I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reality Bites

Regular readers of this blog will know that I own a custom cake and cupcake business. A business which has seen a 400% growth in the space of 18 months (not a typo, those zeros are right.) A business which can no longer sustain this growth in the space it's in. At the moment, the business is literally operating in tiny conditions - I've had to start storing flour and sugar in the cool room because there is no room anywhere else!

The coolroom is enormous - so much so that I I use it as my default dry store...in addition to the bags of flour there is all my packaging, too. NN and I spend several minutes looking for yet more places to put finished cakes, or we waste hours moving stuff up and down and in and out and around in the hopes that we can eek out enough space for "just one more" dozen cupcakes. The situation has reached ridiculous proportions. My handwashing sink washes my hands one minute and acts as my desk the next minute. My freezer is both a freezer and a storage area for empty containers. It's lid is both shelf space and photo studio. My stovetop is a stove but also acts as a shelf, a storage area, and a cooling rack when needed. The top of the oven is where I store my cupcake tins....and in all of this there is just one little 2 metre (6 foot) bench on which NN and I produce several hundred cakes and cupcakes every month.

For a couple of months I've been hunting for a bigger premises, and the good news is that I found a place I think will work. The bad news is that I spent 4 hours with the accountant on Wednesday, only to have him tell me that I can't afford to move...and I can't afford to stay. Basically where I am now doesn't have enough space for me to take on more business... and the amount of business I have now is only really covering expenses and not much else. Because of the space issue, I've had to turn away work in recent weeks. So if I stay where I am, I'm almost better off just going out and getting a job.

The whole reason I *left* my last job is because it earned me no money, killed my back, and left my kids with a grumpy and/or absent mother. Getting a job is NOT an option.

So another option is to move to bigger premises and accept that it'll take another 9-12 months before I start to see any money. The last option is to move to bigger premises and find something which I can retail - so either serve coffee and slices of cake (or whatever) or come up with a "product" which I can go and sell. Problem? I don't really love either of those options. Fact is, I have no interest in selling coffee ... primarily because it's a total change in business for me, in terms of how I currently run it all, and it requires a higher start up cost with no guarantee that people will actually come and drink my coffee and eat my cinnamon palmiers. (Although let me say that those cinnamon palmiers are so good, they make grown men cry.)

Fact is, we're broke.

Fact is, for either of the two (real) options open to me, I need somewhere in the range of 60k. Yes. $60,000 Australian dollars.

Fact is, I have the 6 but I don't have the zeros which come after it.

Fact is, I don't know what to do.

Ideas all welcome.


Chelley said...

if I win lotto this weekend I will send you money! I mean really I cant spend 56 million dollars!

This is a very hard time at the momenet we are holding our breaths as my hubby is waitin to hear if he has a job after the 1st July!

I know there are no real ideas that can help you... But know I am sending huguz and prayers!

sacha said...

Let's start at the start.
You run a successful and growing small business, right? You are busy, you are working and you love it, right?

Take the chance.

Accountants look at factors and minimise risk. But sometimes you have to take the risk to get where you want to go. You know your factors, you know how much you are prepared to do to and heck you've worked this long without getting much money, what's another 12 months- you'll be too busy to notice anyway!

If anyone understands that working isn't just about money, it's you. Accountants do not, but probably because they hate their job.

You are a smart gal, but you have to go with your heart sometimes too. I know what you want to do, and actually you do to.

Tell the accountant thanks for opening your eyes, but stand outa your way or be ready to feel the pain.

momzen said...

I'm with Sacha. Take the information, but make your own decisions.

My thoughts would be around seeing how you could maybe collaborate with another person who needs the kind of space you will have.

Rather than trying a different kind of business (like selling coffee/retail bakery), brainstorm some off-the-wall ways to make up the difference in rent/space.

Is there another chef who's where you were two years ago, whom you could mentor (and offer space) for a fee? Or a food photographer who needs subjects?

Your "Heidi Special" makes me think there will be some kind of creative way you could share the expenses with another business owner.

Another thought would be to sub-contract some of your work until you can make the jump.

You can do it!

Also, if you havne't found it already, there is one book I recommend to ALL business owners. It's called "The E-Myth" by Michael Gerber. It is about creating a business that supports you, rather than the other way around.

Good luck! Keep up posted.

mimzen said...

One more thing I just remembered... I don't know where you are in Australia - but this is a great resource: http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/ Maybe you can find ideas there.

Claire - Matching Pegs said...

No Advice for you Em, but Congratulations on such phenomonal growth. Way to go!
Regardless of your current dilema, that growth sends you the message that your cakes are great!

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

Thanks everyone - your support is truly priceless... I think Sacha is basically right, that I've got to be armed with all the info but ultimately make the decision which is right for me.

Momzen, I've known about flying solo for a while (I get their newsletter) and I often recommend it to others as a great resource. Sadly they don't have a "Yes man" who can just shake me and say, "Go on! Do it!"

I know I can do this, I'm just terrified of the how and the when and the responsibility. Then again I never let fear be my reason for not doing anything before, so why should I start now?

In the meantime I've got plenty of work to do, as said accountant wants lots of costing and pricing info. I'll keep you all posted.


Heidi said...

Damn. What a crappy situation. No ideas, but lots of good vibes.