Project Create My Own Job

You know how people say this is hard? IT'S HARD

Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh I have Bakery Stress. It is the stress that comes from things working out? But bringing new complications? Mostly financial ones? 

We have an offer for a rental kitchen. I have liability insurance all lined up and ready to go as soon as I pay for it. This means we could move on to the never-thought-we'd-quite-get-that-far step of contacting the health department, submitting a "plan" for "review", and getting the kitchen inspected for our own use. And then we'd be - dun dun dun - LEGAL. 

This is not the church kitchen. I'm not entirely sure what to do with our church kitchen situation. I am a card carrying 'Fraidy Cat, so just hanging out at the church kitchen doing our little baking project sounds a lot better to me than renting space at an Actual Factual Bakery Kitchen where we'd be paying some serious rent and hoping against hope we find a regular source of orders. I'm smart enough to know the church kitchen option, even though it is Practically Free, is not the brightest one if we want to be a big girl business. But... I'm pretty nervous. 

Here are some things I've learned in this process so far:

  1. No one is going to tell you what you need or how to do it. 
  2. Applying for a business license and establishing your type of business (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.) is the easy part. 
  3. You are expected to file taxes, but you will have no idea what those taxes are for, or what you owe.
  4. Should you be so stupid as to start a food business, you will figure out what the health department requires by trial and error, fortuitous googling, website forums, Facebook comment sections, Twitter, returned phone calls from unpleasant government employees, and panicked perusing of small print. 
  5. If you somehow manage to figure out what the health department requires, do not expect it to be logical. 
  6. It appears that many of these rules and regulations are in place not for protection of the public, but to collect fees. That sounds cynical, but that's the only reason I can find for needing to have an established and permitted bakery's kitchen inspected an additional time for our use. 
  7. You need money. Even if you are not opening a storefront and going to bank for a loan, you will need money. You need money for: state business license fee, LLC formation fee, city business license fee, Cottage Food application fee, new food business in your county application fee, insurance, and bank fees. 
  8. After that you need money for and/or will be using money you've earned for: inspection fees, supplies, equipment, PayPal fees, rent, marketing materials, promotional product. 
  9. If you are a person with a skill or trade, but no extra income or savings, you cannot start a business. You can't. That sounds cynical too, doesn't it. But I estimate that just licensing and application fees alone have cost us $500, and we aren't even finished with those. You need a bank loan or generous family members or a money tree to ESTABLISH yourself, long before you start doing the thing you're hoping earns you some money. 
  10. There ARE people who want to help you, but you need to be proactive and look for them. 

I COULD KEEP GOING. I have a friend coming to get me in 20 minutes for therapeutic shopping and conversation. (She's shopping, I am enabling. I gave up spending money for Lent. TERRIBLE.) So I have to go. But while things are moving forward and we have a huge opportunity in front of us, right now I'm feeling a little bowled over by what it costs to get started, and what we're risking. I knew this going in, but now I really know it. You know? 

Thanks for reading. Your encouragement on this subject has been huge for me. 

More bakery crowdsourcing! Thank you!

While Katie and I wait for one of our feelers to produce something on the commercial kitchen space front, help me think out wholesaling. 

Actually I think you can only technically call this wholesaling, but what we'd like to do is have a collection of coffee shops and cafes that sell our cookies. I envision it working this way: Katie bakes the treats on Monday, I spend my Tuesday morning delivering the treats, we get paid, and it starts over the next week. Assuming that's a workable possibility, here are my questions. 

1. What do we try to sell? Because we can't afford, nor do we WANT, to bake and deliver every morning, we're looking at treats that will last a few days and don't need to be fresh baked to taste good, like a croissant. The two definites on our list of goods are shortbreads and biscotti. I'm also wondering about your standard Big Cookie, frosted sugar cookies (themed shapes even? Bunnies around Eastertime?), and maybe some Small Cookies directed at the shorties who come in with their moms. (I don't know, maybe it's just Katie and me who are constantly giving our babies cookies. THEIR MOMS OWN A BAKING BIZ. COME ON.) We aren't going to do muffins, croissants, coffee cakes, other pastries, anything where time is of the essence. We just can't manage that right now. 

