Panel Discussion: How to Manage Work/Life Balance During the Holidays

July 17, 2023

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September 27, 2022

The holiday season is quickly approaching. If you run a food business, the holidays might be good for your wallet — but it can put stress on the rest of your life.

But it doesn't have to be that way!

Some of the brightest minds in business came together for a live panel discussion about work/life balance for food business owners, where they shared tips that help you reduce stress and make more money during the holidays. Watch the video below to hear from Brette Hawks of The Out of Home Baker, Cydni Mitchell of Sugar Coin Academy, Melissa Fryer of Build a Better Bakery, and Amanda Schonberg of Baking for Business.

Video Transcript

Emily Brungard: Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining. Welcome to the holiday edition of our work/life balance discussion with some really amazing business coaches today. I’m Emily and I am so excited to share the stage with four incredible women today. I'm the marketing manager at Castiron, where we're building the world's first small business management platform built specifically for food.

We were built for the average American to quickly start, run and grow their business all from their homes online. Our business owners sell food, cooking classes and pretty much anything else related to food that you can think of, all from the comfort of their homes, which is pretty awesome. I definitely feel blessed to get to play a small part in that. 

Thank you for joining us tonight. Like I said, today we're hearing from some of the brightest minds in business who I will let introduce themselves in a moment. 

I'm going to start with who I have on my screen, that is Melissa. Melissa, do you want to introduce yourself first? 

Melissa Fryer: Absolutely. Hello everyone, thanks for coming. I am honored to have you here today. I know that your time is super precious, so thanks for being here. I'm Melissa Fryer, the CEO and the main mentor at Build a Better Bakery. You may have seen me around, you may have not. 

What I do is I work with a tight knit team of military spouses, and we support bakers from all over the world to create more joyful businesses by making the process simple and successful at the same time.

So we try to simplify things for you one step at a time, and we like to use genuine connection and expertise to get that done. So when I'm not mentoring, I am baking for my tiny, secluded military community that I was telling the ladies about a few minutes ago, in the desert. And I like to tend to my many, many, many plants to keep me sane because I live in a place with no plants. That's what I do in my free time, and I wanted to thank Castiron for asking me to be here. 

EB: Next on my screen is Brette. 

Brette Hawks: Hi, I’m Brette and I run The Out of Home Baker on Instagram. I'm a stay at home mom of two and I run my own baking business from home. And about a year and a half ago, I decided to become the resource that I wish I had had when I started, because there's a lot to figure out. You know, there's like obviously the perfect buttercream and all that, but there's also the business side. And so that's where I come in. 

I like to teach people how to price their cakes, how to get customers, how to grow their businesses so that they can have success, make a profit and still love what you do. I'm all about not sacrificing yourself to your business. 

I'm here in Utah and I've been doing cakes for about five years, three years officially, like when I actually licensed everything. That's a little bit about me. 

EB: Cyd, you are up next. 

Cyd Mitchell: Hi, I'm Cyd Mitchell and I am a full-time business coach and consultant in the food and beverage industry.

I'm the CEO of the Sugar Coin Academy. I'm an accountant, I'm a financial analyst. I went to business school at the University of North Carolina Keenan Flagler Business School. Everything I talk about is related to business and numbers as well as tech to help you guys with building your baking and sweets businesses.

I recently just came back from the International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE) where I taught a class on social media, one on pricing, and one on beyond social media, which is about email marketing and text message marketing. So those are all the things that I really enjoy talking about. IBIE, which is the International Banking Industry Expo, happens every three years. 

I was also the host of the celebrity stage as well as the competition stage. I'm the business blogger for the Retail Bakers of America, as well as a business columnist for the American Cake Decorating Magazine, which means that you'll see my articles every single time there's an issue, in the Sweet Boss column that is in the magazine.

I've taught for Pastry Arts magazine and been on the Forrager podcast. I've been on quite a few different things, but everything's numbers and business related. I also organize the largest baking and sweets trade show that happens in Georgia called The Ultimate Sugar Show. That's me in a nutshell.

I absolutely love watching TV and streaming all kinds of fun things, whether it is messy drama, like 90 Day Fiance — don't get me started on that, I love me 90 Day Fiance — and I'm currently binging the original Game of Thrones. So now we're wrapped up in Game of Thrones and we'll be on House of the Dragon here pretty soon. Anything related to drama or TV or something like that, that's usually my jimmy jam. 

EB: Amanda, you are last but certainly not least.

Amanda Schonberg: Awesome sauce. Thank you so much. Um, apologies in advance for the little tweak in the voice, but I am Amanda Schonberg.

I'm the founder of Baking for Business. I am also a business blogger as well for Pastry Arts Magazine. I love talking about the business side of baking. I own and operate an award winning desserts catering company here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

I've been operating within the mentorship framework for over five years. I have my own group coaching membership, which is the entrepreneur community. I'm also a member of the Facebook Leaders Network, which is really awesome. I just came back from speaking on Capitol Hill about cottage laws and rights and just ways that we can actually improve operating our home baking businesses, when I'm not helping bakers build their business.

Usually every Wednesday I run the Baking for Business podcast, which is just another resource that, just like Brette says, provides people with all the things I wish I had when I first started. So that is my jam, helping bakers to generate their sales and their revenue. 

Some of my work has been featured on Fox and NBC. I've also been hired by brands such as Facebook, International Cake Decorating Society, as well as work with companies like ACD just to spread the sweet message along. So that's it.

EB: I told everybody on this panel before that I felt like I was in the presence of some VIPs, some celebrities, but I mean, I just learned something new about every single person who introduced themselves and I feel that even more so. So we have such an amazing group. Thank you all so much for joining us. 

Obviously our topic today is all about work life balance, but specifically as we are heading into a very busy time for a lot of bakers, for a lot of food businesses in general. The holidays can be kind of a mess — you take on too much, you need to make a certain amount of money. You know, there's so many factors that, if you don't get one right, it can feel like you're just lost, you're drowning. 

I feel like a good place to start is just with what is work life balance to you? How do you define it personally? Because everybody kind of, I've learned, has a different perspective. Let's start with Cyd. 

