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Welcome to episode 335 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Amanda Schonberg about how to build a successful baking business.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Chandice Probst about how to craft the perfect pitch when reaching out to brands. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Baking for Business
As food creators, when we think about earning an income doing what we love, we oftentimes focus on areas like affiliate marketing, sponsored content, and ads. But what about earning money actually selling the food that we’re creating?
That’s what we’re chatting about with Amanda Schonberg today! She runs Chef Schonberg’s Sweets, a licensed e-commerce bakery, as well as Baking for Business, an online platform that teaches home bakers how to build their brands and confidently sell their baked goods.
In this episode, you’ll hear how she got her own baking business off the ground, what she teaches her students at Baking for Business, and what her best advice is for those looking to enter into this space. It’s a jam-packed, inspiring episode, and we really hope you enjoy it!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Amanda launched her baking business
- What she learned working in corporate retail management
- How she determined the SOPs and pricing for her business
- What food liability insurance is
- The tools that she uses to run her business
- Her best advice for those looking to launch a baking business
- How she has grown her email list
- What cottage bakers are
- How she launched Baking for Business
- What she teaches her students at Baking for Business
- Why she loves sharing her story
- Baking for Business
- Chef Schonberg’s Sweets
- The E Myth Revisited
- Food Liability Insurance Program
- State Farm
- The Hartford
- Bake Diary
- The Profit
- The Psychology of Sales
- Learn From Daymond John
- Digital Course Academy
- Follow Amanda on Instagram
- Check out the Food Blogger Pro YouTube channel (and subscribe while you’re there!)
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: Hello. Hello. This is Bjork. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. And one of the things that we try and do on this podcast is ironically enough, try and give exposure to areas outside of just blogging. Right? So we talk about the internet as kind of the main place that we are thinking of building businesses. And we talk broadly speaking about being a creator. But when you think of those two things, being a creator on the internet, there’s a lot of different ways that you can build a successful business. And lot of times the internet is kind of the supporting tool for something that might be more brick and mortar, in person. And that’s what today’s interview is going to be about. We’re talking to Amanda Schonberg.
Bjork Ostrom: She has a business called Baking for Business, and she also has a baking business. And she talks to creators and bakers about how to build a successful business. And she went through that process. Not only did she go through school and learn how to do that, but then she took those skills and applied those to her baking business. And she talks about how she got that off the ground, how it became a successful business, was able to sustain her. And also she talks about what that story has been like for some of her students who have gone through that process.
Bjork Ostrom: Obviously, there’s a lot of people who listen to this podcast who are very skilled with baking and could have the ability, if this feels like something you’d be interested in and would want to do, to build a baking business. And as much as possible, we want to give exposure to these other alternatives where you can use your blog, you can use social media to support these. And as a matter of fact, if you get social media, if you get SEO, if you get content marketing, you’re going to be at a huge advantage because that’s going to be a great tool to use, to help build and scale an in-person or brick and mortar type business.
Bjork Ostrom: Not that it would be actual retail location that you’re getting. And Amanda talks about that. A lot of times she talks about these being cottage businesses, which was a new term for me, but learned that that was essentially like a business that you would run out of your house. And there’s different rules and regulations around how you can do that and what states and obviously, countries. We have people who listen to the Food Blogger Pro podcast from all different countries, but different regulations around that.
Bjork Ostrom: But she’s going to be talking about kind of what that looks like, how that works, and what you might be able to expect. What could you scale that business to? It’s a really fun interview in a new area that was fun for me to learn about. So let’s go ahead and jump in.
Bjork Ostrom: Amanda, welcome to the podcast.
Amanda Schonberg: Hey. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you so much.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s going to be a fun conversation because there is a kind of an inflection point in your career. Years and years and years ago, which would’ve been, we kind of intersected at a point and you went not in the way of building a blog, although you were thinking about it. You went towards kind of building the career path that you have right now. But we chatted a little bit about it before we pressed record, but take me back to that point and kind of the mindset that you were in and some of the decisions that you were trying to make about what you were going to do.