2. How should it look? My idea for finding clients is to basically just travel around to all the local shops with a bunch of free treats. Katie says people would do this sort of thing all the time at the bakeries and shops she's worked at. I'm thinking I would pack a box or tray with the things we're interested in selling, but I'd also like to show how we could individually wrap things, if needed. Maybe the store owner wants to put biscotti in a glass jar, but sell individually wrapped sugar cookies? I feel like I should have some examples of how we package our items. 

3. Oh God, how do we price these things? I HAVE NO IDEA. I have a really hard time pricing anything. Katie does most of that. Basically what we do is use a rule she was given in pastry school, come up with a number, think: "would WE pay that?", and then either go ahead with that amount or knock it down a few bucks. It's so hard. We want to charge the going rate for where we live and we think our products are worth the money; at the same time you totally understand people thinking, "Uh, $2 for an itty bitty macaron?" Wholesaling is a completely different beast, though, seems like. You're selling in bulk and that person is going to mark it up. So... we're going to have to do some homework. I'm ASSUMING I will need to bring some sort of marketing materials with me when I drop off our cookies. A price sheet at the very least. SOMETHING NEEDS TO GO ON THE PRICE SHEET!

4. I'm going to have to call people on the phone, aren't I. That's not really a question. More a statement infused with dread and desperation. 

Here are my other ideas for hopefully making some money at some point: 

Investigating how to get a booth (and how many $$$ it requires) at a wedding expo. Cakes, of course, but we think it'd be rad to do dessert tables. 

Figuring out how and where to advertise us as people who make sweet, delicious, and perfectly packaged party favors. 

ooooh, we are going to be late to ballet (ballet!) if I keep writing so PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN THOUGHTS AND IDEAS BELOW THANK YOU KISSES FOR EVERYONE.


Quick bakery update and J. Cheung makes the newspaper

Hi Internet. Have you been wondering why I haven't written anything about the bakery lately? (Or maybe you haven't. Maybe you're all, "Oh thank GOD she stopped talking about THAT", in which case you might want to click over to something else right now.) Well, I haven't been saying much because what we're doing right now is the Height of Boring. There is really no good way to make paperwork interesting. 

But that's what's going on: paperwork. We actually finished typing up all the recipes and matching ingredient labels (we have 60+ so far). Katie's been through them once and I will do the final edit and print everything out. It feels great to be so far into the process! It is totally discouraging to think about how much we still have to do! The next step is to write out any processing steps that weren't included in the recipe AND the packaging steps. As in, "Using gloved hands I take two cookies and place them inside a food grade plastic bag" type description. That's the example they give you in the application packet. Okay, I'm quoting from memory, BUT STILL. For EVERY RECIPE. And while I am doing that, Katie will be typing out how she plans to clean and sanitize every piece of equipment we plan to use. 

Aaaaand... okay, it's probably not a wise idea to further express our feelings in such a public forum. Ha ha ha. I'll just say that Katie does a lot of grumbling and I do a lot of "yes, but we have to do it anyway!" and then we both bang our heads against the table and swear at our computers and give up and make cookies. I am under no delusion that we will have this thing done in time to sell Christmas cookies. MAYBE Valentine cookies. 

Oh, but I have I told you about the friend who is also attempting the CF application, even though she has the option of using a commercial kitchen, because the commercial kitchen is so DIRTY? Yes. That. Can you see where I'm going with this? 

SO ANYWAY. The bakery. The online version. It is going. Slowly. I feel like maybe this is good practice for jumping through all the additional hoops of opening a storefront? Maybe? When I'm feeling optimistic and generous? 

I'll cap off this super boring paperwork post with a link to a news article featuring a picture of none other than Jackson G. Cheung, Esq. A reporter visited the first grade and EXCITEMENT ABOUNDS!


40% off photography! Plus a bakery update/RANT. (More of a rant.)

Before I start my Daily Complaint (isn't that what this website amounts to?) I want to direct you towards Lindsay Kennedy Photography and the MIGHTY MAGGIE READER SPECIAL. Dude, you guys, I've never had a Reader Special named after me. Or anything, actually. Except the blog, that I named myself, out of a desperate lack of creativity. BUT THE POINT IS Lindsay is offering a discount for my readers, all four of you, and you guys SHE TRAVELS. Check out my gorgeous new canvas, yo:

Photo (5)

Note. This is not where it's supposed to go. I want to hang it on a big blank wall nearby, but doing that requires getting out the monster ladder and that is a Phillip job. It might get hung by Valentine's Day. 

