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ScottyB New Reader
2/10/11 2:00 p.m.

Great thread. I'm a new small business owner as of last June, and although I feel like I've got a lot of the basics down, I love to read experiences like this - lots of good information being passed around here. I feel like the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know much at all.

I did a bit of a similar thing...I started my graphic design business on the side as a hobby while working my corporate job to build up some savings and avoid a loan straight off the bat, as well as establish a [meager] client base. I'm mathtarded, so I've hired a local CPA and it's almost the best money I spend all month. I'd be up to my tits in paperwork and grief if I was trying to take care of most of that stuff myself. Incorporated right away too, which helps me sleep at night.

To add to what others have posted: dig the logo. maybe see if your artist is willing to try putting the "bread" text outside the guitar silhouette, below and sized larger. I think it's very clever with the grain making up the neck but you do lose the bread aspect in the body of the guitar. I like the red color too....reminds me of an old barn so I get that rustic, hand crafted feeling of your product. maybe you could fabricate a little branding iron in the shape of your grain-guitar and stamp the tops of your loaves or something as a cool effect

I think as far as budget marketing avenues, social marketing is tops for value. A facebook page is free, easy to make, and doesn't require huge time input to keep people interested and drive traffic to your webpage. Twitter is effective also. Blogging is helpful as well - if your site is rarely updated, you won't get much repeat traffic and interest. A blog can help keep people coming back and keeping their attention, as well as allowing you to maintain some openness and transparency in your adventure which people will appreciate. I've sold some personal stuff on Etsy but I could see it being a worthwhile way to sell things non-wholesale.

almost forgot, don't forget to check out your local chamber of commerce. they may have some great info for new business owners as well as free seminars you can attend.

BAMF Reader
2/11/11 6:25 p.m.

I'm not self-employed but I'm the most senior employee at a 5 person company and have been there for most of its 6 years.

There is so much to operating a business other than the product or service you offer. Keeping up with the money, the marketing/sales, managing employees, etc. stuff can consume as much, if not more, of your time than the core of your business. As you grow and those outer elements of running a business grow, it's smart to hire people who can manage them with you, rather than for you, if that makes sense.

SVreX wrote: There is no problem with debt. The problem is putting yourself in the position to have to learn to manage the debt before you learn to manage the business.

This is spot on. From what I've seen where I work, debt for a major asset crucial to operations is a far safer bet than for paying rent or what have you. You can't bake bake bread without an oven. So if you don't have one, and can't buy it outright, borrowing could be appropriate. But if you can find a used one for cheap, all the better, assuming it works reliably.

I wish you the best in your business start up.

alex SuperDork
2/16/11 1:53 p.m.

Requisite Facebook page - head over and Like me!


speedblind Reader
2/18/11 1:46 p.m.

Love the idea - would you pass on the contact info of the person that made your logo? My 3-month old company needs one.

Good advice on this page - I'm following along to learn as well. The recommendations here finally got me off my butt and now I have a very good CPA on the recommendation of a friend of the family. Feels much better to be able to concentrate on work without having the nuances of tax/business law hanging over my head.

Keep the advice coming!

alex SuperDork
2/18/11 3:04 p.m.

The logo was done by my good friend, the very talented Kirsten O'Loughlin, who runs Sensura Studio. She can be reached through her website.

alex UltraDork
4/13/12 10:25 p.m.

Long overdue update time.

In October I left the restaurant where I was 'renting' space. That coincided with my farmers market closing for the season, and my business and the restaurant's were really in each others' way.

When I left I had a space lined up for potential rental. Great company, pretty nice space, marginal neighborhood (but good access) - overall, workable. But a variety of extenuating circumstances conspired to delay that deal from closing. And in the mean time, I found a place for sale. So, at about 4 this afternoon, this became the new home of Red Guitar Bread

I'm pretty excited. I'm shooting for something in the neighborhood of a month to build out the space - primarily to build the oven. Yep. Wood fired brick oven that I'll be building largely myself, with some professional guidance from a stonemason friend.

Big changes are afoot. The real work starts on Monday.

Osterkraut UltraDork
4/13/12 10:48 p.m.

Building looks like a good fit for your logo, nice score.

alex UltraDork
4/13/12 11:01 p.m.

Heh, just reading through the thread, I realized I have been egregiously remiss in my updates. Bullet points that I've left out:

  • Started selling at a small suburban farmer's market last season, which was a great experience in direct-to-customer retail sales. Just the face time was invaluable. I'll be back at that market and at least one more this coming season, hopefully more.

  • Got some local accolades and press. Best Bread in 2011 from the Riverfront Times (our Village Voice paper), short profiles in a couple local foodie papers. One of those foodie rags that's affiliated with the Post-Distpatch (the 'real' newspaper in town) has first dibs on a proper profile piece, so I'll be ringing them up, since I'd like to have them on board to document my oven build process.

Conquest351 Dork
4/14/12 9:39 a.m.

Very cool man! Congrats!!

Ranger50 SuperDork
4/14/12 9:54 a.m.

I bet your neighbors will love you.

Congrats on getting a space.

poopshovel PowerDork
4/14/12 11:07 a.m.