CM: Good thing I planned for this one! I would say that what it is to me is about prioritizing activities, right? So I understand that we call it work life balance, but even in life there's still work you have to do, right? Like doing laundry and cleaning your house and you know, whatever, unless you have a maid or something like that, right?

I feel like “prioritizing activities” is the way I would define it. And so it's basically making sure that I prioritize the things that I need to do so that I can do the things that I want to do. So that's the main point to me. And I have my “aha” moment [about work life balance] that I'll talk about later because there's some colliding there.

EB: Oh no, no collisions please. Amanda, how would you define work life balance?

AS: I would say the same. It's definitely prioritizing, but also discipline as well. You know, we can't pour from an empty cup, so if there is no balance, then one is gonna tip over. So it's making sure that we prioritize our self when it comes to life, meaning our family, or a spouse, you know, just our personal goals and community, clubs and things we do in our community.

Prioritizing so that we can be present in the moment, so that we can be better business owners. I don't think there's one better than the other, but balance definitely comes into play with both. It's about being present and having discipline in order to set boundaries so that you can operate effectively in both areas.

BH: I love that you said not to pour from an empty cup. I think that's awesome. Because I feel like the best things you can do to keep yourself in business are sleep, eat, get some exercise, take care of yourself. You know, do those basic things. Otherwise, your business will shut down because you're shut down. I love that you said that. I think that's awesome.

AS: Thank you, beautiful. And you are right because especially in our industry, we have all these titles, you know, that we kid around with — like, I'm sure you know, Melissa, Cyd — everyone's heard Baker Burnout or Procrastibaking. And you know, while they're jokes to say, it's actually not funny because hat comes from a place of, if we're really procrastibaking, if we're really burnt out, why are we not addressing the issues of what's causing us to burn out? You know, where are we not applying discipline too? And that's really what being a business owner is. It's about taking ownership of not just the gifts and the products that you put out there, but just taking ownership of how you run your business so that you can show up more effectively in your business and in your personal life.

EB: Could not have said it better myself. Seriously. Mic drop on that one. Brette, how would you define it? 

BH: I think we get hung up on this word “balance” because it makes it sound like we're this picture perfect tight rope walker. Like we've got it all together and I don't really like that word because to me it's more about work life managing, because balance just sounds like this kind of rose colored glasses situation to me.

Every day I'm learning how to manage my work life balance better and I definitely don't do it perfectly. There are times when I get better, times when I definitely feel it. But what I always like to remember is why I went into business in the first place and as someone who's, you know, just based from home and it's just me, I don't have a team. And that's what so many of the home bakers we talked to, that's what they're like. What I like to remember is why I went into business in the first place, and it was to do what I love and to free up my time. Because there was a time when I was like, “I'm gonna have to go get a job and like to make ends meet. I'm gonna have to go and work somewhere at like six in the morning. My mother-in-law's gonna have to watch my kids.” And thank goodness she talked me out of that and was like, “No, you have a gift and a talent. You're supposed to use it.” And what I like to remember is, that's why I started, was so I could be at home with my kids and so that I could have control of my life and do what I love and make a profit.

There have to be these moments where I stop and say like, “Okay, the means are taking over the end.” The end is that I have this life that I love, that I get to be at home and the bakery is the way that I do it. But sometimes it goes the other way around and it feels like I'm just getting through the day so that I can get the cakes done and I'm just a hot mess.

Every day it's about learning to manage the schedule and the demands that you have on your time, learning to say no to things so that you can. You know, be present, like Amanda was saying, because in the end, that's when life is fulfilling, when you're present and when you're not so hung up on what's coming next or what was behind. When you could just enjoy those moments.

I think, yeah, just learning to manage that every day and knowing too that if you have a bad day, it's not the end of the world. It means you get to learn from it and try again tomorrow. 

EB: Absolutely. Yes. No day can be perfect all the time. Right? 

BH: Absolutely not. 

EB: If only. Melissa, how would you define work life balance?

MF: So definitely [echoing] all of what these ladies are talking about. For me, after I've been doing this for like 16 years, it's just gotten to the point where I like to pay myself with time. So I do that first. Whenever I'm scheduling anything out, I always pay myself and I pay my family before I'm like, “Oh, I'm available this day” or not.

That's the first way that I try to balance it, right? Try to feed into the cups, right? Everything that they're talking about is essentially the same thing, but that's how I tend to go for it. 

And then, I also did a lot of self work on boundary setting. So like, the saying no and the respecting my time so my clients respect my time. All of those actions that I can do to help me not want to stop baking because, like Brette was saying, it just gets really overwhelming. So I have to really make myself cut that part out for me and then I can serve at my highest level the rest of the time. 

And then, being able to spend the money I make, right? I can just make money. Like that's fine, but I want to do something fun. I want to take my family out or I wanna have an experience or whatever it is. But if I'm baking all the time, I can't do that. So that's kind of how I deal with that. 

EB: One hundred percent. 

CM: Putting in, doing all the work — if you can't enjoy the fruits of your labor, what a shame it is, right? To be in business for yourself and not be able to enjoy the freedom that comes with being a business owner. That doesn't feel like the right life for me. I would rather get paid on somebody else's job and have PTO, and have paid for insurance. I would rather have all the benefits. If I'm gonna work myself to death, then I might as well like get PTO, paid for vacation, as opposed to having the freedom to just get up and go to Las Vegas and do a cake show or whatever. Like I would rather have my time to myself. Entrepreneurship is focused around the life that I want, and work is just kind of like is there to pay bills. 

BH: I was going to say, it's like if you've ever seen the meme where it's like, “I quit my 9-to-5 so that I could work 24/7.” And that's how it feels. It shouldn't be that way. Like we're our own worst boss. 

CM: Yeah. Gotta be a good boss. Give that time off. Yeah. Don't make yourself quit. 

BH: Don't make your only employee quit. 

EB: That actually leads me into a great segue for our next question. Have you ever had an “aha” moment that just made you realize like, “Whoa, I need to put on the breaks.” Like, you know, you miss your child's birthday party because you were working on someone else's kid’s cake or something like that. Have you had that moment and how did you, how did you face that? Cyd, I know you, you said you had a good one, but I would love to hear everyone's. 