At the very least you should check out that link for yet another picture of my delightful and only-because-of-Lindsay photogenic family. I FEEL SO FANCY. 

Oh, and did I tell you Lindsay offered to take pictures for Thumbprints? I KNOW. No really, I KNOOOOOW. 1) she is the best. 2) I am still totally utterly wonderfully floored by the support my entire off- and online universes have thrown behind this bakery craziness. 

SPEAKING OF THE CRAZINESS. (This is where I complain.) Katie I spent a large chunk of Saturday going over what we want to sell via the website. That was a lot of work. I had a big list of ideas, Katie had a big list of ideas, and we edited and culled and priced and mulled and I think we came up with an assortment of things that are yummy, pretty, and special to us. 

THEN we started going over the Cottage Food Application. And that is when I started to get Annoyed. 

Until the Cottage Food Act passed, you could only sell food that had been prepared in a commercial kitchen. A few days ago I told you why that wasn't a good option for Katie (or our bakery). So we should be uber grateful that the CFA exists. EXCEPT.

You are only allowed to earn a maximum of $15,000. Not like I think we're going to make over $15,000 any time soon, but I think we can agree that that is not a Living Wage and anyone who applies for the CFA has, I have to assume, ambitions of building a larger business, either eventually renting space in a commercial kitchen or opening a storefront. 

You COULD apply for a CFA to just make goodies on the side, right? And sell to friends and family and maybe their friends and family and be legal etc. etc. But if that were our only goal (and Katie's pretty much been doing this exact thing), WE WOULD NOT BOTHER TO APPLY. BECAUSE:

  • It costs $230.
  • You have to have your kitchen inspected. And the rules for your kitchen include: a two-compartment sink, smooth countertops, child gates (or a "child management plan"), separate storage areas for your business supplies and ingredients, etc. 
  • You must copy and submit to the Powers That Be every single recipe you intend to use. Which, in our case, is a lot of recipes. 
  • You must make labels listing ingredients (and some ingredients, like flour, must be broken down into sub-ingredients) for every single item you intend to sell, and submit these with your application. 
  • You must write out your packaging process for each product.
  • You must write out any processing steps for each product that are not listed in the recipe (ie: cooling on racks, storing in the freezer, etc.)
  • Youc cannot sell anything that needs refrigeration.
  • You may only sell direct to the consumer, hand to hand, which means no shipping, no Etsy, and no selling to food service establishments, like small local coffee shops. 

I feel like I'm forgetting a few things. Oh, writing up the sales plan and schedule (which can be "unknown, will vary"). Some of it will be quite easy for an English major who graduated summa cum laude in B.S., but writing up the ingredients for every single stupid cookie? OMGGGGGG. (Katie's doing that part. HA.)

And I UNDERSTAND. I do. But if we weren't hoping to open a storefront at some point, I don't see how doing this is worth it. A stringent rule-follower like myself is saying this, people. It's a LOT of tedious work for not very much reward. Unless it springboards us into something bigger. FINGERS CROSSED.

I GUESS, if we were just making homemade granola, or jam, or something like that, it wouldn't be such a big deal. I WILL GIVE YOU THAT.

Anyway, I had resigned myself to this whole application process, until Saturday when it was discovered by both of us that neither of our kitchens would work. Not Katie's, because she only has a one-compartment sink. Not mine, because I have tile countertops, ie: not smooth, with nasty unsanitary grout all over the place. And as much as I would like to remodel my kitchen, that doesn't seem like the best solution. 

After we freaked out, calmed down, and let off some anti-CFA steam, Katie came up with a solution. We will use my kitchen, but the kitchen table instead of the counters (and the butcher block bar area above the tile counter). This is not ideal because my oven is the House Original and is also the smallest oven known to man and Katie hates it with her whole being. ALSO I HAVE TO HAVE MY KITCHEN INSPECTED HOLY CRAP. But it will work. For now. We think. GAH.

So! That's what's up with THAT. We are really really hoping to get legal in time to sell our numerous holiday cookie trays and gifts. I hope people want to BUY them. I think they will be yummy and CUTE AS HECK. We need to start hauling ass on labels and hoping against hope that someone feels like coming out and inspecting us in a timely manner. AND THEN I WILL PUT UP THE WEBSITE. AND IT WILL BE GLORIOUS. AMEN.