Amanda Schonberg: Yes. So years ago, when I was in culinary school, I used to be vegan and I used to love to just break out the meal prep bowls and just prep everything and have everything in order. And I said, “I want to do this. I want to cook vegan dishes from home.” But when I looked up the laws, you couldn’t cook from home. You can only bake. So I said, “Okay, well, instead of doing vegan meal prep, maybe I’ll do a vegan blog.” Right?
Amanda Schonberg: So I was so set, did all my research. I said, “Okay, I have to do this correct. I have to learn from the best.” Call up you guys, because I’m really big on learning and teaching. And you guys popped up. And I said, “That’s it. I’m going to do it.” But then my friend said, “No, you know what? I think we should start off with the cupcakes and the pound cakes.” So.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So…
Amanda Schonberg: Changed my mind and started baking.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice. And it was the right decision. You’ve had success with that.
Amanda Schonberg: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: What did that mean, starting off with the cupcakes, starting off with the pound cakes? Implied in that is you’re going to be creating these, you’re going to be baking these, but did you know at that point, what that was going to mean and what that was going to look like?
Amanda Schonberg: I didn’t know. I tell people all the time cake has changed my life. It’s took me to some amazing places that I honestly, I didn’t know. My mom had a pound cake recipe, and I did know that I wanted things to be familiar, what I was used to. I never really liked the big cakes with fondant and stuff like that. So I started out with the recipe my mom gave me, and after that it just took off.
Bjork Ostrom: So that looks like you making, I’m guessing, a lot of these. Who are the people that are coming to buy them? How are you finding these people? What does it look like to grow? I’m super fascinated just personally knowing that it’s like, I have zero experience in that world. What did it look like the first time? I always think of the first time that you ever made something and somebody paid for it. What was that like? And then how do you kind of scale that up to a certain point over time?
Amanda Schonberg: Wow. It’s crazy because that kind of happened by accident. So after culinary school, I went into corporate retail management. So I managed bakeries, Costco, Great American Cookie Company. And I said, okay, well being around these businesses, honestly, you’d learn a lot when you pay attention to their standard operating procedures, everything they do. So I was honestly just at Costco one day and we were full, and the lady was like, “So no one can make this?” And I was like, “Well, I guess. I make them kind of on the side.” And I had no idea. She was actually a local councilman. So fast forward I ended up making the cake for her.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool.
Amanda Schonberg: She told her friends. Yeah. And I was like, “Okay, so you know what? So maybe I should step this up. Maybe I can do this full-time.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What were some of the things that you learned managing bakeries that you were able to implement right away? I was actually thinking about this just the other day where it’s like, man, people who work within a startup or at a restaurant, like if you work within a restaurant next to a chef who’s really good, you’re going to be able to then go to a restaurant and start your own restaurant and be ahead of where you would’ve been if you were just starting out, which a lot of that are the things that you teach, which we’ll get to eventually. But what did you learn that you were able to apply to kind of some of your own businesses and best practices from those experiences?
Amanda Schonberg: One of the things I learned, which is a big thing in our community still is definitely streamlining processes because there’s a time and place for everything. Costco doesn’t sell a lot of different things for a reason. They sell things that could be easily produced, that have a quick turnover. They sell things where the skill limit is low, because, as a business, they’re employing average workers, teenagers, or young adults who can just come in and step in.
Amanda Schonberg: Well, when you take those skills and you transfer them to the cake world, we’re opposite. We don’t want to do. We look at boxes. “Oh no, not a box mix. That’s bad. That’s a no-no.” And I’m like, “Hey, you guys. I’ve been blessed to work with Pillsbury in the past. That’s not a bad person to work with.”
Amanda Schonberg: So in my bakery, I had to bring over some of those processes and say, “You know what? It’s not about what I can do, but it’s about how much money can I make if I’m able to quickly do things, if I’m able to quickly come up with menus where things can be easily done, things where I can tell my husband, ‘Hey, you can do this,’ so that I can take orders.”