AWESOME man! With a new baby, my 5 and 10 year plans are in limbo. Trying to figure out what the next step is.

alex UltraDork
4/23/12 9:45 p.m.

Building permit granted for my wood fired brick oven! This is excellent news, as the oven was the only uncertainty in this equation.

So, we're moving right along.

stroker Dork
4/24/12 7:41 p.m.

Lemme know when you're ready for a franchisee in Columbia.

dyintorace GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
4/24/12 7:47 p.m.

That building is super cool! Nice score!! And great news.

Curmudgeon MegaDork
4/24/12 7:57 p.m.

That's great news! Best of luck to you.

dyintorace GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
1/28/13 11:57 a.m.

Any update for us? Hope things are cranking for you!

alex UltraDork
1/28/13 6:46 p.m.

Thanks for the reminder.

Progress has been a bit (OK, a lot) slower than I anticipated, but it is indeed progressing. Hey, glaciers progress, too.

The oven build has been challenging, since I've never done any masonry in my life prior to this project. At every step I have to first wrap my head around what I need to do, which takes some time thanks to the aforementioned complete lack of knowledge. But by the time this thing it built, I'll know what I'm doing. Maybe for the next one...

I intend to put together a proper Build Thread just for the oven, since I figure some folks will be interested, but here's the Cliff's Notes version:

Upon tearing up the floor where the oven will be located, I found that the building is not on a concrete slab as we'd all assumed (including the building inspector), but the subfloor is just laid on, well, dirt. After consulting with our very good structural engineer, he gave us his stamp of approval that, although a bit alarming, the building is sound. And I figure, it's been up for about 100 years, and I only need to get maybe 30 more out of it myself.

So, I tore up the floor, cut the floor 'joists' in the dirt and dug down for the foundation of my oven - 4" of 3/8" minus screenings, 4" of 1/2" gravel, then a 7'x7'x6" slab with the requisite rebar grid.

On top of that slab stands the concrete block base. I got into a good rhythm building this and I was able to lay one course a day. Not anywhere near professional speed, but decent enough.

After the block base went up, I build a rudimentary form for an insulating slab that sits below the hearth slab. This insulation layer is composed of an 8:1 perlite:concrete mix. Really weird consistency, kind of like the '90s kids' toy Floam, if anybody remembers that stuff.

On top of the insulation slab is the actual load- and heat-bearing hearth slab, made of high-temperature calcium aluminate and sand/gravel. This was the first custom-blended concrete mix of the project, so I got to buy a cement mixer. This slab is about 6'x6'x6", and it's actually suspended by a rebar grid that extends over the top of the block base. Another long day of mixing, transferring, pouring (and this slab is about 40" off the ground), screeding and troweling by myself.

After that, I kind of got stuck. Like, really stuck. The next step is the actual hearth surface where the fire and baking all happen, and there's zero room for error in laying it out. For starters, the firebricks are about $1.50/ea (about 75 in the hearth), and the high-temperature mortar is $150/50# bag. So, I spent a lot of time planning this step, making sure I was thinking far enough ahead that I wasn't going to screw myself in the unforseen future. Add the holidays, an anniversary party, an out-of-town 30th party for my sister, and you get an idea of the events conspiring to slow me down there.

But, I'm very pleased to report that I laid the hearth last Saturday, and despite my trepidation, it's reasonably level and mostly square, which is about the tightest standard I can apply to myself for this project.

Today I mocked up the walls of the baking chamber, and as soon as I can wrangle one of my friends into making the steel doorway so I can finalize the layout based on its actual dimensions, I'll build the walls with more of that expensive mortar.

On a non-oven front, I have a contractor lined up for the two bathrooms that need to be installed - both ADA, of course - with floor drains in each, along with floor drains in the prep area and plumbing for the 3 basin sink. I ask everybody to cross their fingers that we can get away with piggybacking off the existing main into the building and avoid having to run a new main (to the tune of $8k - there are buried streetcar tracks along my street that make accessing the water main a major undertaking).

Looking ahead at my oven build and the rest of the space, I'm making a very soft deadline to be ready for business by April 1. VERY soft.

Again, I'll make a for-realsies build thread for the oven soon, now I'm making progress that actually looks like something in a photograph. And I'll keep this thread updated as I move along.

Thanks for the continued support. It really does help.

Sultan HalfDork
1/28/13 7:27 p.m.

I have no advice yet I hope you make a lot of dough.....

yamaha SuperDork
1/29/13 1:15 a.m.

Glad to hear its progressing.......I for one love real bread. Sliced just isn't good IMHO. Whenever I'm out that way I'll have to drop in.

alex UltraDork
1/29/13 10:59 a.m.
Sultan wrote: I have no advice yet I hope you make a lot of dough.....

Buy my bread, I knead dough!

(The bakery business is rife with puns.)

16vCorey PowerDork
1/29/13 11:03 a.m.

Excellent work! Let me know when you're ready to start shipping, I have some friends that are very well connected with a local food co-op and a few local farmers markets. St. Louis isn't far, so I'm sure we could sell some for you!

N Sperlo
N Sperlo UltimaDork
1/29/13 11:30 a.m.


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