Jennifer Jacobs is the owner and founder of Wandering Whisk Bakeshop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Jennifer owns a boutique bakery studio with an emphasis on custom-work for weddings, corporate events, and catering.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Jennifer had extremely humble beginnings. In fact, she operated the business out of a home kitchen the first half-decade. During this time, Jennifer would begin baking after logging 8-hours on the overnight shift at the Home Shopping Network (HSN). Jennifer started her business in a small apartment with an even smaller kitchen without air conditioning.
In spite of the challenges, Jennifer stuck with it. The persistence ultimately paid off with Jennifer quitting her full-time job and relocating to a beautiful commercial space.
How was she able to do it? That’s the focus of today’s podcast interview.
In our audio lesson Jennifer outlines her proven marketing plan for growing a home-based bakery from scratch. Jennifer shares not only her digital market strategy, but the importance of building relationships with local business owners and why word of mouth is still king to promoting baked goods.
Jennifer doesn’t hold anything back in this interview. If you day dream about taking your passion for cake-baking and turning it into a business then this is the podcast for you.
Should You Start a Bakery from Home?
When Jennifer was starting to get serious about the baking business, she did a lot of really brilliant things. One being she went out and asked other successful bakery owners in her area for advice. Do you know what these experienced bakers recommended?
Each of the experts Jennifer spoke with suggested building the bakery as a really strong home-based business first. No one with actual experience building a bakery recommended jumping into brick-and-mortar right away. Do not spend all the money needed on equipment, a lease, and permits right away was the collective advice.
One reason to start slow… It’s requires time to build stable business. By starting a part-time business on the side with a minimal investment, you don’t need to get stressed out about making money right away.
Instead, you can focus on improving your product and gradually build a reputation for yourself locally. Overtime, you’ll gain more consistent business and know when it’s time to take the next step.
Before you quit a job that pays the bills ask yourself these questions:
- Are you making enough money from the business to pay your bills?
- Do you have a recognized name in the community?
Thanks to cottage food laws, you can sell cupcakes, cookies, and just about any other baked good out of your house. You can use these laws to your advantage and start building a business with very little financial risk.
Baked up Fears
Everyone that starts a new business has things they worry about. Rightfully so! But there’s probably a handful of these fears that aren’t justified too.
One common concern of home-based bakers is that they won’t be considered “legitimate” if they don’t have retail space.
Hopefully the conversation with Jennifer Jacobs will put your mind at ease with this concern. According to Jennifer, while not having a commercial bakery may have been something that worried her in the early days, it was never an actual issue with customers.
Before starting any type of business, it’s natural for doubts to creep up. Will anyone take me seriously? Will strangers hate my cake? Do I need a baking degree to get started?
Customers don’t care where the cake is baked. They only cared about the end result. In other words, how did they care about how the cake turned out. That’s it! Don’t let these sorts of made-up fears hold you back.
Home Bakery Marketing Plan
While having a retail store isn’t going to make or break your baking business there are some key to-dos Jennifer recommends to ensure the business looks professional and is poised for growth.
These are six things customers actually will care about and used in planning the overall promotional strategy. As a marketing team of one, you only have so much time to invest to word out about your baked goods (especially if you have a full-time job or kids right now). Make sure you’re using that time effectively based on Jennifer’s experiences.
Taking good photos is critical for both social media and your website. If potential customers are able to see real examples of your work, they’ll feel confident in choosing you.
But don’t worry if you’re not a professional photographer. Neither is Jennifer. By applying some basic photography principles she has been able to take some pretty fantastic and Insta-worthy photos.
- Buy a real refurbished camera. It sounds simple, but getting a solid used camera can make all the difference in the world. If you don’t have enough money for a camera right now, no worries. Start out by using one of the more recent iPhones.
- Natural Light is really important. You shouldn’t be taking photos of cake at night with nothing more than the bedroom light turned on. This will never look good. Always utilized light from a nearby window during the day. Natural light is the big “secret” to standout food photography.
