Sometimes, we need to take a moment to look back to see just how far we’ve come. This picture above was just this gift of perspective that I needed.
The year was 2013, which in many ways now that I think about it, was probably the most pivotal year for my business. The year began with us still operating as Babycakes out of our small kitchen at the Stow Airport. The company was in a holding pattern for so many reasons. I didn’t want to expand without having a new business name. We still made as many cakes for retail customers as we did cookies for our wholesale customers. Even though I had more equipment than I had when I was baking out of my house, and certainly more customers, nothing major had shifted.
That spring, my tiny kitchen staff and I developed a product that we knew we loved to eat, but had no idea if it would sell. The doughnut muffin. If I’ve told this story before, forgive me. The original recipe we used came from a cookbook from Colorado that belonged to my manager’s mother. The best part was, of course, the topping. So we made the muffins tiny and coated the entire mini morsel with cinnamon sugar.
While the kitchen was busy working out the kinks with the doughnut muffins, I was working my way through re-branding. As soon as I came up with our new name, all systems started moved forward. A graphic designer came up with our new color scheme and our logo, an attorney filed paperwork for our trademark, I purchased new labels and new ribbon, and the shift from Babycakes to Bisousweet finally became a reality.
A broker that I had just started working with at the time suggested I set up a booth at a local Farmer’s Market that summer to help market the rebranded company and to do a ‘soft launch’ on the doughnut muffins. My children were still young, and the last thing I wanted to do was to spend almost an entire day away from my family, standing in the heat, the rain, the wind, to maybe sell some products. However, I didn’t feel like I really had a choice. A small business owner has to make sacrifices in order to help the business grow, and this was just one of those moments.
Having a booth at the Natick’s Farmer’s Market that summer turned out to be one of the best things for me personally, and for my company. Every weekend, it gave me the opportunity to interact with people, to watch them try something new, to hear their suggestions and feedback, and to be buoyed by their compliments and support. It also gave me the chance to meet other ‘makers’, and to truly appreciate how many people like me love their craft so much. It was a summer of connections, and it served me well.
It was a summer of doughnut muffins, discovery and decisions. We sold so many doughnut muffins that summer that we could hardly keep up with the production. I invested in more pans. I purchased a larger mixer. I bought a depositor. And then, I bought the one piece of equipment that brought me to a crossroad: a bowl lift.
The bowl lift is a machine that clicks into the mixing bowl, then lifts it and tilts it. We had been hoisting the full bowl by hand and it was just a matter of time before someone hurt themselves. The bowl lift was going to save us.
The only problem? It didn’t fit into our little kitchen. Literally…the ceilings were too low.
We had a new business name. We had a wildly popular new item. We had so much opportunity ahead of us, and we had low ceilings. Was that really going to be the end?
We all know now that it wasn’t the end. Four years later, we use that bowl lift every single day, all day long.
I’ve been in the thick of things so much at work and at home this past year. In running terms, it’s as if I’ve been doing a long training run during which I’m keeping my head down, my eyes focused just barely ahead of where my feet are landing. My thoughts during these kinds of runs usually are mantras of ‘be safe’, ‘don’t stumble’, and ‘get this done’. What this picture makes me realize is that maybe my whole outlook needs a bit of perspective, a subtle shift of vision. Maybe we all need to lift our heads up from the grind and take a moment to look around, to look backward as much as we look forward so that we can truly get a sense of who we are, where we’ve come from, and how much we’ve accomplished.
It’s impossible to experience joy if our focus is always looking for the next pothole to avoid.