Hello! Who are you and what food business did you start?
Hello, My name is Christy-Jae (C.J) Cheyne and I’m the owner and executive pastry chef of Oui.
As a kid I explored in the kitchen by helping my mom out by making cakes and cookies for special occasions. I continued to explore by having friends come over and experimenting with any ingredients we could find mixing them together and of course tasting it!
To give you an idea one creation I can remember was nutella, peanut butter, cheerios, frosted flakes and milk! You would be surprised by what would be tasty and what was disgusting. In addition my dad was a simple cook and would prepare ready to go food for our meals.
I knew we could do better! As I grew up and took foods in high school it clicked! I want to be a chef!
I was fortunate enough to take multiple food classes and cook for my family to gain as much experience as I could. I went on to working at a bakery and golf course restaurant.
Both of these experience reassured my decision to become a chef and helped me to realize that I wanted to become a pastry chef. The reasons I decided a pastry chef is because you’re precise, creative, attentive to detail and get to experiment!
I took my big leap into the industry by attending The Culinary Institute of America in NY. I earned my associates degree in baking and pastry arts. I also earned my bachelor’s degree in Food and Beverage Management from New England Culinary Institute.
I have been fortunate enough to work in Michelin Star restaurants such as Daniel and The Modern. As well as Four Season Hotel, TWG, Independent restaurants. And lastly, I taught Pastry Arts.
Now as I embark on my next chapter as an executive pastry chef and business owner. I have operated Oui as a side business but now taking the full plunge. Oui is located in Old City Philadelphia. Our pastry shop features seasonal, daily rotating pastries and desserts.
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Why Philadelphia? Great question, I chose Philadelphia as the city is a huge food city that is growing and developing. They also don’t have any modern, upscale pastry shops which I hope to offer. Philadelphia is also close to NY where I previously worked but not as hussel bussel.
Old City offers the best of both worlds. It has a great community which appeals to those living there and also attracts tourists. Our typical client will be from 20-45 years old, up to date with social media and enjoys sweets.
We don’t have a set product but our concept is that we offer mainly sweet options! Our pastries consist of a dozen pastries half which are available everyday for a season (3 months).
Plus a daily rotating menu that will feature a new item each day. The daily item will reflect on what is happening in the city, food holiday, media etc. It will be what is relevant and in season. This will be the same for the dessert portion of the menu too.
By offering a seasonal menu allows us to use the best ingredients. In addition it allows us to change each item everyday to give our team the opportunity to keep up to date on technique, be creative and have no limits.
We hope to expand everyone’s horizons on flavor, cultures and technique. A frequent question I get asked is what is my specialty, or what do I like to make. I never have an answer and this concept just proves why!
What are your ballpark revenue numbers?
Our monthly ballpark revenue numbers are $26,000. Our goal is 1,000 dollars per day. The more the merrier!
We expect month such as February and August to be quieter as people are cutting back on spending and/or eating sugar and no major holidays in those months.
Overall we hope to reach around $310,000- $320,000 a year with continuous growth!
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea to start a pastry shop?
A snapshot about me is a graduate from The Culinary Institute of America, worked in various Michelin star restaurants, 5 star hotels Four Seasons and created and taught pastry arts course.
This idea I have had for years and years. I remember being a kid telling my parents about how I want to open my own pastry shop and the concept. I have tweaked it but the main concept of high end pastries with a rotating menu is he main concept. When I am asked what is my favorite thing to make or my specialty. My answer is there is too many! I think everyone needs to expand their horizons and try something new!
I have spent most of my training in high end fine dining restaurants. Personally, I like the pace of restaurants and the artistic aspect that comes with plating. I also think desserts are a great way to play with flavors and techniques.
The concept is very unique and can be difficult for the staff to prepare and sell the items. But with social media we will be able to push the information, and keep the clients interested in our product.
Take us through the process of developing your menu.
Our menu is created with a fairly straightforward layout. We have a few different categories. First category is pastries. Pastries included two parts. Part on is the seasonal menu 6 pastries that are on for 3 months. This will include pastries such as croissants, muffins and scones.
Part two will be our daily rotating menu. Each day there will be a new item that will remain on the menu for approximately one week. It will follow the same principal of croissants, loaves, and scones.
Another category will be our dessert menu. Our dessert menu has the same structure as the pastry menu with 1 part seasonal and 2nd part daily rotating. Dessert profiles will be chocolate, dairy, fruit, cake, gluten free, and vegan. Plus, we will also have larger versions of some desserts to have for celebrations. Simple cake orders can be placed.
There will be packaged to go items available on the shelf of chocolates, cookies, and confections so you can grab an extra treat or give as gifts!
