Or maybe 3.0 or 4.0 - remember when it was going to be a mom and baby-friendly coffee shop?! HA HA HA WHAT WAS I THINKING (Answer: CLEARLY NOT THINKING!)
We learned a lot during December, aka Macaron Madness Month.
We both thought December was going to be this huge month for us, and I spent a ton of time setting up that stupid online store to make it easier for people (therefore making them more INCLINED) to order from us. We thought a lot about our holiday menu and what we thought people would want and how we would accomodate all our holiday cookie orders. I was very worried about managing local deliveries and mailing cookie packages on time, etc. And then... no one ordered anything. Oh, we had one or two large assorted cookie orders for a holiday party and an engagement party, but otherwise it was a cake and a few custom sugar cookie favors and that's it. I was a tiny bit embarrassed, wondered what we did wrong, felt stupid.
When I had TIME to feel and wonder those things, that is, because OH MY GOD THE MACARONS.
You see, thank goodness we didn't have anyone ordering anything else because for about four weeks straight, Katie was making macarons. Like, 8 hours a day. Longer. MACARONS MACARONS MACARONS. I dropped my kids at school, drove to Katie's place, picked up Temperamental Niece, and kept her until her dad picked her up in the evening. Because macarons.
We had a very well placed connection at the company that manages the catering for a little local biz that goes by AMZN on the stock exchange. Whatever we were making, we'd send the leftovers with him to work and one day his boss wanted to know if we'd come up with some macaron flavors for their holiday menu. We chose gingerbread (gingerbread shells, vanilla buttercream filling), candy cane (red shells, peppermint buttercream filling, rolled in crushed candy cane), and clementine (orange shells, orange cream filling). Those flavors made it on the menu plus "assorted holiday cookies" which mean decorated sugar cookies. And orders started rolling in. Orders for HUUUGE numbers of cookies. And it wasn't that we didn't really anticipate huge numbers, we just hadn't ever DONE it, you know? And it was kind of nuts. SUPER nuts.
That said, we made a [relative] buttload of money.
It was good to take a few weeks post-Christmas to ignore the bakery and settle down and think. When we finally did the December bakery post-mortem, a few things stood out at us.
- Whoa, we were way profitable in December. Way WAY profitable.
- We totally want to keep this gig going.
- Whoa, we canNOT do that again. At least, not the way we DID it.
And this is where I hear my dad saying, "Think about how much you're learning!" Because what we want to do next is not something I even knew existed last year when I was running around trying to get permitted and licensed.
We're gonna get rid of most of what our website says we do. On one hand this is sad. We love taking orders from all kinds of people with all kinds of celebrations! I, personally, LOVE when an internet friend orders a box of cookies for another internet friend. We love thinking up cakes and cookies and new treats and I love thinking about ways to package them and I REALLY love thinking about branding and image and ways to get ourselves known to our local customer base. On the other hand, THAT DOES NOT MAKE US ANY MONEY.
We haven't really LOST money on anything we've done, but those subscription boxes? For most of the boxes we do, at least a third of what we charge per month goes to postage. A THIRD. And those are a lot of work. Like SO MUCH WORK. And while starting that service drummed up a lot of capital in the summer, it's no longer worth it. (Obvs we will keep our current subscriptions! We just aren't taking more.)
I think all these assorted cookie boxes that we wanted to do make sense for a bakery that is baking those things ANYWAY. A lot of our ideas I think would work in a real bakery. And I did spend some time in the last few weeks thinking over a physical location. But our kitchen landlady was all, "Are you crazy? If you can find a way to earn money without paying RENT or getting a LOAN..." and I was all, "You are right, what am I thinking, time to LET GO."
We probably wouldn't have changed anything, except the corporate caterers asked us, before December was over, if we wanted to be on their REGULAR menu.
Thumbprints v2.0 is gonna streamline, refocus, and get flexible. We will still do large sheet cakes, smaller and fancier celebration cakes, and treats for crowds (ie: dessert bars at weddings and custom treats at parties). We'll still make lots of cookies, but we'll now sell them by the dozen or two dozen, no more individual cookie boxes for sale. We are not a boutique doing wedding cakes. We are not a local bakery where you can drop in for a cookie platter to take to Grandma's. (Unfortunately.) We are not excited about shipping and ordering. What we've seen work for us is bulk orders, lots of them, with no frills. We are going after the caterers. Next week we're doing an open house where all the AMZN event planners can sample our stuff and find out what else we do. In two to three months, we'll do a presentation for other catering managers - this group manages catering for LOTS of local companies - and see if we can get on the menu at other locations. Macarons are trendy right now, people like ours, they're profitable, and we have some good ideas for how to do it smarter. (We HAVE to do it smarter.)
This is also something we can do, with some adjustments, if Katie moves out of Seattle, which is a definite possibility.
This is ALSO also something that, if it gets off the ground, Katie can do with minimal involvement from ME. Because I'm still in the "hey, maybe I can help make something successful! And then I'll be bored and want to do something else!" mindset.
We feel really good about this. We've worked hard AND we've been lucky. And shopping macarons around... well, for one thing, it's nice shopping a product that everyone LIKES, you know? Like no one is going to be annoyed with me for bringing free cookies to their office or whatever. But also, I keep learning that people aren't the hoity toity intimidating professionals I expect them all to be. They're just people getting along in a business and interested in newcomers, usually happy to talk or help someone out. I have yet to talk to one single person who thinks Thumbprints is lame. (Shallow, I know, but probably my biggest fear.) If anything, they're interested and know someone who knows someone. And sometimes those someones turn into real somethings. I've seen this happen SO many times this year. Just the other day a dad at school ASKED for my card because he knows the person who plans events at the Gates Foundation. WELL, GOSH, HERE YOU GO.
I feel like, as long as SOME part of my brain is tuned into smart businesslady thinking (ie: profit-oriented, not fun-and-cute-oriented) and as long as I don't get caught up in the EVERYONE IS SMARTER THAN MEEEEEEEE trap, I can get this done. As long as we make smart changes in how we operate, Katie can get this done.
We turned a $1200 profit for 2014. I am incredibly freaking proud of that profit. We had some stellar months and some dismal months and some anxiety-ridden months and some mysteriously busy months and we learned SO much and we still have all the money we started with PLUS $1200and HOT DAMN I am proud of us.
AAAAAND as I wrote that last sentence we got our first regular menu order. WOO!