Jun 21, 2010

Going into business.

Coming on the downside of June, I am looking at a week and a half before I get my first Daring Kitchen Baker's challenge...the underlying motivation for starting this blog. I'd obviously like to extend the scope of this blog, making the Baker's Challenges a component, but not the sole purpose of this blog. After all, a blog that only has one posting each month doesn't get much attention. Still, this week I stepped away from the blog and shifted my focus to begin forming a business venture.

For some time, it has been on my mind to start an in-home (cottage) bakery business. As a law student, I'm limited in money and to some extent in time, so it seemed to be a potential way to bring in a little extra money. I'd always known, if it was something I ever did, I would deal in desserts. Desserts are what I enjoy making and are what captures most people's attention. Over time I've drummed up different ideas from unique cookies, cakes, pies, etc...and then thoroughly researched the best way to market and package all of the above to make an attractive and delicious product. My main problem has always been finding a venue to launch my business. For the past year and a half, I've lived in Waco, Texas - most people know Waco as the site of the Branch Davidian/FBI face-off of the early  nineties. Waco is a rather desolate town and if it weren't for Baylor University's presence, it certainly would be even more so. Since I don't consider Waco my hometown and view my time here as temporary, I also haven't involved myself in the community and live inside the Baylor bubble. Still, I had wanted to get something started, so I started to think outside the box.

Waco does have a rather large flea market that is open every weekend, which attracts people from the Central Texas area. Like any flea market, vendors sell everything from tires to clothes and jewelry to junk from their garages to certain food items. It's certainly no farmer's market where people come with the intention to seek out food items, but having visited the market several times, it occurred to me that this could be a way to get something started. After inquiring about the venue, I learned space rental was rather cheap and the owners were rather open to my products as they were different than what is usually found at their market. So, I signed up for a space this past weekend and got to baking.

My debut product is something that is well-known in certain circles, but was entirely new to the Waco crowd - the Cake Pop. For those who still haven't heard of these clever variations on cake, a cake pop is combined cake and frosting, rolled into a ball and dipped in candy coating - chocolate or vanilla. It is a rather simple creation, but is an incredibly versatile dessert and a baker can get mightily creative with the flavor combinations they create. I learned of these several months ago and after trying them, have become addicted. They seemed to be a great product to lead with, they were simple but unique...not too mention, tasty. I made over 300 in several days, keeping the flavors rather straight forward - chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and red velvet. I knew going into this, the idea would be foreign to the flea market guests.

My pilot day was a learning experience. I did sell some pops, but not nearly as much as I had hoped or expected I would. I determined this was because I lacked an eye-grabbing display. The actual pops themselves were in coolers over dry-ice since the Texas heat would annihilate them, but I learned you have about two to three seconds to get the attention of customers passing by and my set-up asked people to spend a little more time figuring out what it was I was selling. The actual pops I sold received positive feedback. Those who took a look bought them and loved them.

So, I will be back at the market this Saturday and am taking a different approach. Unfortunately, I can't display the cake pops themselves, but I can put together a composite display of photos that will be varied and colorful enough to get people's attention. So, my task this week is to create a display that shows off the product and gets people to stop. Once they stop, it's hard to say no.

I may be away from the blog again this week as I work on putting this together so I can have a more successful Saturday. I'd love to get a booth established weekly and begin to expand what I make. I've got a flood of ideas, and come the fall will have other opportunities to expand beyond the flea market. But, for now,  I am determined to crack the code for success and get people excited about these treats.


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