I have so much going through my head right now – I’m trying to figure out how to succinctly and coherently explain a little about why I operate as I do.
The bulk of my work life was spent in the auto industry, mostly in lower or mid management positions, but I had great benefits and even better pay – so I was very lucky. I did work hard for all of that, regularly working 12+ hour days when I was younger, traveling and relocating a lot for some jobs, and essentially living to work. I worked pretty intensely for at least 20 years of my career.
In 2012 I bought a small, old farmhouse in Leelanau county, with the intent to just have it be a fun weekend getaway. The more time I spent up north, the harder it became to leave each Sunday. In my early days I would leave at about noon on Sundays so that I had time to get home and get ready for the week. That morphed to me leaving at 2 a.m. to get back early Monday morning for work. So I knew I wanted to live here, I just didn’t know how to make that happen.
Over the course of a few years, I was able to make that happen by working as an independent contractor from Fall-Spring and spending summers up north working my farm. As time went on, the farm morphed into more of a bakery because that was a sure thing in terms of being able to make money. Well, only a small amount of money and not enough to live on.
In late 2019/early 2020 I was collaborating with a local business woman about selling my goods at her business a few days a week. In preparation for this, I invested in a commercial stand mixer and double oven to increase my output. Then Covid 19 shut things down, and I took a chance by opening the farm stand earlier in the year than normal (March instead of May) and started baking higher quantities and more of a mix of things for my farm stand. It was my 7th year in business, and it took a global pandemic for local residents to come buy my baked goods, but I was grateful for the business. In 2020, I did more than 4x my best year ever, and actually made enough money to live on.
So far 2021 is trending about the same, or slightly up from 2020. But here’s the catch: I am one person doing all the baking, with a little help from my (new) husband packaging and labeling with me on weekends. I do have a small business, but it’s a farm stand in Northern Michigan, not a brick and mortar building with multiple employees. I don’t think people always realize, or sometimes forget this. So if I get sick, I won’t bake and you won’t get baked goods that day or weekend. I need to maintain some flexibility in my small business to continue to be motivated to do it. Most people do seem to understand this, but I still feel compelled to say it.
I have a lot going on in my life other than the baking business and farm stand. There’s an Airbnb above my garage that I rent out and clean between guests, and it’s fully booked most of the summer. I have a wonderful new husband that I don’t get to spend much time with because his weekends are my weekdays. My mom has cancer and lives in AZ, and I’ve only seen her once in the last 18 months. She’s doing really well, but her health is always in the back of my mind. I’ve got some health issues I never took seriously, so now I’m on medication for Type 2 diabetes and sleeping with a CPAP machine. Then there’s the joy of being almost 54 and in the throes of menopause. My energy level is nill, I sleep a lot, lack motivation, and then feel incredibly guilty all the time that I don’t do more. I worry that I’m depressed, but my doctor says a lot of people were drained because of the pandemic and the election and are regaining their motivation but that it takes time.
Why do I talk so openly about all of this? Because I’ve built a nice little business that I still enjoy, and I want to keep enjoying it. I’ve kicked around putting in a commercial kitchen to try to expand my business more, but honestly I don’t want to do that. I like my simple life, and want to keep it as is. I’ve had a few restaurants approach me about supplying my baked goods for them to sell or baking for their restaurant, but I really don’t want to take on any more than what I’m already doing. I don’t aspire to working 12+ hour days anymore, nor do I think I could even if I wanted to.
So when I say I can’t bake a cake for your dog’s birthday on a weekend, or come to an event to sell more goods on a Saturday in peak season, it’s because I don’t have the capacity to do more than I already am. I want to keep supplying quality goods at a fair price to my regular and seasonal customers at my farm stand – my home based business. If I start baking and freezing everything so that I can open more days or do events, the quality will suffer, and I have other things I’m doing besides baking.
I’m also trying to dial back my social media use, so on days that I’m open, I post what I will have and then that’s it. I open up the farm stand, take a nap, hang out with Bob, but I’m not on social media checking messages and texts. If you want something, it’s best to see what I’ve posted will be available on Facebook and come and get it. I can’t add monitoring messages and texts while I’m trying to open the farm stand or just after. I’m trying to operate on a first come, first served basis to keep life manageable.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience as I explain what’s going on in my head about my farm stand/baking business. I’m juggling a lot and doing the best I can, and I really appreciate your business and ongoing support! Andria