Alert! Quinoa PSA! (Also: photography questions.)

I've recently started making a very easy and delicious (to Phillip and me) dinner. I basically stirfry a bunch of veggies and tofu (or maybe 1 kind of veggie and LOTS of tofu, because it's me we're talking about), dump it in a pot of just-made quinoa, and mix it all up with oyster sauce. I am embarrassed to tell you this is dinner, even though we both like it, because, I don't know. It doesn't sound good? But it is? ANYWAY. 

So I bought the Costco bag of white quinoa which lasted almost forever. We ran out and Costco trips are kind of a pain in my butt so when we happened to be in Trader Joe's the other day, I picked up a bag of their Organic Red Quinoa. New! Different! 

And two nights ago I made our standard Quinoa Stirfry. I remember saying to Phillip, "Mmm! I might like this red quinoa better! It's... chewier? Heartier? Tastes a little stronger?" 


Yesterday Phillip was away most of the day on a West Coast business trip (his first at the new job! Was home before I went to bed! Lovely!) and I had half the leftover quinoa for lunch. As I ate it I was thinking, "MAN this is YUMMY. I could eat VATS of this stuff!" But I didn't, because next up was a vat of yogurt and granola for dessert, my new favorite thing, which I would eat all day if I could because SUGAR!

That's what I had for lunch. And almost directly following lunch, like, as soon as I put down my empty bowl of yogurt, my stomach started to hurt. 

And hurt and hurt and hurt and YOWCH and now be happy that I'm going to spare you my afternoon of intestinal troubles. 

I didn't feel like eating dinner, but I had to eat dinner because taking my pills on an empty stomach is horrible, and I'm staring at the fridge thinking: no, no, no, no. I wanted a bowl of cereal, but I thought the milk was a bad idea. I wanted more yogurt, but that was probably what made me sick in the first place. I spied the other half of the quinoa and thought, "That's HEALTHY." So I ate that. 

And my stomach started hurting AGAIN.

When Jack came to inform me of his bad dream at 2am, my stomach still hurt. After I got him back to bed I grabbed my phone and googled, even though I KNOW I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. (Thankfully "quinoa indigestion" does not equal Cancer. FYI.)

BUT! I found this blog post and three-years-long comment thread about how quinoa suddenly made someone sick. Even people who'd been eating quinoa for years. Turns out you are supposed to rinse quinoa not because it's DIRTY but because the outer layer is POISONOUS! I feel like this could have been helpful information! For me! To know! I never rinsed my quinoa because... how? But remember how I said it seemed chewier? And the taste was different? Maybe more bitter? I probably 1) did not cook it long enough and 2) THE BITTER IS THE POISON!!!

My symptoms were INCREDIBLY mild compared to the people in this comment thread. (The woman at the campsite! Omg!) But the common theme seemed to be: I had no problem with quinoa for years! Until this one day! And now I can never eat it again! There was even someone who wrote and said that they'd eaten the Coscto quinoa with no problem and then one day the wife bought Organic Red Quinoa from Trader Joe's and that's when the misery began. 

Which is really sad to me, because I love quinoa. For a Not Healthy eater I sure do love my Whole Grains and Seeds And Weird Items Found In The Bulk Foods Aisle. 

AAAANYWAY. FYI. I will try eating quinoa again - not the red kind, though - and I will rinse it thoroughly (people say they just soak it, even overnight) (though how does this get rid of the POISON???) and I will cook it again and try a spoonful and see what happens. You bet I will update the internet on the status of my digestive tract.

All right, now that I have warned you about Evil Quinoa, I have a couple questions for any photographers out there. What Katie and I need on our baking website are PICTURES. However! All the pictures we've ever taken of Katie's cakes are crappy snapshots. Possibly this is because all we know how to take are crappy snapshots! I TRIED to take better pictures of yesterday's delivery, but no, they still look like crappy snapshots. 

I would be HAPPY to hire a photographer to snap our wares. Soon I'd like to make a whole bunch of things just for picture-taking purposes. But! I don't want to hire a photographer every single time we make something. That seems... inefficient. And annoying for, let's face it, the friend with a DSLR who I would sucker into being our food photographer. 