Amanda Schonberg: So I knew from the beginning that the things that I was going to do weren’t going to be so elaborate. I believed in a small things, which were okay, but I just always believed in the small things in large volume. So it was up to me to go out and find that volume so that I can get the sales.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s really interesting. I think of the book, The E-Myh, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that book, but-
Amanda Schonberg: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: I think the example in that book is a pie shop. It’s essentially a bakery, and it’s this person who is a really good baker, but then they just get kind of consumed by their business because they’re doing all of the baking. It seems like from the outset, you knew, you kind of knew that intuitively and maybe through your experience in these different places that you wanted to build a business. You didn’t want to build a job where you’d be baking all the time. Is that true?
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, exactly. It’s definitely true. There have been times where I’ve stepped away and no one has known or missed a beat because my husband can step in. I’ve taught him how to scoop, how to roll, assistants, other people who can deliver. So yeah, I always knew that I didn’t want labor-intensive, strenuous things. I wanted things that could be easily reproduced. And I knew that that would get me the volume that I needed. So, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So in those early stages, this councilwoman comes to you and is like, “Hey. You had mentioned this pound cake. Can I actually buy one from you?” Are you like, “Sure,” and then google how much to sell pound cake for? Or how do you know, in those early stages, how to price, how to deliver? Are you having to think about setting up an official business? Do you have to have insurance?
Bjork Ostrom: I also feel like these are all of the questions that you probably get from students that you work with. But I also feel like I would be nervous about like, hey, what if I make something and somebody gets sick and it’s not related to that, but they think it is. Is there an issue there? What about all those early-stage business things? What was that like?
Amanda Schonberg: So the very first order, all of those things were definitely relevant. They were there. But in all honesty, no, the first order on the pricing, I went back to the books, to my culinary books. The money’s always there because we do take culinary math, intro to business finance in culinary school. And that’s one of the things that I love, is that I went to school for food service management. So I’m actually not a pastry chef. I’m not a savory chef. I’m a chef that particularly deals with the business side of the kitchen, which is what I love. So I priced it accordingly, delivered it to her and all was well.
Amanda Schonberg: But once I saw, hey, I could really do something with this when people started calling and it wasn’t just a hobby and people were kind of getting upset when I wasn’t available, then I was like, “Okay, well, let me sit down and mold this into something.” And again, I pulled from my corporate baking background and said, “Okay, I need to create a set of standard operating procedures for myself.” When will I be open? What’s the website going to cost? Food liability insurance, which we have, which is called FLIP, amazing company. What does that cost and how do I factor in all those costs into the price of the product so I still make a profit?
Amanda Schonberg: Once the wheels started turning and I knew that I wanted to do it, then yeah, all those things came into play.
Bjork Ostrom: You had mentioned a company. You said it’s called FLIP, which is a …
Amanda Schonberg: FLIP.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. And that’s where you would go, if you want to start bakery or you’re selling baked goods. You’d go to them and say like, “Here’s what I’m doing. What does it cost to get insurance to make sure that somebody doesn’t sue me if they get sick from something?”
Amanda Schonberg: Exactly. So FLIP stands for Food Liability Insurance Program and they are super amazing. They’re a really great company. Another company I always recommend, of course they’re State Farm. And then there’s another one called Hartford. But FLIP is really good because they specialize mainly in food liability insurance.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting. And so my guess is there’s kind of an on-ramp where you get a couple orders here, a couple orders there, and then maybe you get one order where somebody’s like, “Hey, we want to do a bulk order of, I don’t know, a hundred cupcakes,” or something like that. And then it starts to be like, “Hey, this is actual picking up speed. I need to kind of shift more attention here.” At what point in the process did you step back and say like, “This might be able to be something that I focus on in a full-time capacity,” or was it kind of like that from the start? Sounds like you kind of always had that mindset.
Amanda Schonberg: I always had it. For me, it was kind of like after the first year, because when I was at Costco, my schedule was up, down, up, down, up, down. So I said, “One of the first steps, I need reliable hours.” And I’ve always been a gambler. I always tell my students, “Bet on yourself. When you bet on yourself, you can never lose.” I’ve never been shy. I walk up to people. I knock on any doors I can until I seek opportunities.