Lastly there is our beverage menu that will consist of coffee and non coffee drinks. We will have a few seasonal specials too!
I have worked on these recipes over the years as I have worked in various workplaces. As I have pursued opening my own pastry shop, I have spent countless hours finalizing the foundation recipes. A lot of trial and error, further research, and eating to find the perfect recipe!
We don’t have a specific product or brand at this time so no need to get any patents.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch of the business is a fun, exciting and very important part of the process. You are setting the stage for your concept. It’s the first imagine you expose to your clients. Such tasks include name, logo, colors, websites and social media accounts.
Creating such accounts is rewarding as you get to put your brand out there! Spread the word! For a website I used Squarespace as I had previously used it as a blog/home business before I pursued Oui. Squarespace is a user friendly website creator that has templates that you can choose from and customize to your needs. This platform makes it easy to link your website to email and social media accounts too.
For financing the business I used primarily personal funds that I have saved. I have a back up loans in place to cover cost when opening to keep the business flowing. I did try Kickstarter, I was able to raise some money.
My tip with Kickstarter is to set your goal low, advertise and tell everyone you know and lastly you can always donate yourself if you don’t reach your goal to obtain the funds.
Getting ready for the launch it’s a huge push! I have numerous to do lists of various tasks that need to be completed. Some of the topics aren’t as fun as others.
For instance applying for taxes, not very fun but a huge important step. But on the other hand coffee tastings, furniture shopping etc is lots of fun! Its a balance and it’s very rewarding to see all the hard work pay off.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We haven’t launched our business yet. But our tactics to attract and retain customers are by utilizing social media. Social media is the biggest industry in the world.
It’s crazy how we have created this industry that is for ourselves. Instagram and Facebook are two resources that we have pages on and use to post updates and photos about what is coming soon. In addition we use our website and twitter. We can’t forget about old school paper mail and e-mail hand outs to all the local residents and businesses.
Our plan to retain customers is to post about our daily features, deals and everything that is happening.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our store is starting with only in store sales. Our product will be difficult to ship, but is something to consider down the road.
Short term goals is to have a minimum of $1,000 sales per day. Have a strong staff and profitable monthly outcome. Within the first two years, create an identity, and have solid customer presence.
Long term goal is to garner recognition for the pastry shop. Give back to employees and community. Update store and finally adding another location!
Through starting Oui Pastries, what are the key lessons you’ve learned?
A challenge was getting started. Finding the right location, doing the construction to the place and all the paperwork! There is a lot of prep work that needs to be complete before you open your doors and the costs add up! It’s a difficult time as you are working towards your dream and creating your masterpiece but you are primarily the one who is working and not getting paid for it.
Timing the whole process you have little control over. More often than not, you will have no idea how long it will take to get a permit or to install equipment. This is all part of the learning journey!
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The biggest lesson is to be patient and keep pushing! Everyday something will go wrong but also right! There is a lot to do, so to do list are amazing and help you stay on top of everything. If there is something you aren’t sure about just ask. There is a lot of resources out there. Schools, communities are thrilled to have new business survive.
I myself am someone who is organzied and driven. I’ve had this dream for many many years and haven’t given up on the journey so far. Also being organized has helped me extremly to keep track of costs, paperwork and day to day operations. Everyday is a new day!
What tools do you rely on to operate Oui Pastries?
There is countless number of kitchen equipment that I couldn’t live without. If I had to choose just one, I’d go with a rubber spatula. Spatulas are very versatile and ensure you get every drop of product!
They have competitive prices and also provide beneficial resources such as payroll and benefits. The system is also very compatible with other software systems.
What have been the most influential books or podcasts in your business journey?
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality, Setting the table was a great book. The book explored his journey opening Eleven Madison Park, and then many more restaurants.
A key approach he did when hiring was to always hire better than him! He hired 51% ERS. This means he hired employees who went above and beyond and were well rounded. Danny Meyer continues to reinvent the hospitality industry.
Eater post a variety of useful articles about the hospitality industry that are real examples of what is going on and how to tackle the hurdles the industry is faced with.
How it works is a podcast about restaurants and how they open and what they did to survive. There is a lot of books, media accounts out there that give each owns experience.
As I have worked in the industry under various chefs I learn different technique and managerial styles from them. All of this shapes me into the owner and chef I am.
Advice for other food entrepreneurs?
Make sure you have all your ducks in a row. It’s a big exciting opportunity to open a business. It’s wild as you can make this decision for yourself. As much as you can read about other experience, you have have idea how yours will turn out. Everyday there is a surprise for you!
You work so hard and are reward by seeing the progress not pay. There is a lot of unknown that you will learn real quick! Don’t give up or stop learning. You are what you put into it.