  It was also through the farmers markets that I started giving a military discount.  Through this I get to help support the military, meet a lot of great people, and I get to say “Thank you for your service.”

Special Events – Bringing WIBC to various events was a considerable amount of work and it paid off in even more enjoyment.  The first experience was being both at the Coupeville Farmers Market while also being at a quilt show on the other side of town – I had a special tie-in because the show was hosted by one of my mom’s quilt groups.  I spent a weekend with my fellow sci-fi fans at Galacticon IV (a Battlestar Galactica & Firefly/Serenity science-fiction convention).  Soon following I was invited to bring WIBC to the Whidbey Island Highland Games – it was great to get to bring my products to one of my communities.  Toward the end of the season – last minute – I got WIBC registered to be a vendor at the Oak Harbor Music Festival.  Everyone came out for the great bands along with some sun & fun and more than enough rain.  I got to hear Willie Nelson’s son headline with his band – look out for a new star!

Summer 2015 proved to be a lot of work, and I’m already working on my list for 2016 events.

Okay, back to work.
Don

The Work Will Show You

Sometime in the past 6 months – maybe a year – I read a proverb that left an impression on me. “The work will show you how to do it.” I want to cite it as Swedish, but for all I know it could have been Jewish, Confucius, or Vulcan. Since day one – 01December2014 – this has rung true with finding more efficient ways to work in my bakery, offering my products, et cetera. Every time I come away saying “Hmm, well, that was interesting – good, I’ve learned something new!”

Over the past few weeks my work has started showing me about itself in Dollars & Sense. Before the company started I figured I would sell both wholesale and retail – selling through stores would provide a steady income for my business while I would offer my products for retail direct as I found interested customers. During these past four months the ‘retail direct’ thing hasn’t happened much. When it has it’s been nice to get that extra income for my company, and frankly my business needs more of it.

To me a lot of people have a bizarre sense of ‘success’. Like with my music – after playing a 4 day long music festival I would get asked how successful the weekend had been. I’d say I played my music, I met a lot of people, I made them laugh, folks signed up on my mailing list, and I made new prospective contacts – in all, I had a good time. Then I would often receive a follow-up or clarification question about how much money I made, how many CDs I sold, and by that if the weekend had been ‘good’ or ‘bad’ AKA ‘successful’. Here’s my truth about these things – yes, if I go play music for four days straight I need that weekend to adequately pay off, but more than that I need it to be satisfying … or what was the point?

Since first hanging out my shingle that WIBC is open for business I’ve had a lot of satisfaction. The company has donated multiple times to a soup kitchen, I have met & had the pleasure of talking with a lot of great people, my business has expanded, I’ve laughed at my mistakes and laughed with people, I’ve sung at the top of my lungs late at night in an empty bakery while preparing dough, I’ve established a brand & a business and I’ve done it my way.
It’s all a great start, and depending on certain numbers I look at I’ve gotten to a better spot in four months than some companies do by two and three years.

Yet there’s the rub – the numbers creep back in … I may be in this business for a lot of things that aren’t typically considered in “proper business” – I’m in this for the happiness, I’m in this for the love, but I also have to have this adequately pay off, and right now it really isn’t. The ‘Money Thing’ isn’t working for me – and, paraphrasing from a famous prayer, I need to have the wisdom and courage to change what I can.

These past weeks I have been experimenting with products that keep in the same character of quality as my biscotti and yet will be more efficient to make – I may have the first of these to market as soon as next week. I have been given the idea of selling at conventions, festivals, and events – I’ve looked into this idea and I quite like the prospect. This past week or so this has grown into the idea of doing something I had resisted – selling at farmers markets.

The more I look at farmers markets, the more I think this is the way to go for WIBC – and perhaps has been all along, only that I have been obstinate … and it’s been the off season. Farmers markets – at least as I’ve seen them – present people who craft and believe in their products, often with colour and flair, that you don’t usually get from some mass brand name good that you can flip over and read “Made In Somewhere”. What part of ‘craft and believe in their products’ is not what I’ve been doing all a long? When I think of it that way, why wouldn’t I be there? Why wouldn’t I be doing something My Way with My Company among other self-employed growers, crafters, and producers who cherish bringing real goods to market?