Amanda Schonberg: So one of the first steps for me was I need to find a job that has steady hours. And my husband was like, “Really? Like it’s just … ” And I’m like, “Really.” I said, “Let me just first find a job with steady hours, so that way I can bake at night, deliver in the morning as opposed to just being up, down, up, down with Costco.” And then, so I did.
Amanda Schonberg: So I left Costco, went back and found a job of steady hours. And then I came back the second year. I spoke to my CPA and I said, “What do you think?” And she said, “Yeah.” She said, “You’re growing. You’re growing a little bit more than I projected. So what do you want to do?” And I said, “Okay, well, let’s keep growing.” So I kept that job and I did it the second year. Did it the third year. Then after the third year, I was like, “You know what? I don’t really like to be here anyways. I think I could go on my own.” We all jump. We all take that jump.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Amanda Schonberg: Leap. Looking back, I would not have leaped so quickly because that was an amazing job with great benefits, but I jumped. I did it and I left. And I’ve been full-time now for four years-
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome…
Amanda Schonberg: …in business total of six and a half.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Good for you. That’s incredible. I remember some of those same thoughts, Lindsay and I having, where she was a teacher, I worked at a nonprofit. And it was this. I think some people would be like, “Hey, I want to do this,” and they would jump right away, right? We were more like you where it was like, “Hey, we’re kind of moving in this direction. Let’s shift and change our schedule, make adjustments so we can maybe work a little bit less, or to your point, work hours that are maybe a little bit more predictable. So we can slot in our side hustle in pursuit of making that the full-time hustle.”
Bjork Ostrom: And to your point, sometimes you’ll get in and you’ll think, “Man, I wish I would’ve done this earlier.” Or you’ll be like, “Wait a minute. Like, actually, it was really nice to have benefits and whatever it is, healthcare and things like that.”
Amanda Schonberg: Yes. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: But at some point you just have to pull the trigger and jump in. Looking back, would you have waited like another year? Or like, what would that have amount have been that you would’ve held off?
Amanda Schonberg: Looking back, I probably would’ve waited maybe about another … maybe about another two years.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Amanda Schonberg: Because I’m to the point now where I’m really, really blessed. For my baking business, I don’t really even have to advertise. The orders are there. I’ve put systems into place to where the orders come in. Before culinary school, I went to school for medical billing and coding. So it was a hospital that I returned to, which had great benefits.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Amanda Schonberg: Now being self-employed, benefits freaking sky high. So…
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, I would’ve stayed at the hospital. Back then, if I had a sore throat, I could just run down a hall, ask one of the doctors and they just. Now it’s like $500 out-pocket. Like, “Whoa.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, I would’ve stayed another two years.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. That makes sense. But, at the same time, probably wouldn’t have been able to make as much progress as you did within your business and as much traction as you’ve gotten.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things you mentioned is putting systems in place and you’ve talked about SOPs. It’s something that I wish that I would’ve done earlier. Like even in the early stages when it’s just me. And it sounds like you did this to an extent, operating in a way where you’re going to assume at some point, somebody else is going to take something over. Are there systems that you can use? Let’s say somebody wants to start baking and selling baked goods, which I think is an awesome way for food creators to start to create an income.
Bjork Ostrom: I think so often a lot of people who would listen to this podcast or kind of in the world that we are, would think like, “Hey, I want to start this business. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to try and get as much traffic as I can to my website and monetize from ads or sponsor content,” which is great if you’re able to do it. I think what people don’t often think about and what actually allows you to get traction more quickly is to think, “Hey, what is something, a service that I could offer or a product, actual product, and how could I sell that?”
Bjork Ostrom: And the marketing on that is so different. There’s somebody from our small hometown. And she does Christmas cookies every year. And they’re beautiful. And she can charge an outrageous amount for them because it’s supply and demand. All these people want these cookies. She can only make so many. And so she says, I don’t know, whatever it is, $2.50 a cookie, $3 a cookie, and people will order 20 cookies. And I think it’s just a really smart thing to do.
Bjork Ostrom: So I’m curious to know when you were kind of in those early stages, you talked about SOPs, but what are the systems, the actual systems you have in place? Are there software solutions that are good to use? A way for managing orders? Where do you store your SOPs? It’s kind of the nerd in me. I love to hear about that stuff.