Phillip wants to buy a fancy camera (we left ours in Cabo - oops! I never wrote about Cabo!), but a fancy camera does not a talented photographer make. Do you talented types have any tips for me? Lighting? Backgrounds? Angles? I'll be honest and say photography is not one of the things I am eager to learn about and/or interested in doing better. (Sorry.) But I DO want to take a decent picture of a cake. I'll have to do that Saturday, in fact. IDEAS? HELP? A free computer program that makes it pretty? 


Gift wrapping: why be beautiful when shoddy will do?

For the last couple days I've felt very inspired by the bar everyone went to in our small Italian town. I keep thinking of things they had in their bakery case or treats they offered at holidays, how they wrapped things, how PRETTY and SPECIAL they made even the two little cookies you ordered with your cappuccino. I don't want to open an identical cafe, but Katie and I are both a little hand flappy over any idea that seems inspired by that place. 

I keep googling and Pinteresting for ideas and information. It seems like everyone wants dessert as Art - sculpted cakes, cookies worthy of hanging in a gallery - whereas I prefer to eat dessert that looks like dessert. I keep picturing a tray of exquisite little bites. Ten different kinds of labor-intensive cookies, snuggled into brown boxes or arranged on paper trays, tied up with ribbon or twine or raffia, with labels and tags and OH. Pass me my smelling salts. 

I shopped around for packaging supplies today and was roundly disappointed. I thought I'd be able to get away with buying things as needed while we're in this phase, but I might be making a large Etsy order soon, or at least visiting the restaurant store to check out their supplies. Those Wilton treat boxes at JoAnn's are flimsy tagboard dreamkillers.

I've also started thinking about the small shop across the street from the bar. It sold all sorts of Pointless Things, like vases and candy dishes and platters and fancy stemware. Expensive, breakable things. So obviously it's where everyone bought wedding gifts (I made a point of buying a wedding gift there the last time I visited my parents) and the best part was how the ladies wrapped your purchase. Always with ribbons and maybe a fake sprig of flowers and SIGH.

I'm not great at gift wrapping, but I APPRECIATE IT. I am a huge sucker for design and packaging. This is basically why I buy BeneFit cosemetics - I love their whole look. I'm also the person who chooses a restaurant based on ambience and style rather than food. I have very strong feelings about fonts. Stuff like that. This is why Katie is doing the baking and I'm doing the Facebook page. BUT while I think I can pick out what looks and feels good, I'm not super skilled at executing it. Heh. And I'm impatient and easily distracted and this is why my Christmas presents are held together with duct tape and the recipient's name is scrawled across the top in Sharpie. 

I must do better. I must summon every ounce of determined perfectionism in my lazy unfocused body. 


What would YOU buy?

Exciting bakery update! We have an LLC! I KNOW! It's, like, for REAL. Now I have UBI number, whatever that is, so I can apply for a business license. After that we turn in our hefty Cottage Food Permit application. AND THEN WE START SELLING STUFF. 

So that's what we're talking about now. Cakes, obviously. Katie's already been doing that, but now we'll be selling and marketing them with all sorts of officialness. Here are our other ideas, based on things she's done before, things people have requested in the past, and things we think might work:

  • Croissants. Other breakfasty pastries. 
  • Cookie platters, especially fancy holiday cookies. 
  • Jars of granola.
  • Cupcakes.
  • Savory pastries. For example, I have a friend who asked if Katie would be interested in making a whole bunch of piroshky-type pastries that my friend would freeze and put in her kids' lunches. 

What would YOU buy? 

I'll just be honest - I probably wouldn't buy anything. I like to bake, for starters, and I've always made my own cookie platters and food gifts for people like teachers and neighbors. BUT. Last year a friend of mine asked if I had any leftover cookies that she could bring to a holiday gathering because she didn't have time to make something on her own. AND. The little Italian town we lived in had the most amazing cafe with cases full of treats. Maybe this is an Italian thing but people often bought trays and platters of pretty cookies and small Italian sweets to take home or to share with friends, all wrapped beautifully. We would LOVE to make and sell platters like that! I HAVE bought those. 

Anyway, I was just thinking about what people might like to buy around the holidays. I was thinking of bringing trays of treats for the kids' teachers, to my old office, to friends' houses, to parents' friends, littering business cards wherever I go. You bet Thumbprints Baking Co. will be catering the sweets section of the annual Cheung Christmas shindig. 