- Consider the Setting. Got dirty laundry in the background? Don’t snap that Instagram post! Take the time to only take photos when you have an attractive and clean setting.
- Create a White Backdrop. There are really cheap options for creating a professional looking white backdrop. Here’s one option on Amazon that’s under $20 and is perfect for baked good.
Since you don’t have an actual bake shop (yet!) where customers can come in and taste your goods, you’ll need to make up for it with quality photos where folks can see the work. You can take really good baking photos like the bloggers you see online! Just follow these simple steps and practice.
Social Media / Website
Instagram and Facebook are free marketing channels. Take advantage of them! Post photos and videos of the cookies you’ve baked.
There are plenty of baking situations that make for share-worthy social media fodder in video or photo form:
- Shopping for ingredients. When you’re at the grocery store, snap the cart pull or ingredients you’re buying. Don’t forget to mention the different brands you’re buying.
- Making the cake. Share the details of the baking process and discuss what exactly you’re doing. Let people in on the different parts of a cake bake.
- The Finished Product. The finished product is always a popular event to photograph and share.
- Take photos at events. If you get hired to do a cake at a wedding or a fundraiser, make sure to take photos of the event and share across all social media channels. Your customers will appreciate it this and it will help provide social proof for the business.
- Photos of people. Get people’s permission first. But make sure to take photos and video of other people eating and enjoying your goods.
Remember these photos should be fun to take. Feel free to share your personality in these and people will really gravitate to you.
Keep in mind that people will make orders through a personal website or social media account. The goal of documenting your isn’t to garner more likes and comments, but to improve the bottom line of the business.
If you have glowing reviews on Facebook or Yelp, people will have confidence in your ability to produce something as important as a 3-layer wedding cake.
Make sure to ask for reviews from happy customers. Most people will be happy to do so in the early days because they want to help you out. Don’t feel bad about having your mom or best friend leave a review at first! This is how everyone starts out.
Building these positive reviews is important to build in social proof that other people have tasted and loved your baked goods. It’s just one more validation they are making the right choice.
If you live in or near a decent sized metro area, odds are there’s a local newspaper or free scene magazines you can pickup on the way out of grocery stores or bars. Don’t overlook these small, local publications because they can be the ideal place to drum up some free press.
Related Reading: How to Teach a Cake Decorating Class From Home and Online
Jennifer recommends reaching out to these publications by email, sharing a little bit about your story, and let them know you would be honored to do an interview. This approach can be extremely effective if you plan to vend at a popular upcoming city event like a farmer’s market or fair.
These sorts of papers feature small businesses and people doing interesting things in the community all the time. If you reach out there’s a good chance you’ll be featured. The worst these publications can say is “no thanks” so take a small risk by sending some short emails to see if there’s interest.
Every city has a small business networking group. Getting involved in these groups is important because it will help you understand the events that are going on in the city. It will also connect you with like-minded people that can help you succeed and connect you with more catering opportunities.
Getting out from behind the computer screen and meeting people face to face is a fantastic way to grow the business. Look for local groups and organizations like the SBA, SCORE, or the local chamber of commerce in your area and get involved!
Word of Mouth
Even with all the different ways we can communicate our food and brands, word of mouth marketing is still the best. Jennifer started her baking business almost by accident thanks to coworkers at her previous job talking about and supporting her passion.
While working at the Home Shopping Network, Jennifer brought red velvet cookie sandwiches she had made into the office. People loved them and asked if they could buy some and paid $20 for a batch. From there the business grew slowly over time.
Thanks to word-of-mouth, the baking business ultimately found Jennifer. Jennifer had been baking her whole life, especially around the holidays. But Jennifer never planned this would be something she did as a career.
Looking for more inspiring stories like this? Learn how a Culinary Grad Built a $26k/Month Pastry Shop.