CM: Absolutely. Yeah. One of mine was actually around the holidays, and my holidays usually are spent with, you know, everybody spends time with family and everything.

But I mean, like, family members had come in from out of town. And I remember — I'm gonna set a picture for you — my family is in what we would call the living room, the family room. Everybody's watching movies. Giggling, having a great time. It's like everybody's having so much fun. It's the holidays, drinks are flowing, it's amazing.

And I'm in the other room in the glow of the computer screen and I'm doing admin work because I feel like this is what needs to be done at this time because I can't let it go because no one else is going to do it. And you know, all the things. And I remember at that moment I felt so sad. I just wanted to cry. I wanted to just hang out with everybody else and have a good time. But no, I was working. I can't even remember at this point, I can't even remember what the project was. I just remember feeling so alone and so sad. And at that moment I was like, something has got to change. Like, my life and the way that I've set up my business has got to change.

It took like little steps at a time to get to the point where I am now. But at this, you know, at that point, it was the worst feeling. 

AS: I definitely understand that, Cyd. I think that comes in because sometimes we glorify the hustle. You know, we feel like we have to just grind, grind, grind, grind, grind in order to build.

You said a valid point earlier, too. You know, if I wanted to do all this, I would've put in time. Sometimes when we're on a job, we leave the job and then we bring all of those SOPs, those standard operating procedures on a job, to our business. And we can't necessarily do that, you know, so when you're on a job, you can request time off and there are things that you can do, but when you're in a business, you have to make sure that you have systems and processes and things that work for you.

A lot of times I hear people say, you know, “I pulled an all-nighter,” or, “Oh, this is everything I did off two hours of coffee.” And I'm like, that's not a badge of honor. That's a lack of discipline. And so a lot of times that comes from prioritization. So you're definitely not alone.

I know I've had that time before. I used to sell my desserts on Uber Eats, and one time the app was going off, the orders were coming in and I was literally trying to be like a Krispy Kreme, be open 24/7, you know? Because when you're on the platform, the longer you're on the platform, the more orders come in.

But I was literally dozing off at my house in between orders and I had to stop and realize I can't have a scarcity mindset. If I walk away, money is still going to flow. And sometimes I think that's a lot of what we think. So that's why we end up having those moments, which lead to aha moments.

Generally we operate from [a mindset of] “I gotta chase it, I gotta do it, I gotta do it. And if I let go, then it's gonna fall apart.” So we have to make sure that we build and we use systems to help us build so that it doesn't fall apart. I definitely understand that one, which is definitely where the shift came in.

CM: Right? And that's when the systems were, at the time, I had some systems, but definitely not as many as I have now. And I wasn't using automation as much as I am now. I wasn't using the team that I have now. So there definitely was a shift. I came into entrepreneurship and being self-employed like “if I don't work, I don't eat.” That's it. Once I shifted my mindset several years ago, then things started to change up. I feel like that was probably one of the most pivotal aha moments, but there have been several along the way over the past few years.

That was, I feel like, the one that really sticks out of just, I didn't want to have that feeling anymore. And right now I don't have children and I eventually will. And I don't wanna be that mom that's like, you know, I don't wanna be crying because I'm missing Christmas with my kids too, like then I was crying because I was missing Christmas with everybody else. But I especially don't wanna miss a first Christmas or a third Christmas or whatever because I have prioritized work over it. 

That's why everything has just shifted over the years. I want to make sure that I'm available whenever my parents call, my parents are moving to Atlanta right now, and I want to be able to just pick up and go to Tennessee and help them pack up so that we can have everything in the new house in Atlanta. 

I feel like had I not made the changes that I did back then, that I wouldn't be able to have the freedom to do that. 

EB: We’re laying the groundwork

BH: Both Cyd and Amanda, I feel like they're both talking about a really similar mindset shift of, you know, Cyd was saying, “if I don't work, I don't eat.” And Amanda was talking about this like, badge of honor of the hustle that we wear.

And I feel like both of those come from this place of fear. If you boil it down, it's this fear that if, if I stop, the orders won't keep coming. I think it boils down to, we keep ourselves running and running because we're afraid that if we stop, the money stops coming in or we don't get food on the table or we're falling behind.

More than even learning to change our actions, I think first we have to switch our mindset that money will keep coming and the orders are still going to be there, and that we can take more control back and just kind of have trust and faith in that process. That there is abundance, there's not scarcity, and that we can act from a place of control rather than fear.

If we make decisions based out of courage rather than fear, they're going to be better decisions.

MF: Okay, so this is what happened. [Picture that] you've got a kid now. I was first time mom and I worked all like up until eight months. I was like, “All right, I'm just gonna keep going.” I felt good. Everything was fine. Had the baby, everything was good. About three months after that, I thought, I'm gonna start taking cake orders again.

I was just doing high-end cakes out of my house. Lots of weddings and things like that. It was wedding season because she was born in January. So I'm starting to take all these orders and there was just a moment where I'm in there decorating this cake. My husband was in command at the time, meaning that he's gone for like 12 to 16 hours a day.

I lived in the middle of nowhere with no family, no support, like really no neighbors. And she was just laying in her bassinet, screaming at me. And I'm over there decorating this three tier wedding cake, thinking to myself, “this ain't worth it.” Like, this is so stressful and I'm not having fun. This doesn't feel good. This cake is gonna be worse off because I'm tired. I'm super stressed, right?

That was the first time really since I'd started, um, working for myself because many of my years were spent professionally designing for other bakeries, super small rural ones all the way up to a million dollar bakery in St. Louis. So I've seen basically the inside of a lot of different bakeries, but doing it alone, like Brette was saying, no one was there to take over or help me. It just had to get done. And I was looking at her and I just thought, you know what? I'm not gonna stop, but I'm gonna raise my prices so much that it's going to like hopefully turn off a lot of people and I'll just take the really big orders and maybe get a friend or a sitter to come over next time or something like that. 

But that was also my first lesson in pricing psychology. I raised all my numbers and like a ton of people came out of the woodwork. So it didn't actually work, but I was able to start paying myself with the time. So I kind of did it all at the same time because I was so stressed. And it was like the aha that you're talking about like this can't, I cannot continue to do this like this. 