Amanda Schonberg: It’s cool. I am an old-fashioned person. The first year, honestly, everything was just pen and paper. Like I knew. I also created a person. My middle name is Lucille. A lot of times when people would call, they would think they were calling the bakery. I’m a cottage baker. So they’d say, “Who am I speaking to?” And I’d say, Lucille. Where they’d say, “Well, where’s chef? Where’s is …” you know. So I had to literally create another person. That was one of the first things.
Amanda Schonberg: But as far as systems, I love Square. I use Square for processing payments, sending invoices, contracts. I’m a huge advocate for Square for small business owners. One of the next things was I do Wix for my website.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep.
Amanda Schonberg: I know some people love WordPress. I love Wix. It just has some great features. It’s user-friendly. For managing money, pricing, stuff like that there’s a system called Bake Diary. And they are amazing with just telling you pricing, profit. You can input your recipes, things like that. I actually have a code, bakingforbusiness, it’ll save you 15% off.
Amanda Schonberg: But yeah. So it was mainly just contract, hours, and website. And setting boundaries with people because that’s one of the things that my students struggle with. You have to be able to, even when you are a solopreneur, when you’re self-employed, you have to be able to cut it off and to be able to step away and say, “Hey, look, we’re closed, I’m closed.” There would be people that would text me in the beginning and I would, “Hey. Yeah, thanks so much for reaching out. I appreciate it. However, I’m currently closed. We can continue this conversation or you can go here to the website.”
Amanda Schonberg: So I always tell people when you’re just one person, you definitely want to have systems, automations, quick replies, templates, scripts, things into place to help you cut down on time and be more successful. So anytime I would write a customer once, I would save that as a script. Let’s say I was writing to follow up. Yeah. Then this would be my follow-up script. If I was writing to apply for a market or a vendor show or a bridal show, then this would be my vendor script. I would have a script when I would go out and when I would meet people. So yeah. Templates, processes, and software.
Amanda Schonberg: Sometimes we don’t want to invest in those things, but paying for those things, they put more time back into your business. And the more that I can be working on things, the more money I can be making. So yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I love that. One of the things that … We use this operating system, I’ve talked about a few different times on the podcast called EOS. It’s like an operating system for your business. But one of the things they talk about is when you’re delegating things, it’s not always a person that you delegate it to. Sometimes you have delegated to software. And it’s like, “Oh, that’s great.”
Amanda Schonberg: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: And it’s so much more affordable than hiring a person.
Amanda Schonberg: It is. One of my favorite things I tell people all the time. I have this tip on social. Sometimes bakers will say, “I get overwhelmed. I’m running to the store. I’m doing this. I’m doing that.” And I always tell people, “Who goes to the store?” Like Shipt, Instacart.
Amanda Schonberg: I have students, literally I had a student, she’s been with me for six years, just sign up for Instacart. I was like, “You were still doing your own groceries?” So yeah. Sometimes we have to … We can’t be the grocery shop person.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Amanda Schonberg: You can’t be the baker and the decorator. Definitely. Software comes into place and it helps a ton.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. And what I love about the Instacart comment or Shipt is it allows you to kind of have these fractional team members so to speak where …
Amanda Schonberg: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not somebody who’s actually joining your team. Maybe you don’t have the budget for it. But you’re trading, let’s call it $10 to $20 an hour for somebody to go and … or two hours, it probably takes longer depending on where you are, to go and do that shopping. And it’s not like you have to hire somebody. You don’t have to onboard somebody. You’re just finding a system or a solution for it.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that’s interesting for me, just because I’m so unfamiliar with it is Bake Diary. I heard you talk about your background and experience with kind of being able to use what you’ve learned to price how much something should be. Can you talk to me about how that works? So you use a solution like Bake Diary, and you say, “Here are the ingredients in this thing,” and then it will tell you like, “Here’s the ingredients. Here’s how long it takes” maybe? Or what does that look like and how would you use a solution like this?