We need to start taking pictures of whatever Katie makes. She's making a birthday cake for our brother-in-law next week and while it will be the flavors he requested, it will be decorated to the tune of What Would Look Nice On Our Website? 

That's where the baking business stands right now. In the Children Department:

1. Jackson continues to be the kid that I'm most anxious about. Molly and Emma, by comparison, are so easy for me to figure out! Jack is the one where I have to really think about what he needs at any particular moment. Today, for example, he's been on the verge of tears all afternoon because (I think) he is overtired. Maybe? I DON'T KNOW. I also watched him chasing girls on the playground after school today which got me all antsy about the crew of sassy girls he hung out with last year and how they affected his behavior. Is that happening again this year? He doesn't need more sass, primary grades ladies. 

2. Molly is relatively simple. She likes art projects, pink, and she ALWAYS wants to go shopping. We're growing out her bangs. (I KNOW.) She's rarely grouchy or overtired or nasty and as long as I'm not trying to get her ready to go to school we get along great. She also looks extra adorable in the tons of Old Navy sale items I bought her over the weekend. 

3. Same with Emma. My issue with Emma is that she never. shuts. up. and I swear she's the reason I am passing out every afternoon again. Every night, from three to four in the morning she is awake and thumping her head against the mattress in combination with songs or chants or mindless gibberish. She does it at various points all night long, but it's that 3am session that always gets me and always keeps me up. And she does it all day too. We walked around the lake this morning and the ENTIRE WAY she was singing/talking/chanting to herself. MY KINGDOM FOR SOME SILENCE. 

I am thinking that right about the time Jack gets easier to understand and deal with, my girls will turn into Tweenage Horrors. We shall see, eh?!

Not that all brothers are uniformly awesome. For example, mine refer to me as Large Marge.

Phillip likes to say that I am a very hard worker, just not at anything that generates revenue. Today I took that a step further by working very hard on things that COST us money - I am now a proud member of an actual factual LLC. It cost me $200 and about a half hour of googling "do you really NEED a registered agent?" Legal Zoom, which was going to charge me $400, kindly offered to be my registered agent (for a fee, obvs) but it turns out you need a registered agent to, and I'm practically quoting here, accept mail on your behalf if you're on vacation. So. Thanks but no thanks, Legal Zoom.

You can register an LLC online in the state of Washington (woo hoo!) and now I can check the first step off my list. Once the LLC application is processed I can apply for a business license and after THAT we can put together our giant pile of prereqs for a Cottage Food Permit. I also have a URL, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and many many links in my Bakery bookmarks folder. 

And I don't know why this is making me think of Mike Birbiglia but it IS... See, I'm doing this with my sister, who I love, even if she prefers dollar store posterboard to Excel. My FIL felt it necessary to pass on some advice his parents gave him - never go into the same business as a sibling. Ha. But I'm so excited to do this with her and it feels SPECIAL and all sorts of other cheesy things that would make her positively  DIE, but whatever. And this makes me think of Mike Birbiglia because we listened to an awful lot of his comedy in the car this weekend and he kept talking about his brother. All these adventures and funny things about his brother. And I got very MOPEY about Jackson not having a brother. MOOOOOOPEY.

So yeah, did you follow all of that? Bakery to sisters to Mike Birbiglia to brothers? Excellent. That is what I'm thinking about, how Jack does not have a brother and this is such a bummer to me. I am VERY VERY curious how people without a brother or a sister (or both!) feel about this - when they were kids and now when they're grown ups. Phillip, for example, doesn't feel like he missed out not having a sister. I would venture to say that if he had a sister instead of a brother, he MIGHT feel like he missed not having a brother? Maybe? I DON'T KNOW. As someone who has two of each it's hard for me to fathom. 

I am OVERJOYED that my girls have a sister. I know this doesn't necessarily mean they will LIKE each other, but I feel like the odds are in their favor and it makes me happy. I love having sisters! And it DOES make me feel sad for Jack. Sometimes I see families that are all boys and I think about how awesome that brother bond must be. What is my boy missing?! WAH. 