The way I put it is how much, if I was sitting on a couch in my pajamas, how much money would you have to pay me for me to get up and turn on the oven and do all that? That's my minimum now. So like, that's like where we're at. 

EB: I love it. The pajama test. 

MF: Like if I'm like watching a movie, how much is this dollar amount? Like that's how much I need. 

EB: Brette, what is your aha moment if you've had one? 

BH: I've had several, right? Like we all do. Um, I would say one of the things that really defined my business and made a big shift in the direction I went was through my first year of officially starting, it's 2019, I officially get started and I'm licensed to get all my registration and I start going and then obviously Covid happens. But I feel like for a lot of us bakers, stuff just kind of kept going. And that wasn't the case for everybody. But for me, I was like, business kept going and things got so busy and I remember weekends, doing like eight cakes in a week and doing so much.

I felt like I ran and ran and ran. And then at the end of that year, I sat down to do our taxes because I do all of our family finances and I'm doing our taxes, breaking down the numbers and looking at what I made and. As I looked back on my books, I realized I had only made about $400 a month.

That stayed in my pocket and it was like, what the heck was I running for? And I realized that busy didn't equal success. You can keep yourself busy real easy, but it doesn't mean you're going in the direction you want to, and it doesn't mean you're hitting your goals. And so I decided I was going to take a break and figure things out.

I took like a month or two off where I just didn't take orders. I was like, I need to do some backend work. I need to get things in shape before I keep trying to go at this. So I took time off and I decided to, instead of working harder, I'm gonna work smarter. And I did what Melissa did. I raised my prices, I threw out cupcakes, like, “I'm not a cupcake person. I don't like doing these, they don't bring in the profit. I'm not as good at them.” 

I focused on what I did love doing and what really attracted my customers. And that was wedding cakes. And I decided I'm going to keep teaching classes because I love doing that and people love coming to those and that really lights me up and is good for my business.

So I threw out the weeds and everything that wasn't taking me in the right direction. And it was a great turning point for everything. It's only grown from there. 

That's what I would tell any baker to do, is be brave enough to give yourself a week or a month to really sit down and have a plan, like what direction do I want to go in? Look at your past, what has worked, what's really not serving you anymore? And chuck it, get rid of it. Don't keep doing it. Do the things that'll take you in the right direction. 

EB: Oh, I love that. So when we think about vacations and weekends, you know, speaking from my perspective as someone who is not a food business owner, vacations, weekends, I don't really think about it.

Like I said, like Cyd said earlier, I have PTO. I just cash that in and we're good to go. For food business owners, a lot of the busiest times are the weekends, you've got your orders due on Saturday and Sunday for events and things like that.

How do you guys think about vacations and weekends and things like that? Whether it's a Christmas vacation or just like, “I want to take two days off and go to the beach” or something like that. Especially when those busy times are usually the weekends? We'll start with Melissa again.

MF: For me right now it's a little bit easier because my spouse has an extremely reliable work schedule that's planned out three years in advance. I know that sounds crazy, but that is how their schedule works. So I can, I can look through and they have what's called a four-day weekend and they have one every month.

So I just try to double schedule that four week. I try not to work at all there. During the week, I like just to offer regular offers, so I'm still helping people out. I also create products that are shelf stable for more than a couple days too. So if I needed to drop it off on a Thursday, it would be okay for a couple days.

But I'm just not available. I don't know, I'm working from home as well, so if I had a shop or something similar, I would just have a manager or someone that I trusted who would have the key and would come in and open and be there when I'm not there, who would have access to all the information, that kind of thing.

Having that type of person that's working with you is really important. If they're going to be taking care of, you know, your storefront and your money and handing out all the orders. 

And then if you've got cakes that you have to make a couple days early though, if you wrap them well, they should be okay, depending on what's on them. You can make everything Wednesday, Thursday, and then just head on out and have someone else hand them out. 

EB: Do you ever have customers try to get in contact with you or text you or Facebook message you or anything like that when you're on vacation and then what do you do?

MF: I'm kind of back and forth about this because I think you should have those strong boundaries that I mentioned at the very beginning. Finding out what those are for you, what you feel comfortable with. 

I'm okay talking to my current clients when I'm not working because a lot of them, like I mentioned, live in a really tiny place. I see these people every day. I see them in the kid pickup line, I see them at the grocery store. There's only like 6,000 people who live here, and we are just around each other all the time. So I'm in contact with them because I know them and we're friendly. I just let them know like, “Hey, if it's something business related, I'll get back to you in the AM.”

I respond to them, but I don't necessarily go through all the steps that you would have to do to, you know, complete an order. Because I realize in the baking industry, a lot of people shop around, so they'll send out like six messages to six different bakers, and it's whoever gets back to them first, within the first few people they contact, that's who they're gonna go with. 

I think having like, even just an automated message that's like, “Hey, this is how you can contact me.” If it's, if it's an emergency, I have my phone. I personally put my phone number up there because if people have problems with their product or wherever I want them to be able to contact me. I'm not really strict about that I guess. But just having the auto message and then just letting them know I'll get back to you basically is kind of how I deal with that. 

EB: I think that that's the approach that a lot of people take, and I'm surprised at how many people don't know about Facebook's automatic reply feature. What a lifesaver. 

MF: Yeah. And then the questions where it's like, Where are you located? What are your hours? I put in there like that minimum we were talking about, because it just means I don't take the smaller stuff anymore. I take all the big stuff, the promotions, the weddings, all of that, so they know right away and it's a self selecting opportunity too where you're not spending your time talking to people who weren't a good fit anyway, because they can just look quickly at that. 

EB: Amazing. If you guys are in our Facebook group for Castiron, it's called The Kitchen, we will share some tips on how you can set those auto responders and forms kind of things up to make your life a little bit easier.

Cyd, I would love to know how you think about vacations and weekends since you just came back from an expo.

CM: Definitely boundaries. You have to make sure that you show people what your boundaries are, right?

Definitely I set an out of office when I was gone, but I didn't just kind of like leave it, right? There was always someone monitoring just in case there was like an emergency or some type of fire that needed to be put out. But to me that's part of the systems, right, of being able to have this out of office or an automatic response.