At farmers markets I can do what I enjoy most with my baked goods – meet people, talk about what I do and what they enjoy, and as I’ve gotten to see when doing product demos … people receiving and enjoying what I’ve made. I also believe WIBC can get more of the exposure I’ve imagined for the company – reaching people with a fun business and good quality, pleasing (unique?) products. Neither I nor the people who have had my products so far get that the weeks I’m in my baking space producing biscotti, boxing it up, and shipping it off. I don’t see farmers markets as making me rich and fabulously famous – which isn’t what I want – but I do see it as giving my company the opportunity for the breath & life I’ve dreamt, a better avenue for the direction I’ve wanted to take this crazy baking-business idea, and for it to adequately pay off … because I need that, too.

My work is showing me how to do it, and it’s showing me things I did not imagine or expect – including my humility. So I believe I’ll keep taking this ride, and I’m glad to have you along with me.

All the Best, Don

Transparency (Ltd.)

(21March2015)

Transparency – more & more this seems to becoming a popular word. For me it came to mind in the wake of my recent meeting Tom Trimbath – a local writer & good character I have been getting to know more and more. I mentioned a few things going with my baking, business, and ideas and Tom – being an ideas-guy like me – kept on saying “There’s a good topic for a blog!” So let’s give “transparency” a go here…

What follows really isn’t anything new – these are things I talk about having to do with my business plans and products, just in one spot. I’ll add that these are things I’m pleased to talk about – and this, for me, is an especially good time to get into it with expanding my product line and as I’m just starting to see signs of my company taking a foothold.

Expanding Product Line
In the past months I’ve talked & written online about expanding my product line. Largely this has come from learning more about biscotti. Prior to going into business making a couple of batches at home was no big deal, but when you’re making a dozen or more in a day commercially you become distinctly aware of how labor-intensive big-scale biscotti is by comparison to many (or ‘most’) other cookies. Biscotti remains a joy for me to make and I predict it will continue as my ‘hood ornament’ product, however I need my company to be effective and prosperous so I’ve needed to find & expand into products that are more efficient to produce. Just before getting my business license nearly a year ago I had to decide on a name. I knew I wanted to have a local reference and be clear in the title what it is that I do. For a short amount of time that was Whidbey Island Biscotti Company, until a friend and I identified that I shouldn’t limit myself and that ‘Baking’ would be wiser. This fit too because I always figured I would eventually expand into other products – just not quite this soon.

Character Of WIBC Products
I consider my baked goods to be ‘real food’. What I mean by that is I am making what you would make at home, just in a commercial setting and in larger supply. If you want to understand this further, please look at the ingredients found on my labels – I’m additionally pleased to list these on this site. While you will find listings of some preservatives &/or flavor enhancers, these are in the original ingredients – I do not, however, add artificial preservatives or flavor enhancers. The preservatives I do use – in a manner of speaking – are butter and sugar. As for flavor enhancers, only pure extracts. Given my recipes, I will not tell you that I am making health food, but I believe I am making healthier food. As my company and product line grows it is my intention to keep this standard of quality & characteristics. Also, my products are hand-made and will be until I have to go mechanized.

Future Product Exploration
For a number of weeks now I have been brainstorming and talking about ideas of new products. In some cases I’m already exploring these.

  • Monster Cookies – I have thoughts around three similar but different large cookies. So far these are based around peanut butter and oats. I’m working on my oat options. Supply isn’t a problem. If possible and as needed I get two supplies including one that is prepared without flour giving a Gluten Free option.
  • Brownies – Who doesn’t like a good brownie? Originally I thought of these because I have a recipe that is flour, nut, and diary free, which I might also be able to produce as soy free. This one is going to take more work and time. I am thinking though of making regular brownies with the addition of flavor combinations.
  • I have other cookies I’m thinking of doing … I can’t really talk further about these now because that will totally give things away. As some of you know much of my acumen comes from my professional music experience. One of the things I’ve learned is to not tell all of your plans as to not get scooped by one of my peers.
  • Muffins – You just can’t go wrong with muffins. I have two in mind with more to come. One I won’t talk about, but I will say it’s based on something many people enjoy but I think I can make it healthier. The other, a pumpkin puree muffin.
  • Biscotti – As said, I am not abandoning biscotti. I have ideas for about 30 flavors, including taking biscotti (in Star Trek terms) where no biscotto has gone before. Earlier this month I experimented with an Irish Cream biscotti recipe. It was a big flop but it was good to do. I want to keep doing R&D on my many biscotti ideas.

