This holiday season, Ottawa Foodie Girlz is celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with a festive Q&A style blog series featuring one local business per day. We’ve spent the last few weeks connecting with local business owners and each day we will we will reveal the business, their story, and a special giveaway. That’s right, we have 12 giveaways coming up!
Make sure to check out our 12 days of Christmas event page every day as we reveal the next business. All giveaways will start the day the blog is featured end 5 days later! All photos have been provided by the business, unless otherwise credited.
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me.....
Why/How/When did you start your business?
I discovered quickly when I shifted gears and started taking on baking professionally that I wanted to bake bread intensively, and focus entirely on that craft. I imagined myself presenting a certain style of bread that I felt passionate about, but in every opportunity that was presenting itself, it didn't feel like exactly the type of work and philosophy I wanted to adopt, even though I encountered some fantastic learning experiences. So my main motivator to open, I suppose, was that I wanted to immerse myself in my craft in a way where I could be in control of the type of work I was doing.
The bakery opened on December 23rd, 2013, but the journey of getting there started about a year before. It was a grueling but necessary process, and I was lucky to have mentors around me that challenged and guided the process.
Tell us about your successes and/or challenges?
Success seems like a much more difficult concept to describe, while challenges are a bit easier to define! I think I am still trying to figure out what success means because my definition of success is constantly shifting. One of our successes that makes me feel optimistic are that our staff are constantly getting better and better at what they do. When we started off, Sarah (co-owner) and I felt like we were treading water alone in a gigantic ocean (dramatic, I know), but we no longer feel that way at all. We feel we have a full team that supports one another, with each member highly capable of operating the bakery on any given day. Another sign of success to me is the volume of people we see week to week. In our second year, we have seen a consistent level of interest in our products that make me feel as though we are doing something right.
In terms of challenges, there are many, but I think they all boil down to two main threads. One is the challenge of educating/coaching consumers about what we are “all about”, i.e. why our bread is the way it is, why we cannot increase our batch sizes ad infinitum, why we cannot bake more, or faster, or around the clock. We bake in a humble way in a humble space, and we are only human. The other challenges are more personal. They stem from the challenges that many independent business owners face. That is, how to maintain success and not drive yourself into the ground physically/mentally/emotionally. Owning this bakery for just 2 years has felt like a marathon that at times, I am unsure if I am capable of continuing. The process is both grueling and rewarding (I often compare it to what I think parenthood must feel like). So my current focus and personal goal is to find a formula to help me balance the business success with health and happiness.
What is your most popular product?
Our most popular product is our country sourdough bread. I think it represents and encompasses all of the qualities of bread that most of our audience looks for. It is simple, crusty, and has a surprising depth of flavour. It stands well alone, or slathered in butter, or dunked into a soup – whatever, really!
What do you want people to know about you and your products?
- We always do our best.
- We always feel like we can do better, and tomorrow will always be better than yesterday.
- We actually love what we do, and we hope that shows.
- We are here for you – as an open, neighbourhood bakery, where you can interact with the owners and bakers consistently, we are all ears!
- We are open to feedback, all sorts of custom requests, praises, and critiques. We are not a faceless business. Every face you see is willing to hear you and engage with you.
Where else can people find your products?
We only sell to a few shops outside of the bakery! You can find some of our pastries at Blumenstudio every morning. We also supply sausage buns to Seed to Sausage General Store on the weekends (especially during peak BBQ season!). We keep our wholesaling to a minimum in order to keep quality up and to meet the demand of our customers, but we do supply a few restaurants in the hood with bread – Café my House, 1014, and Soca.
I try to take things one step at a time, and my approach to growing the business has been slow and steady, trying hard not to over extend others, or myself and maintaining high standards. We want to continue to make better and more consistent bread. There is no such thing as perfection, but we sure do try. I would like to continue to try and bake more (varieties and quantity), in order to keep up with customer demand, which has grown steadily since we’ve opened. In terms of expansion into a new or bigger location, that is a definite no. The past two years have taught me that while I think I have the qualities to run a successful business, I am first and foremost a baker, and secondarily an entrepreneur. I absolutely adore my profession, to the point where it could bring tears to my eyes on a given day, but I loathe many of the responsibilities and expectations of a small business owner. The more Bread by Us grows, the less I bake, and I am just not willing to give that up any more than I have. I am still a baker 5 days a week (down from 6 from the first year), and oversee/manage the bakery on the off days, and I like it this way! If you love our bread and products the way they are, then you’ll understand our philosophy of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”! Expansion always comes with compromise and risk.
1065 Wellington St. West