One of the other things that I do as well is scheduling my emails. And I know that there are a couple of questions in there about like, what systems do you use? That's one of my key things because I am an entrepreneur and because I can set my own schedule, I actually do a lot of things at two and three o'clock in the morning.

That's just because that's how my clock works. Like, I can get most of my stuff done when it's super quiet and nobody's messaging me and, you know, whatever. But I don't send out those messages at two or three o'clock in the morning. I schedule it within the business hours. And so that goes along with, you know, vacation or whatever. Like, I may have had some downtime during vacation and I could have responded to the emails, but I'm not going to respond to them until after it said my out of office is over. So it's scheduled for, you know, when I got back. That's when the email was sent, when I was back in the office. Even though the office is wherever I am.

EB: Amanda, thoughts on vacations and weekends? 

AS: I think they're definitely necessary, um, because the first thing you should pencil in is yourself. Um, I'm more kind of like what Sid said, leading on those systems. Um, Also another thing, I think one of the biggest things I see Bakers do is when people reach out, we complain.

[00:48:02] We're like, I can't believe they asked this question, or I can't believe they asked that question. But when you flip the script, if they're asking a question, that means it's because it's something that they didn't understand. So you're able to better respond when you actually listen. So like one of the things, aside from the automatic response, like for email, even on my order form, what I love with the order form is that when.

[00:48:27] Delete it. It tells you when I'm gonna get back to you, and if you fill out an order form on Friday or Saturday, when I know I'm the most busiest, I'm not getting back to you until Monday. I'm really firm on boundaries. I believe you train people how to treat you, and there has to be a disconnect because I'm not Walmart, so you can't text my personal number, nothing like that.

[00:48:49] When you do, I'm gonna redirect you. But it's using those replies on social media, Facebook, Instagram, setting up those FAQs so that the questions people have, you're there answering them and you're serving them, but you don't have to physically do it to be there. Then, you know, and then setting in at those auto replies, scheduling things, but I know the weekends is the busiest.

[00:49:12] But as bakers, I don't feel we should work every single weekend. You know, if you look at it, we are bakers and we show up for people when they celebrate some of the most precious things in life, be it birthdays, weddings, or sometimes funerals or other events. But we can't help people celebrate their life celebrations, and we miss out on our own.

[00:49:32] I don't think that that's necessarily building a life that's worth living. So I take off almost every other weekend if I wanna take off, I wanna take off, and it goes back to what Melissa says, also creating a menu. One of the biggest things that you can set up as far as a system, regardless of a autoresponder or a auto reply, is set up menus that work for you.

[00:49:54] You know, set up things that do have a longer shelf life, set up systems and processes to where, like Melissa said, you do let the customer know, Hey, when you pick this up, this is how you hold it. This is how you contain it so that I can give it to you on a Wednesday or Thursday and I don't feel guilty about not giving it to you on a Saturday.

[00:50:12] Also, educating our customers and letting people know, Look, when you pick this up, this is how you handle this product. But I don't think we should work every single weekend. I think we deserve to be with our families just like they should. That's what systems are for. So take it off, pencil it in, and live your.

[00:50:30] Amen. . So I did when, um, Amanda was talking that I completely forgot to say, um, is about I put my phone on do not disturb, um, and like that sleep function or whatever, whatever iOS you have on your phone, , I'm sure they all have some type of feature where you can be like, I am not available. Um, and you know, the great thing about, well, can't speak for all IOS's.

[00:50:57] For iPhone, you can have, uh, do not disturb, but then you can have your favorites, who can still get through. And so, um, that's something that really helps me because I am one of those people. As soon as I see a message, I feel like, Oh my gosh, like, I gotta get to it right now. Like, otherwise they're gonna, you know, Cause I'm, I've been in the past one who was always available and, you know, willing to respond, always being helpful.

[00:51:20] Um, and I've had to shift my mindset and in order to hide those things from myself, I put myself on do not disturb. My phone is automatically set to go and do not disturb at a certain time at the end of the night. I don't even realize it's happened until I might look at my phone randomly at like an eight forty five and I'm like, Oh, I missed all these text messages.

[00:51:40] I didn't even realize this has happened. But it has helped me tremendously to not have some sort of anxiety of, Oh my gosh, I gotta get to this person because I know that if it hits nine o'clock and even if they've texted me at six o'clock, Once my do not disturb pit, I know I'm not responding back to this message.

[00:51:58] It's Instagram notice or whatever. So, um, that's something that's helped me too. Yes, absolutely. Brett, any, any other tips to add ? Yeah, I just, I wanna second like a hundred percent everything Amanda just said. Pencil yourself and book yourself for yourself. That's a whole reason you're in business is to free up your life.

[00:52:21] And it's funny cuz it's like you're gonna work and work and work and look back and realize what were you working for while I was working to have the life I wanted and I missed it cuz I was working so much . So you gotta, you gotta remember what you're doing it for. And like, I literally, I'll bring out my calendar and I'll say, Yeah, this weekend it's for me.

[00:52:42] I block it out, nothing's happening. And I tell my husband, I'm like, This is our weekend. Don't let me take anything . And I'll, I taught him and I'm, I'm trying to teach my little boy to be like my, um, like my policeman, I guess when I'm pulling out my phone, I'm like, Ask me, do you need to be doing this right now?

[00:53:01] And I'm allowed to answer yes if it's really important, but most of the time the answer is no and . So having them to kind of be my sound board with that helps a lot. And I, I, I love going on vacation with like, that really is, I make my money so I can do things like that. That's the whole purpose. So don't miss out on that.

[00:53:23] And I just, I feel like. Again, it just goes back to being so afraid that if, if that we're trading time for money and that if, if we're not putting in more time, we're not gonna make as much money. And then really what it is, is we trade value for money. And it's not always about putting in time. You know, what you, what people pay you for is, is the things you create, your expertise and your brand and the, just what you bring to the table as an artist.