Now OBVIOUSLY I know that if the stars aligned and Phillip Cheung was struck by lightning and we had a fourth child, it's not like we would automatically have a boy. Even though *I* think it would be perfect to have two of each, that doesn't mean the universe ponies up. We could have fifteen more kids (calm down, Phillip!) and Jack STILL might not have a brother. 

So it's not really a "oh, we should have more kids" feeling, but a "oh, this is the sort of family our kids will have" feeling and a big fat wondering of what it will be like for them. I am always surprised when I recognize (remember? acknowledge? dawns on me?) that our family is NOT just like mine! We are different! We do different things! My kids will experience things UTTERLY DIFFERENTLY than the way I did! BRAIN EXPLODING!

Will Jack have some sort of stunted emotional growth from the lack of a brother? Probably not. Already he seems closer to his sister than I ever was to either of my brothers. He DOTES on Emma. I also take comfort in a boy/girl sibling pair I know who are SO close and SO awesome. AND all of you who are onlies, who are all, "Uh, only is the only way to go." Seems like most people prefer how it worked out for them. 

I know it's sort of a dumb and pointless thing to think about, but I DO think about it. All right, this pause in bakery talk is brought to you by Mike Birbiglia and the siren call of a chocolate bar, luring me out of bed. 

The Cottage Food Act and other things I am stupid about

Today I woke up and thought the thing that everyone else has been thinking since we started this crazy talk: why don't we start SMALL?!

You guys, I don't know why I didn't automatically start there. Honestly. Something's off in my head, you know that right? I think part of it was/is my commitment to the PHYSICAL SPACE of this bakery, that being the major selling point for me and the most exciting aspect of its creation. The SPACE where people will GATHER. "Starting small" meant basically starting without a space and that was... not inspiring to me, I guess. The other thing is that a year or two ago I helped Katie investigate whether she could start selling product at farmers markets and discovered a whole slew of bureaucracy and red tape. It was seriously disappointing, frustrating, and balloon-popping. Basically you couldn't sell anything edible unless it was made in a commercial kitchen. And since hardly anyone has a commercial kitchen at home, you'd have to rent space, which meant finding the money, committing to a schedule, and finding childcare. HAR HAR, WASHINGTON STATE! Way to encourage small business! 

Then the Cottage Food Act was passed this summer, allowing people making and selling "low risk" food to make those products at home in their normal person kitchens. I KNEW about the Cottage Food Act. I was AWARE. And yet I still didn't think too much about it because: THE SPACE! This was originally a coffee shop in my head, all about the moms needing a place to go when it's pouring down rain and the option to buy a kid-sized muffin instead of a massive M&M cookie. (Although we are still going to have M&M cookies. You betcha.)

So this morning, when I drove myself over to Katie's and announced "WE SHOULD DO THIS!" Katie was all, "Uh, yeah, that's kind of what I suggested a while back"... which makes you sort of wonder why she has potentially gone into business with me in the first place. I apologized for the amount of time my brain requires to wrap itself around something. At least I know how to make spreadsheets, right? She DOES need me. 

Honestly, I think it was processing everything with you guys here, and people saying "why don't you start small" in their various helpful ways over and over and also whoever it was who said "and then you'd have a customer base when you're ready to launch the Kickstarter campaign!" I don't know. It all clicked. Or maybe not "clicked" so much as "got me pumped" when I wasn't before. Maybe it was getting sunk in the Omg This Opening A Store Thing Is Really Overwhelming or the impatience of wanting to start SOMETHING already. It's not a separate idea, it's the path to the Main Idea. (You: DUH. Me: I KNOW.)

WHATEVER THE REASON, this is now The Real Deal. For reals. We are doing this. We may not have a space or a storefront and may not have one in the near future (or ever?! perish the thought!) BUT! Katie quit her half time job baking for someone else and now she's going to do it for herself. She's been baking on the side for a while anyway, but now she'll be doing it with a company name, business cards, a website, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a business license, and a sister who makes up for her lack of know how and common sense with massive amounts of optimism and enthusiasm. 

