MY WIFE HAS a burning desire to open a bakery in our community. She watched one of those reality shows about an independently owned bakery and how much fun it was for some sisters (she has two) to own a bakery together and how popular the bakery was and how much money they made and all the beautiful people that were constantly flowing in and out of the bakery all day long. In the episode that I watched five minutes of, it really looked like heaven on earth for those reality TV sisters and their glorious bakery.

In support of my wife, I will admit that she creates the most delicious cakes and treats that I have ever had in my life, and I’m a pretty well-travelled (and well fed) guy. I need to preface the rest of this article by stating that all else being equal, my wife’s culinary skills are unquestionably a very marketable product. It wasn’t her skills, however, that was blocking my full support of this endeavor.

We live in a relatively small town, about thirty minutes away from the nearest big city. There aren’t a lot of foot-trafficable areas and aside from a few, small, wealthy congregations, the average state of wealth isn’t very high. While our community is by no means impoverished, it’s not fancy either. After she mentioned that she wanted to open a small bakery, I spent some time on Google and looked up every small bakery in our area. After spending a couple hours driving by every one and checking out their operations, I wasn’t convinced that an independent bakery was the wisest endeavor. While the bakeries weren’t shabby, they didn’t look profitable either.  You can typically tell when a small business is doing well and when one isn’t by spending time in their establishment, after all.

Not quite ready to give up on my wife’s dream, I went home to consult with my old friend, Google again. This time, I looked up the tax information (public record) of each of the bakeries, as well as the average cost of rent and purchase for retail space with existing kitchen equipment functional and installed in our area. While the claimed income (from the tax info) for the bakeries was more than I expected it would be, it was the cost of the real estate that blew me away. 

While a privately owned bakery could be profitable, the general populace in our community couldn’t afford what my wife and her sisters would have to charge for their treats to be able to keep the bakery’s doors open for business. $8 cupcakes might fly in the “big city,” but they don’t in my humble community where the majority of its citizens are on a retiree fixed budget.

The bottom line, in this case, is that desserts are a luxury. They could be the most delicious desserts in the world, but if people can’t afford to pay what they will cost, there isn’t much else anyone can do.

Ideas for making this work, however, include catering and/or delivery to neighboring communities (to broaden your customer base) or perhaps even dry-ice shipping (to broaden your customer base even more). 

The moral of the story is that even great business ideas and stellar products don’t work everywhere. Too often, people spend too much time focusing on their supply, and not enough on the demand. In short, if no one’s there to buy, you won’t be selling anything. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams here; all I’m saying is that you would be wise to do your due diligence before you launch an endeavor and research what your market will bear.