[00:53:53] And it doesn't always have to be about your time. And I, I like to shift that mindset of like, to make money, I have to put in time all the time. And it doesn't have to be that way. I love it. I feel like. I'm like, when I'm gonna go back through this transcript, like I'm gonna like write down like, you know, inspirational quotes for bakers or something that's gonna be like the next cast iron blog post

[00:54:18] Yeah. You guys are, are sharing so much. Good goodness. Um, so I've got a couple questions that I wanna knock out quickly before we hop over to, um, the audience questions. Um, so, you know, let's, let's think like one or two sentences just quick, quick ways to help our attendees prep for the holidays. Um, how early for your orders, um, you know, whether that's getting your marketing in order, taking your photos, things like that, or actually pre making components of your, of your, uh, products.

[00:54:59] How early do you start prepping? Like for, for Christmas? You're starting when, when it comes to. Melissa, do you wanna start? Sure, yeah. Um, so for me, I actually use September as my Q4 planning. So I do everything basically. So, uh, I still have a couple Christmas things. I'm not totally sure if I need to re photograph or not, so I didn't make those, but I've done, um, already selling ho focus stuff for this premier that's happening this weekend, you know, so all of that, all of fall and, um, you know, through the like Thanksgiving ish timeframe.

[00:55:36] Um, and so marketing campaigns, I'll have all those photos and everything. About three weeks out I'll start mentioning things. Two weeks, One week is when it's really like, here's how you order. Um, And then I know that part of that was the pre-sales. So when I set the date, I do like a wait list or a launch, and then I take orders and then I end it.

[00:55:55] Either when I'm sold out or when I have to start production. I shut everything down, I start producing, and then I have a wait list for any stragglers. And then if I have extra stuff, I send out a wait list email, and they have, it's like first come, first serve. So that's how I sell the rest of the product.

[00:56:09] Yes. I love it. Uh, Brett, how, how early do you start prepping. Um, this is a funny question for me because I, I've kind of stopped doing holiday sales because that was part of my aha moment. I was like, These don't make the money I want them to, and they're not leveraging my business the way that I want them to.

[00:56:32] Um, and so I haven't done one in a while, like a holiday sale just because it didn't fit anymore in the construct of my business and the, in the direction that I was trying to go. Um, but when I do do sales, small things like that, um, I start prepping. Far in advance, like Melissa was saying, it's like six months in advance.

[00:56:52] I'm starting to think like Christmas time, like what do I feel like I wanna sell? And I'm really strategic about what I decide to sell. Cause some things look really fun and we get caught up in like, Ooh, I wanna make that. And it's a lot of different components and it's like, that's gonna be a headache to make.

[00:57:07] And also you wanna make something that people actually wanna buy, not just what looks fun to make, but think about what actually people wanna want to have during the holidays. There was one holiday where me and my sister, we made cookie dough to sell. We were thinking like, Oh, everyone wants some cookie dough.

[00:57:23] Wouldn't that be great? Turns out people want already made cookies. And so we did this wholesale of cookie dough and, and we're so focused on what we wanted, what we thought was gonna sell, what we thought would be good. And we should have been listening to our customers. Um, But yeah, you wanna start prepping far ahead of time, especially the marketing, like, and you don't have to have it all figured out.

[00:57:45] You can start just kind of throwing feelers out there, be like, hey, starting to think about the holidays. Um, what do you guys wanna see? Like what should I be making? Or, um, if you want to know when that sale opens, jump on my mailing list and that way I'll let you know. And I promise I don't spam you with newsletters.

[00:58:00] I'll just let you know when the sale opens up so you can be first to know and you can start laying those bricks far in advance. And I think one of our biggest , one of our biggest struggles when we start up is bakers, is it's like the week before Christmas and we're like, I wanna do a sale and then it kills us.

[00:58:19] So the farther you you go in advance, the better. And my last tip to share is with boxes, because if you have anything with a box, you can put those together. Like weeks and weeks in advance. And I've learned this so many times because if you think about it, if one box takes you a minute to put together and you've got 80 of them, that's gonna take you over an hour to put together boxes,

[00:58:43] So start doing those little things that maybe aren't sensitive, like refrigeration or time, like putting together boxes, printing tags, ribbon cutting, whatever it might be that you can do in advance. Like just do your future self a favor and get those things out of the way. Yes. Prep today for success tomorrow.

[00:59:04] Yeah. Si. Any, any, uh, any thoughts on prepping? Yes, well, uh, I'm definitely, uh, I, I'm a hundred percent with Melissa on starting early, like in September. Um, however, I have worked with folks who have started later. Um, and I think it really all boils down to your connection to your clients and your community.

[00:59:27] Uh, so for instance, you know, getting the marketing together and you already have, uh, an email list that you send emails to on a weekly basis, then it's something that you can just start sending out those like helpful holiday planning tips and some things that kind of get people's ideas of flow in. You know, selling without selling, right?

[00:59:49] And so, um, to me that's one of the, like, it really just depends on your relationship, right? With your clients really at the end of the day. Because some folks, I mean, if you've got that connection with your clients and they already expect things to be coming from you, then you could start two weeks, uh, two weeks from Thanksgiving.

[01:00:06] You could just put it out there. Hey guys, you know, we've got, uh, from last year, right? Like, it's something that, it's literally pictures you have from last year. It's literally the same flavors, it's the same menu. It's, it's everything else. You got the template for the email together because you sent the email last year, like

[01:00:23] So you basically can start as early as two years ago, , because the holidays come around the same way every year. Uh, and so I feel like it just really depends on how you look at it, right? Like if you, um, if you already have. That connection with your tribe, then you could start two weeks before Thanksgiving, or you could start, you know, 15 weeks before Thanksgiving because you're not even really talking about Thanksgiving, right?

[01:00:49] Like you're just talking about how I can help you with whatever the holiday celebration is. I'm giving you ideas, I'm taking to my blog, I'm doing all these fun things to get you excited because I'm excited about the holidays. So I just feel like there's no, to me, there's no right answer. It just really all depends on your expertise, your experience in the past.

[01:01:09] If you're brand new, then this is a perfect opportunity to try something new, right? Because you've never done this before, so you're not exactly sure what's gonna work with your community. Um, so I definitely just say, you know, focus on the marketing and focus on adding value to your client base. Uh, you know, get the communication out there to them, uh, and go from there.

