We recently caught up with Janet Picarelli of Janet’s Quality Baked Goods in Florida, N.Y., to learn more about her story. She started her bakery as a second career and trained at the French Culinary Institute and the Culinary Institute of America in New York and the French Pastry School in Chicago.

Picarelli is a wealth of information. Our conversation quickly turned to what advice she had for scratch bakers to help them succeed.

Consider working at a bakery before starting your own. Picarelli says she learned a lot by working at a bakery before heading to culinary school. She says it was invaluable to see firsthand how much work is actually involved in baking from scratch.

Know your market. If you’re operating in a market where customers might not have the financial means to purchase higher priced scratch items or aren’t interested in specific ingredients, such as unbleached flour, you might want to think twice before offering it.

Listen to your customers. Customers can help guide you in some of the decisions you make along the way. Talk to them to discover what they like and what they dislike. It sounds simple, but it’s something many bakers overlook.

Educate your customers. Picarelli says it’s important to educate customers so they know why you’re passionate about scratch baking. She lets her customers know that she uses the highest quality ingredients from local farmers and that she donates any unsold goods to charity. Making sure customers are aware of the details of your operation can go a long way in building and maintaining customer relationships.

Do your homework. Sticker shock isn’t limited to purchasing an automobile. It’s also a side effect of establishing your own business, especially a bakery. Before setting up shop, talk to other bakers and research everything you can about starting a bakery. Knowing what to expect before you jump headfirst into the scratch-baking pool can reduce the likelihood of severe head trauma.

Following this advice might not guarantee scratch-baking success, but learning from someone who’s run a successful scratch-baking business for seven years can’t hurt.

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