Become a bakery owner


I enjoy inviting people to guest blog from time to time.  It adds an extra bit of content “flavor” to things, I think.  I love to get their thoughts…their take on things related to career transition and reinvention….and I love to be challenged myself a bit.  And that’s just what Martha Wagner did:  She challenged me as you’ll read below.  She adds some real flavor to the blog — both in a literary sense and….a culinary sense!

Introducing Martha Wagner.

Cheers!
Brian

It’s hard for me to imagine Brian Kurth sitting in an office cubicle or even behind a big desk in his former corporate life in Chicago. In a recent chat at one of his favorite Portland coffee shops, he looked relaxed, like an entrepreneur affected by, but not crushed by, the current economic times.

I’d recently read Brian’s book, Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love, and found it to be an innovative “how-to” guide to creating your own career mentorship.  But when I went to the VocationVacations website, I thought there were some possible gaps in the list of career test-drive experiences, so I called him and we set up a time to meet. He was happy to listen, but before long he was twisting my arm into writing a guest blog about the gaps I detected in his list of career paths. He said that his blog readers might provide valuable feedback about whether I was onto something.

What expertise do I have? Well, I’ve been following local and national stories about food and farming for 30 years. I am resuming an earlier freelance writing career, now focusing on food and local farming. I devour foodie blogs and newsletters from local and national groups such as Slow Food, Friends of Family Farmers and the Organic Consumers Association. I go to meetings of my county’s Food Policy Council. I’ve been shopping at Portland’s many local farmers markets for years, and more recently have witnessed the sprouting of new home gardens and the arrival of backyard chickens all over the city.

Even though Brian has a number of food-related careers on his VocationVacations list—including baker, brew master, chef, chocolatier, cheese maker, farmer, ice cream maker, restaurateur, winemaker and wine retailer (he’s got a passion for that business)—there are other career paths in food and farming that I think people are eager to explore. Just one example: Camas Davis, a 30-something Portland-based food writer and chef I recently interviewed for a story, wanted to learn about what she calls “the dying art of the butcher shop” and through a friend of a cooking teacher she knows managed to set up a summer internship with a family of farmers and butchers in southwest France. The experience gave her the confidence to start the Portland Meat Collective, a venture in which she and other chefs are teaching a range of butchering skills to restaurant and home cooks.

When the First Family put in an organic kitchen garden at the White House it was one very visible indication of growing interest in farming and in organics. In the Northwest, the number of organic farms growing vegetables, specialty grains and beans, and garden starts is increasing. Farmers markets and natural food stores are selling meat from small farms that are practicing sustainable animal husbandry. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms are providing a way for eaters to connect with farmers and farmers to sell direct to the public. Farmers markets, grocery stores, even food banks and in Portland, the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, are sponsoring food-related classes these days focused on topics as diverse as eating economically, canning and preserving, raising backyard chickens and almost-vegetarian cooking.

So where am I heading with all of this and how does it relate to VocationVacations?  As I watch new food and farm related businesses open, I see a need for more VocationVacation mentorship choices across the country—for careers such as butcher, organic and/or CSA farmer, cooking instructor, personal chef and garden designer (vegetable gardens and mixed gardens). In the world of baking, organic, vegan and gluten-free baking are up-and-coming specialties. Food cart businesses—from waffles to tamales to barbecue—are one of the hottest new restaurant trends. I just met a first-time food cart owner in Portland, newly transplanted from Chicago and loving his new livelihood. VocationVacations, I suggest, should make it easier for people like him to test the waters of new careers related to food and farming.

So now I leave it to you, dear readers. Let Brian know if you think he should expand the VocationVacations list. Do you have some ideas of your own for him?

Best!

Martha Wagner

Martha Wagner arrived in Portland in the late 80s, following a circuitous path from the Midwest to Connecticut, England, New Zealand, Northern California and Eugene, Oregon. She has written about food and health, from tofu to walking shoes, for numerous magazines and newspapers. In her “day job” (www.marthawagner.com) she edits and proofreads countless words for colleges, nonprofits and businesses. She lives at a 3.7 acre urban co-housing community where her neighbors include 37 chickens.

