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“Carefully managed starters can last indefinitely, but keeping up with one is a good bit of work. Kinda like having a pet that you raise and feed and take care of and then…bake and eat.”

— Alton Brown

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Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips Logo2018-05-29 So, you want to have a home bakery, Part 3

where we talk about the Bread of the Week Club

In some areas farmers markets are open all year long, in other areas when the farmers markets aren’t open there are other marketing opportunities such as winter festivals, Christmas markets and so on. But in many parts of the country, when the summer is over, so too is the farmers market. And you still have bills to pay and a family to feed. A good answer to the issue of year round revenue is the Bread of the Week Club. It can also be a great answer if you live in area where a cottage food manufacturer is not allowed to sell in farmers markets.

In some areas, the Bread of the Week Club is a year around effort, in others it lets you survive between farmers market seasons.

As with farmers markets, you are constrained by state and local laws, which will control how you can advertise, take orders and whether you are allowed to deliver bread. Check out the state guidelines, and see what you are allowed to do.

The bread of the week club works like a book of the month club where each week you offer one, or more, breads. We offered one bread as the default bread and several alternate breads. Some people offer add-on products, such as preserves, bread knives and whatever they can sell at a profit. We offered subscriptions for one, two, three of four loaves per week. Some people have larger families than others, and some like bread a lot more than others.

The first season of our bread of the week club we had people come by the bakery to pick up their bread. We packed a shipping list and a flier that described the next week’s offerings in each order. We also labeled each order so when Frank showed up, we could hand him his order. People could elect accept the default bread, ask for an alternate, or skip a week.

The downside of the pick-up model was that people forgot it was bread day. And they’d show up late. And we spent the day in the bakery, long after we’d planned on going home and to sleep. The second season, we delivered bread and were able to deliver the breads in much less time than we wasted sitting around the bakery the first year.

People could mail the completed form to us or email us. Some people have set up web sites where members can login and place their orders. Our guideline was that if we didn’t hear from someone three days before “bread day” they’d receive the default because that was when our purchasing and production began.

It is worth mentioning that you don’t have to offer everyone the same default bread, depending on your market and production capacity. Pro-tip - almost all of our clients took the default bread of the week they were offered. Make sure you don’t offer more loaves of any one default bread than you can deliver. And you don't have to offer the same default bread to everyone.

The previous section on state cottage food laws will color much of what you can, and can not, do with a bread club. Can you advertise, or take orders, on line? Can you deliver your bread to your customers or do they have to pick it up? Can you hire someone to handle deliveries for you?

The keys to success are marketing and limiting your delivery area (if you’re delivering). One bread club owner I know would go into large high rise apartment buildings and put a flier on each door, letting people know about the bread club. Concentrating on a limited geographical area meant he could make one stop and deliver for quite a few people. Remember, in some municipalities it is difficult to get permission to put fliers on people's doors.

You can put fliers on the doors of free standing houses, but you’re looking at a much lower concentration of customers. We lived in a small town, so we dreamed of servicing large high rises, but that never happened. Delivering to individual homes wasn’t optimum, but it wasn’t a major problem either – we spent some time optimizing our delivery route to minimize travel time and gasoline costs. Some people use delivery bicycles, which is neat for limited areas and can also act as an advertisement. Having a magnetic sign on your delivery vehicle is also good advertising.

You should look for other marketing options. Can you give samples at civic events? Can you give subscriptions to people as part of a promotional effort – many churches and other groups have fund raisers and offer prizes through raffles or silent auctions – you should make sure your subscriptions are an option! You can also harness word of mouth – offer a free week or month of subscription for each person someone gets to sign up and who stays with you for 3 months. Some cable companies offer a free month of service if you have someone sign up, but only let you earn a few free months. I’ve never understood that – we told our customers we didn’t care if they never paid us again – the more people they signed up, the better we did!

The keys are flexibility and persistence, finding out what you can do in your area and what works in your area. We really liked the Guerilla Marketing books as they got our creative juices flowing.

Until next time, may your dough always rise, no matter how you're going to sell it!

P.S. - next time we're going to actually talk about baking again! Really! -M

P.P.S. - Of course, it will be baking for a farmers market or bread of the week club. -M

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