Growth, Employment, & Giving Back
If someone were to ask “Why did you start this company?” I think the most accurate answer ‘in a nutshell’ I could give would be this: I saw an opportunity to bring quality, pleasing products to people while making work for myself when I was struggling to gain employment and get out of poverty. That last bit is just crazy, I know … selfish me – but then I lost count how many years I was looking for work (8?). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t state that as some sort of badge, it’s just the fact of the matter. Now in its fourth month I’m seeing hints that WIBC is taking a foothold, and I’ve been told that once tourist season hits my company is likely to see an explosion of business. I could use an explosion of business, and while it may be a scramble I have faith that my resourcefulness, among other things, will guide me. At minimum I have no shortage of learning to experience – and I have that old swing in my step from having work.

With the growth of my business will come opportunities I’ve envisioned for my WIBC. As I needed employment, my company will need employees – over these past years the workforce has needed positions and I’ll be happy to see people get back to work.

The first act of my company was to contribute to a soup kitchen. This was a serendipitous blessing – as I formed my company I knew that one of the things I wanted to do was to get involved in fighting hunger. I recently watched “A Place At The Table”, a documentary by the same people as “Food, Inc.” One of the things the film pointed out well was the ‘give a man verses teach a man to fish’ adage. In America, leastwise, it’s not a problem of having enough food – the problem are the pieces of the equation that keep people from being able to get food for themselves and food that is healthy. I don’t know what my & WIBC’s involvement is going to look like, all I know is that more will be revealed.

Last and very not least, I believe in supporting the people who support us. From the inception of my company I’ve wanted to offer a military discount and find ways to support our soldiers. I’m not sure how to do this yet, but as said – more will be revealed.

Don’t Stop Believin’,
Don

Month 4 – Changes

As you surely know by now, I like making biscotti.  For all the years that I made it prior to launching my company, I found 3 things about it I especially enjoyed.  I enjoy eating it — OBVIOUSLY!  I enjoy making it, because something about the process I find very grounding.  Lastly, it pleases me to see other people enjoy something I’ve created.  I’ve also found that after eating it as much as I have, and now with it around me so much in production, the ‘eating it’ part has moved to 3rd in my order … but I digress.

Since launching my business late last year I’ve learned something about making biscotti — I’ve distinctly learned something about the production of biscotti.  To make this type of cookie is all well & fine when you’re making a few batches … but when you’re making dozens in a week …. IT’S A LOT OF WORK!  Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for work and working hard … but I’m against working stupid … well, if I have to do it all the time.

When I conceived my company I figured I would start with biscotti and eventually move on to additional products — other baked goods and some of my mom’s jams & candies.  Due to the labor-costs of biscotti, I’m moving into that sooner than I thought.  Biscotti will remain my hood-ornament product — unless my consumers show me otherwise — but I need to make things that have a better return on the ingredients and labour.  What I will NOT sacrifice, however, is the qualities with which I’ve made my products to date.  I like what you like — real food — no added preservatives, genuine items, ingredient labels I can read and understand without feeling like I’m cramming for an anatomy test, good texture & flavour, and products I enjoy eating.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about &/or working on …

R&D batch of Monster Cookies
R&D batch of Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies – For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a Monster Cookie.  What I’ve been making centers around peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips, and M&Ms.  I want to bring this to market ASAP — and if I can I’m going to use oats that will keep the product flour-free (yeah, that’s right, some oats also have flour). bringing a Monster Cookie to market ASAP.  I also have ideas on how to tweak this to feature other flavours.  What are those tweak-ideas?  Well, that’s a surprise.

Brownies – Everyone likes brownies!  I’m working on two … so to speak.  I’m working on a regular brownie that I aim to also have interesting flavour pairings with … ALSO …. (this is the big news) I’m working on a brownie that — when it’s ready — could &/or should be (drum roll please) … Gluten Free … Nut Free … Dairy Free …and… Soy Free … and pleasing to eat.

Other Cookies – While we’re at it, how about a thick chocolate chip cookie?  Yeah, I know, what do I mean by ‘thick’.  Well, that too will be a surprise … and something I think you’ll enjoy!