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I recently had the pleasure of seeing yet another career transition client fulfill on their dream of creating or finding their dream job.

Annemarie Spitznagle was a pharmaceutical sales executive who simply lost the passion for “schlepping” legal drugs.  Instead, she wanted to pursue her true passion:  organic foods including….sweets!

Annemarie was well down the path of writing her business plan for an organic bakery prior to taking her Baker VocationVacation at The Pink Cupcake in Mt. Vernon, OH with mentors, Beth Murdock and Sommer Meade.  She felt she needed the hands-on mentorship in addition to her coursework at the University of Wisconsin Center for Entrepreneurship.  Combining class time with face-to-face mentorship is a key to success.

Fast forward:  In less than six months from taking her VocationVacation career mentorship, Annemarie opened her amazing, new organic bakery, Bloom Bake Shop, in Middleton, Wisconsin, a suburb of Madison.

I asked Annemarie to share her advice and words of wisdom to those who think they may want to become a baker or become a bakery owner.  Much of her sage advice can be applied to just about any other career transition, however.  Embarking upon the path of career change and reinvention is not for the faint of heart.  But it’s SO worth facing the struggle and obstacles to get to the point of work-life fulfillment as Annemarie has.

Congratulations, Annemarie!  So very proud of you….and all our other career transition clients who have created change and reinvented themselves.  I can’t wait to enjoy one of your delish organic cupcakes!

Here are Annemarie’s advice and words of wisdom:

  • I’d bank sleep.  You will work harder then you ever knew possible and then you’ll work some more
  • I’d order some thicker skin, there are always more positives then negatives, but as perfectionists we forever focus on the one negative, like a tiny splinter, when the rest of the body is perfectly healthy and strong
  • I’d remind myself to step back periodically that first opening weekend and pat myself on the back and tell myself, “You did it!”
  • I commend myself for having for having built amazing friendships, people that stayed up until the wee hours helping me finish the little details, friends that got up and baked with me from 4:30-8am and then went right on to their “real job”
  • I’d remarry my husband again. He has always been a fan, but gosh, he is my number one cheerleader and source of strength, everyday telling me how proud he is of me. You need that
  • I’d remind my mother how great she was for flying up at a moment’s notice TWICE to keep my home-front running because we didn’t expect to take off so quickly with demand
  • I’d tattoo my mantra between my eyes: “Remember it’s just cake!”  It is so easy to get caught up and take it all too seriously.

What I know now:

  • I am stronger then I ever thought I was..and braver
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • No matter how much you plan, how great your business plan is,  you will still miss some details. And it will be okay. You will survive
  • If you do make mistakes, fix them, if it bothered someone, apologize and then swallow your pride and keep your chin up
  • Remind yourself when you are exhausted that this is your passion; this is your dream
  • Find a theme song, bring it to work and play it when you are feeling stressed, tired, or just want to break out dance because you feel HAPPY because, darn it, you are living your dream!

Key strengths that kept me going:

  • A solid business plan that I shared with numerous critical professionals to ensure it was ripped apart appropriately
  • Good legal counsel to protect my investment
  • An amazing mentor that believed in me, my idea and never tired of all of my questions and concerns
  • A talented graphic designer who got my vision in an instant so I could effectively communicate my brand to the public
  • Working with a commercial realtor to ensure I was placing myself in my appropriate demographic and access was optimal
  • Created a delicious product
  • Tested my product with a constructive audience of strangers who owed me nothing and then tested it again!!  And again!!
  • Not being intimidated by constructive criticism
  • If you haven’t worked in the type of bakery you want to own, go do it or apprentice in one.  Experience first-hand the fun, the stress and the reality of it all.

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Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love: www.amazon.com