So of course today I dove headfirst into logos and business card design and brushing off the web design skills (all two of them) and then hit my head on the bottom of the LLC and business license pool. BLARGH. We did an LLC for the Blathering and I forgot how much it cost us. I am not up for spending THAT much money quite yet. Applying for a Cottage Food license is $230, but before I do that I have to apply for a business license ($15) and before I do that I have to figure out our ownership structure, which is definitely an LLC, but starting one of those is looking like an extra $400 or so shelled out to Legal Zoom. HOW DOES ANYONE START A BUSINESS OMGGGGG. This morning I was all, "We will get it all figured out and aboveboard and pay our taxes and it will be PRACTICE!" and now I'm all, "Um. Cash only?"

Can I just print business cards and start a witty Twitter account? Can't I just do that part? 

In which an English major attempts financial projections (and panics)

We worked a little more on the bakery today. This is how it went. 

MAGGIE: We need to put all these chicken scratchy legal notepad loose paper thingies of yours into a spreadsheet. Do you know what a spreadsheet is? You do it on the COMPUTER. 

KATIE: I can't THINK on a computer. 

MAGGIE: What are you, 89 years old?

KATIE: I need to SEE it. I need a WHITEBOARD. I need to WRITE IT OUT. 

MAGGIE: I need you to join the 21st century. 

And then we 1) made cookie dough and watched TV because the whole thing was stressing us out and 2) took a tiny nap because SERIOUSLY, have you tried to figure out how much it costs to open a bakery? Yeesh. 

Later, after we picked up the big kids at school and everyone was tracking graham cracker crumbs around the house and otherwise occupied, Katie sat down with her dollar store posterboard and I sat down with my Excel spreadsheets and we got stuff done. Like, for real. Six months ago we went to the Cash and Carry and wrote down what all the ingredients cost. Katie came up with how much we would need per week and I sat down to calculate it all out. Answer: we hope the bank loves our idea! 

The business plan thing is totally nervewracking to me because it's NOT ACCURATE. It's impossible to MAKE it accurate. You basically just have to do your best with estimating costs and revenue and hope it all works out. This makes me... nervous. I think I've said this before - the only reason I can think of for a future failure in this endeavor is because the business lady (ME) did some really stupid planning. I mean, I'm sure there are lots of other reasons, but this one seems the most LIKELY. 

Today we talked about cutting down on menu items (because dude, my sister only has two hands) and other ways to generate income, ie: hosting birthday parties. We weren't particularly excited about doing stuff like that, but there's a reason people do it. You can charge a lot more for a birthday party than you can for one cardamom scone. So. 

I'm also learning how to look up retail space for lease and I'm particularly interested in a spot right between Katie and me, in a (we think) promising area. I spent gobs of time on the Small Business Administration website and finally found the women's business center page and all the resources they offer. FREE resources. If I can swing a babysitter I'll be taking a How To Launch Your Business class towards the end of the month, and if I take a certain orientation class I can sign up for free mentoring and counseling. How cool is that?!

Katie is most worried about coming up with the capital. I am most worried about paying the capital BACK. I honestly feel like scraping the money together to make this thing happen is TOTALLY UTTERLY COMPLETELY POSSIBLE. It's the running a smart business that can pay its debts part that makes me anxious. I can sit here and dream about what it will look like and how I'll pimp it online and how the word will spread and what kind of atmosphere we'll have and how exciting it will be to add this sort of value to my city, but if our financial projections are naive and ridonkulous, it's all for naught. I talked about it with my business savvy FIL before I left for the Blathering and while he is nothing but supportive, I came out of that conversation seriously doubting my business acumen and wondering what made me think I had any entrepreneurial talent at all. 

And then this morning I wake up PUMPED, confident in my ability to figure things out, confident in my ability to find the people to fill in the holes, super confident in the vision itself. And why not drive an hour away to buy a $325 dry bakery case off craigslist with the perfect Look for our space? WE WILL NEED IT!

I also feel like I should tell you that this space might be Bakery 24/7. In Charleston I talked about losing some blogging mojo... sometimes it feels like a phase, or something I no longer need? Except I LIKE having a blog and there's no better way for me to process whatever's in my head. Sometimes people get all miffed about bloggers diving into one topic or turning into a [fill in the blank] blog, myself included! But that might be what happens here. There's your heads up. 

Oh wait, here's some content: Jack slammed the garage door this morning when we were leaving for school and a mirror fell off the wall and a candle holder fell off a cabinet and everything shattered into a million frillion pieces on the tile entry way floor and OMG we're about to start a new blog category called MILITARY SCHOOL.