[01:01:29] I wanna add to that. Can I add a tidbit to that? I love what that you were saying. You can start, you can start that early because it's a marketing statistic, a marketing fact that it takes an average of seven times someone seeing your product or your business or your brand before they remember it and before they trust it or feel comfortable enough to buy from it.

[01:01:50] That's seven times. And a lot of you bakers out there, you get on for a sale and you'll post it once and you feel like you were just in the spotlight. You feel like everybody just saw that everybody just like didn't buy it, you know? And you start to really retreat and go back in yourself, but really warming people up to it like seven times they have to see it.

[01:02:09] And I've seen that in my own buying. Someone's like, Hey, I'm selling caramel. I'm like, Oh, I'm interested in that and I don't buy, But then they post it again. I'm like, Oh no, I really would like that. And after a few times I'm like, Okay, yes, I'm finally ready to buy it. And that's what's happening with people.

[01:02:23] So you want to be preparing to help get in those, that exposure to whatever it is you're selling. Like don't expect that you can just roll up once, pitch a sale, and it's all gonna come flowing in. Like it takes a conversation and it takes prepping your audience. Just like Sid was saying, getting them ready for what's coming.

[01:02:42] It's funny you say the stats too, because that reminded me of something I talked about this past weekend when I was in Vegas. Um, is that, Hold on, let make sure I have it right. 1.94%, uh, reach engagement rate on Instagram, so that means only 1.94%, one average. of your followers who actually see your post and engage with your post.

[01:03:06] Um, and so you have to think about that in a way of like, well, do I really just wanna post it one time? Do I just wanna post it one time in my feed? Do I wanna post it as a carousel? Do I wanna post it in my stories? Do I wanna post it on tech talk? Do I wanna put it all the different places? Right? Like you said, there's, you know, seven times that people need to hear it, but that doesn't necessarily mean seven times in an email either.

[01:03:26] It could be seven times on the various different platforms that you, uh, have for your brand. So, yeah, no, that's really good point cuz it's not about just rolling up and saying like, Buy for me, buy for me, buy for me seven times. It's about connecting with them seven times in a valuable way, like creating that value for them where they trust you.

[01:03:46] So I'm glad that you added that. Yes. Amazing. I know we are running short on time and I wanna be mindful of everyone's time. Um, so I'm gonna ask one last question before we jump to audience questions in one sentence. One easy, quick tip that everyone listening today can implement right now today, maybe tomorrow it's late for me, so we can hold till tomorrow,

[01:04:14] But one thing you can do today to start improving your, your work life balance. Um, and Brett, do you wanna go first? ? Yeah. Make a plan. Make a plan. Sid? Um, I was gonna say set boundaries. That's a good one. I feel like I stole Melissa's . Amanda, what, what tip would you give?

[01:04:45] I probably still said it's, uh, set boundaries. Yeah. . Yes. But prioritize yourself, Melissa. It was gonna be about boundaries, but um, maybe just look at your calendar and take off one week this month in one week, next month and just black them out completely with Sharpie so that you can't write anything over top of it and start there.

[01:05:10] with your boundaries. . Yes. So if you didn't hear, everybody said set boundaries. So if you, if you are not getting the, the highlighted bold text, here it is. Set boundaries. Um, alright, let's, let's shift into some audience questions. Uh, Courtney wants to know, how do you choose what to say no to? Melissa, you wanna take that?

[01:05:37] Yeah, real quick. Um, so I have the minimum set. I suggest setting a minimum in amount, like money amount or baking amount based on what you can do and what you need to make to start up your oven. Um, and then if you don't like doing it, don't do it. So try to figure out a way to make this stuff that you like.

[01:05:53] It might not be your most favorite thing in the world, but something that people want and that people like and find that happy medium and make that and not the thing that you just despise. It makes you wanna cry. ? Yes. Um, alright. Luann and Caitlin both asked what systems, uh, can you share that, that have helped you manage your time better?

[01:06:15] Um, Sid, do you wanna take that one? Yeah. So, um, I use Google. Uh, so I, and when I say Google, I mean like my domain name is connected to Gmail, and so whenever I check my email, I'm actually logged into Gmail. Um, and so if you go, if you. Open up like a new email message and you see the send button, there's actually a little button right next to it that's a down arrow.

[01:06:44] If you tap that, then you can actually schedule your emails to go out at a certain time. So, uh, that's one of my main ways to kind of manage myself. Um, I also use email automation. I have a lot of automation set up behind the scenes using this, uh, company called Mailer Light, which is very similar to like a MailChimp or a Constant Contact or some of the other, uh, some of the other guys.

[01:07:08] Uh, but also I know Cast Iron has a system as well that sends out automated emails, uh, for folks kind of, you know, to tell you what's the new. That have come out and all that kind of stuff. So you can definitely use that as well. Um, and then I also use Calen link to schedule my time. Um, so if I ever have someone who, you know, messages me and they wanna have a consultation or they wanna talk about whatever, then I send them the Calendly link.

[01:07:33] Um, that's also something that has helped me in the past to manage. Um, if someone comes to me from, from Instagram or Facebook or wherever they've DMed me, um, then now I can send them one place and say, All right, let's talk. But now unless you're on my calendar , and this is how you get on my calendar, um, then I don't know that our conversation even happened.

[01:07:57] Um, so that, that, those three have helped me tremendously. I love it. Um, Amanda, I'll shoot this question over to you. When someone refuses to schedule a pickup time or they miss their pickup time consistently, what do you do? Throw their order in the trash

[01:08:20] So, um, here's the thing. Everything that you buy from me is prepaid. I'm a firm believer and you train people how to treat you. So I can't allow you to, I can't be a doormat for what I allow you to do to me. When I say yes to you, I'm saying no to myself. So when you buy from me, you pay in advance. I give you a pickup time, it's scheduled in your invoice.

[01:08:50] If you don't pick up in 15 minutes, I throw it in a trash and I'm not giving you a refund. And it's, it's not, it may come off as mean or harsh or most of you guys who follow me, you know, I'm more tough love person. But it's just that, because here's the thing about it, you said multiple times, so it's kind of like a fool me once, shame on, you know, you fool me twice.

