Showing posts with label milwaukee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label milwaukee. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2009

If you say what's on your mind, sometimes people hear it!

I plan on blogging about some features we are going to use on here, but something happened today that I thought was worth sharing. I think it can be applied to business, but also to life in general. First, a little back story....

Cedarburg is a small town, and this summer a caterer moved in down the street from me. I have heard great things about her and her business and was looking forward to establishing a positive working relationship with her. She also knew Amy (my right hand at the bakery, sometimes right AND left hand and then some!! More on her to come!). Awhile ago she and Amy had casually discussed a possible collaboration. She was in the process of relocating her business and I was bogged down with other business endeavors and we never discussed it formally.

I was eagerly watching the new location take shape (I drive past it daily on my way to work), when one day I noticed some beautiful wedding cakes in the window. I know it may not be the most rational or productive reaction, but my heart immediately sank. Adding insult to injury was the fact that one of the cakes, a very elaborate and structurally challenging cake, was one that a bride had showed me last year. Much to my dismay, I had told the bride I was unable to commit to her vision since I was not sure that my skill level was up to snuff. I have NEVER said no to a new challenge, but I figured that experimenting with my skills and potentially not coming through at some one's wedding would not be good for me or my business. At first I was disappointed that the owner must have found someone who she felt was more qualified than us. It always smarts when someone you respect appears to do that.

Then, after driving by day after day I started to get more upset about it. Who did this lady think she was, moving in a block away and honing in on my business? My thinking was that a wedding cake is just a small piece of her business, but a huge chunk of mine. Fear of losing business, and to someone who was obviously skilled and qualified, was also fanning the flames. I tried to rationalize to myself that there is plenty of business for all of us. The bakery has had a great summer so far and there was no need to be petty or waste time thinking about other people's businesses and what they may or may not be doing.

So I was sticking to that mind frame, or was at least trying to, when the owner walked into my shop today and asked if she could buy a few cake decorating supplies from me. All I could think was, "Really? She's gonna move in and now has the gall to walk in and ask me to provide supplies so she can take business from me???" All while trying to smile and be neighborly. I started to look for what she needed, when she said, "I hope you don't mind."

Much to my own shock I replied, "Actually, I kind of do!" She, possessing better communication skills than me, said "Oh...let's try to clear the air if there is a problem." I relayed the fact that, although she is obviously entitled to take her business in whatever direction she chooses, that it hurt me that she had chosen someone else to work with. Especially considering the proximity to our business and the fact that wedding cakes are our bread and butter. I further said that I was looking forward to working together and had felt this situation had set us up as adversaries. Our community is very small, and I was also disheartened that she chose someone outside the local business arena. Or at least hadn't started there first. To my complete surprise she was very willing to listen to my point of view. We had a very pleasant conversation. When she left I felt very relieved. I assumed she would continue with her plans, but none the less I felt that we had indeed, "cleared the air!"

Later in the afternoon she called and said that after thinking about it she was planning to move the cakes out of the front window. She said she understood where I was coming from, and that although she would still present her current cake contact as an option, she wanted to establish a friendly and productive relationship.

I am sure I am not alone in this fault, but I definitely avoid confrontation, especially when I am struggling with the rationality of my thinking process. Do I want to be the queen bee of cakes in my town? Do I want to be people's first choice and have an amazing reputation? Do Amy and I work our butts off to meet people's expectations? OF COURSE! But....on the other hand, we do live in the USA, where everyone has the opportunity to open businesses and pursue dreams. I cannot really regulate or police that. And I would never want to have been limited in following my dreams because someone else in town was already living it. So, I felt very conflicted about expressing my point of view.

The very long point I am trying to make (especially to myself!) is that there is nothing wrong with constructively expressing your feelings. Don't avoid it! That's not the part that is hard anyway, for me. The hard part is giving the other person the chance to hear you, and actually being able to feel like they REALLY hear you! One small step for Jenn!

Meanwhile....the above is a picture of my favorite cake of the day!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How It All Began....

I get asked this question almost everyday... "How did you end up opening the bakery?" I have told this story many, many times, in long and short versions, but no matter how many times I am asked to share it I never tire of telling it. Here is the long version!
I had been a physical therapist and Pilates instructor for about ten years. I owned my own Pilates business with 3 studios and was also doing a little outpatient physical therapy. This business suited me very well when I had really young kids since I could be with them most of the day and then teach at night. They were about to start school and I was getting a little bored. After doing the same thing for almost a decade I was ready for a new challenge, and I wanted it to be something that could fit around my family.
I was already turning over these thoughts in my mind when I had an opportunity to go to NYC (my favorite place) for a week to take an amateur week long baking class at the French Culinary Institute (FCI). It was a fantastic week that was supposed to be a vacation and a way to recharge. I attended class during the day and wandered the city at night. The FCI offers career culinary classes, and even though my class was for amateurs it was nestled in among the classrooms containing the REAL culinary students. Everyday I felt like it was where I belonged. Part of that was baking and learning about something I loved, and part was related to the fact I was in NYC. I'll have to start a blog on the NYC part of the story another time! Instead of recharging and returning to work, all I could think of as I returned home was how I could keep working, keep pretending I was a stay at home mom, and somehow go to culinary school.
I investigated many culinary schools and tried to find a way to attend them while working and being a mom. Each time I thought I had it worked out, or found a way, I would hedge on taking the next step. Nothing felt like the right thing. I could so clearly see the end result; details of how the bakery would look, how it would feel to be there, what music I would play. But I couldn't see the path to get there. Not to get too out there, but I really think that going to NYC opened the door in my mind, and after that things just started coming through.
Although I love to cook and bake, I was a patron of a local made to order cake bakery by the name of Delicately Delicious. It was a one woman show with no retail space. Customers would call the owner, place an order and she would tell you when to come and get your cake. One of my best friends, Kathy, had a wedding cake made by this bakery, and was just celebrating her first anniversary while I was trying to work out my new career. I had thought of this place many times, primarily because they had amazing cakes that were impossible to recreate at home, but also because it was run by one person. No employees, everything made to order (so no waste), and no retail hours. It seemed like the kind of business that was the perfect compromise.
That fall I was visiting with Kathy and expressing my angst over trying to find a way to make my idea work. I explained to her that I thought Delicately Delicious had the perfect business structure. She blurted out, "Well you know she's selling her business, right?" I called the owner, left a message, and the rest is history.