[01:09:11] That means that you're allowing it to happen. Usually when a person feels that they can get over, people try to test you to a certain limit, and it sucks. But that's the price of being a, when you're a locally owned business, people know your face, kind of like the old show, Little House on the Prairie, you know, like everybody had a job, you know, we all knew the, the store clerk and the person like that.

[01:09:32] So sometimes people can feel, maybe it's easier to drop the ball while miscommunication, but yeah, I, I just throw your order away. You need to let that person go and, Hey, this is my time. It is what it is. I have to prioritize myself. If you're not here, I'm gonna discard your order. And that's that. Yes.

[01:09:51] Tough love. Gotta, someone's gotta do it. Right. Um, alright, one last question. Uh, I'll hand this over to Brett. Uh, we've got April who just started her business plans to sell her first ever fall cupcakes. Um, now she knows that she needs to post it more than just on October 1st. Um, she says she never wants to bother people, but how much time should she put between the posts?

[01:10:14] How should she think about her posting schedule? And we had another question on a, on a similar note about like the 80 20 rule. How do you think about social Brett? Um, honestly, I feel like I've been a little bit disenchanted with all the rules we give ourselves for social media in the past year and how it's like, yeah, 80 20 or, um, entertain, engage emotion, like all these different rules that people set and different ways you can learn how to do social media, but I feel like I want to, I want it to be more genuine again.

[01:10:47] And like I was saying before, you, you feel like you're in the spotlight, April and all your other bakers, you feel like, Oh, I should just stop talking about this. People are getting bothered and they really aren't. When you show up in post A, they're excited for you, whether they like it or, or anything.

[01:11:04] People are seeing it and they're going like, Oh my gosh, I'm, I'm so, That's so cool that April's doing that. Um, and, and you might not hear that. You might not see that in the feedback you're getting on the post, but it's happening and people are thinking That's cool. And you're s the, you're also like, Setting this example of like, Oh, April's doing that.

[01:11:23] Maybe I could do something like that. So it doesn't have to be a scary thing. It's not about bothering people. When I see somebody get on, even if I don't buy from them, my friend who sells like 10 layer Russian cakes, if I don't buy from her, I'm still like, way to go. Darby. That's the coolest thing and nobody is shaming you for it.

[01:11:41] And if they are, then they need to get out of there. Cuz it's the coolest thing what you're doing. , I like to tell people at least once a. Get on and connect with people. Remind them that you're there. Share some value and invite them to order from you. Invite them into this beautiful story that you're writing through the baked goods that you make.

[01:12:01] Um, at least once a day is a good standard, especially if you're coming into this for the first time. Like that's a good standard to start from at least once a day. But I also take Saturdays and Sundays off from posting cuz I am a five day a week on social media kind of gal, unless I have something really exciting to share.

[01:12:19] Um, I like to just post Monday through Friday. So that would be my advice too. Yes. And don't forget that, you know, even a quick Instagram story can, can count as connecting with your community. You don't always, Yeah. You don't have to be posting, you know, Award-winning photographs on your feet every day. Oh yeah.

[01:12:40] And it doesn't have to be like a crazy reel. Like don't worry about the reels. Just get on and, and be there. Show up, raise your hand. Be visible. Be vulnerable. Like it's, it's gonna work. Yes. It's all gonna work out. Well, thank you all so much for joining us. Um, I will be sending out a follow up email with all of our, uh, awesome coaches.

[01:13:02] Contact information, social media information so you can connect with them. Um, follow, uh, all of our, our panelists. We've got Melissa at Build A Better Bakery on Instagram, Sid at Suite underscore Fest on Instagram. We've got Amanda at baking for business on Instagram and Brett at the. Dot out of Home Baker on Instagram.

[01:13:25] Um, keeping it interested. Interesting with, with the periods in the username icu. Brett

[01:13:34] Yeah. Thank you all so much for joining. Again, this was recorded, so we will send out the recording afterwards. Um, but I really appreciate you all taking the time. Um, any final words from the panelists? , good luck, . Good luck. Keep that seasonal sales. Enjoy your time. Make sure you're penciling yourself in first, like we all said.

[01:13:56] Yeah, and also ask for help. Uh, you've got, uh, all these resources out here and available and I feel like, you know, getting in the kitchen group as well as, you know, using our contact information, um, you know, we all have been through, you know, however many years individually of, you know, going through holiday season.

[01:14:17] And so make sure that you use your resources. Obviously we are all lovely smiling faces and offering up our help to be on here tonight. And so, um, I'm sure that, you know, I don't wanna speak for everybody, but I feel like I can speak for everybody when I say we are here to help . Yeah, of course. Yeah, I love that.

[01:14:36] And do, do what makes you happy. That, that, that's one of the biggest. I did see someone ask, What should I sell? And the truth is none of that, none of us can answer that for you. So as you plan for the holidays, the biggest tip, and Sid mentioned it and I just wanted to throw it in there real quick.

[01:14:52] Whatever worked for you last year will work for you. This year is called sales forecasting. So you need to look at what has worked for you in the past. As creatives, we always wanna create, we always wanna come up with something new. So we always have on our creative hat and not our business owner hat. As you plan for the next three months, make sure that you're planning based on what has worked already.

[01:15:11] So do things that allow you to bring in more of a profit and also do things that don't allow you to work. Like how Brett said, have a holiday kit. That means you bake it, let them decorate it. Have classes. That means you show up, but you can use a free resource. So such as Zoom, you walk people through something and you make more money.

[01:15:30] So don't worry about the cocoa bombs, the trends and all of that. Do what makes your customers happy, and that's how you'll make more money for the holidays. And I want you all to remember that each one of us stood exactly where you stand. Each one of us one time was you trying to figure it out. So if we can do it, why not you?

[01:15:50] Absolutely. Yes. Yes. I love it. Well, thank you guys so much. I really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you everyone for, uh, joining us. I hope that you, uh, are walking away with some tips, uh, some, some good actionable items to, to take into the holiday season. And best of luck on all of your holiday orders, on your entire food business.

[01:16:13] Um, we are all here to support you, so please reach out to us if any of us can be of help. Uh, thank you all guys. We'll see you soon. Thank you. Thanks everyone, and see you later.

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