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, absolutely. So you log into the Bake Diary system. And there’s so many little different options for you. But what you’re going to do is you’re going to input your recipe. With Bake Diary you can set your labor, you can set your taxes, and then it gives you a profit. And then you can adjust the profit percentage. So once you plug in all your numbers, it will give you a suggested sale price. And then it saves that for you.
Amanda Schonberg: So once I do the calculations for a chocolate cake, it’ll save my chocolate. You can adjust the sizes. Maybe one day I do a small, a six-inch, another day maybe I come back and do 10-inch. So it will adjust all that. And after a while because most bakers, we have set menus, at least set bases. Like the cookie lady you were talking about. Once you input all those things, then you can go to your website, you list your prices, come back every six months or so and check and then you adjust. But it’s amazing for storing your recipes, storing your prices and helping you to give quotes when you’re doing custom work. So yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, that’s really cool. There’s a show. I haven’t watched this for a long time and I actually forget the name of it, but it’s like this guy who will go in. I think it’s called The Profit. Have you ever seen or heard of it?
Amanda Schonberg: The Profit, yes. I love it.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you? Okay.
Amanda Schonberg: Marcus. Yes. Marcus.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Marcus.
Amanda Schonberg: He is amazing. Mm-hmm.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but that was one of the things I remember him doing was going into a restaurant. And this probably happens with some of the other shows like Kitchen Nightmares or whatever. But it seems like one of the common things that happens is people are selling stuff and they’re not making money on it, which it seems so. You have to make money on it, but they probably don’t have a system like this to help them sort through it.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah. And they don’t have a system and sometimes you can have a system. But one of the biggest things I’ve learned from bakers, cakers, creatives, because I even have other people that food entrepreneurs, a lot of times we associate the price. At the end of the day, price is you take cost, expenses, you factor in your labor, profit percentage that yields your price. We associate price with our worth. And when we think something is too high for us, we think, “Well, I wouldn’t pay that. So why would they?”
Amanda Schonberg: A lot of times there’s feelings that we associate with giving a person a quote. We ave a scarcity mindset that probably says, “Oh my gosh, town is so hard. No one’s going to pay right now.” I had one student tell me that. She was like, “Well, I don’t know if I can go up because the things are really tough.” I said, “Are things tough for you? Or are things tough for your customer?” Because if you have an ideal client avatar and you know who you’re pitching and who you’re selling to, none of my students, none of them craved during the pandemic, they all doubled. If anything, they were busy because at a time where the world was crazy, people couldn’t do things.
Amanda Schonberg: Cake is comfort. At the end of the day, we all know cake. We all have a story about cake. Not just cake, food. Food is like the one universal language that connects us all. So sometimes we feel, if I give this price and I know I wouldn’t pay it, then they wouldn’t pay it. And we have to change those feelings in our mind around money and look at money as a tool.
Amanda Schonberg: That’s what I tell my students. Money is everywhere. Money’s a tool. It’s going to come to you. It’s going to flow through you. You just have to go out and get it. But just because someone tells you no to a price, it doesn’t mean that you’re not worth it. Your value is not determined by a price. Your value is determined by who you are as a person.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s super impactful. And I think one of the things I’ve learned, the more time we’ve spent in business is how often business comes down to pricing. It’s like I did this retreat with some really incredible people in Atlanta recently. And people would, the basic premise was you’d do a hot seat. You’d take 20 minute. You’d describe kind of a problem you’re working through. And it feels like inevitably what it came down to is readjusting or looking at your pricing from a business perspective and making sure that’s right. And then team. Like, who are you working with? Are you constantly looking to bring people in who are a good fit, looking to delegate, creating systems to your point.
Bjork Ostrom: But pricing, it just seems like one of those things where it constantly comes up and so much of it is mindset-based. We don’t want to price too much because would people think that we’re better than them or whatever it might be. But it’s nice to have a third-party tool to help facilitate that. You can plug the numbers in. You can change. You can adjust. And I think it’s really cool to see this as a solution for that.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious to know. Let’s say somebody’s listening to this and they’re like, “You know what? I’m working on my blog. I have a following.” And maybe not at the point where they’re getting traction with sponsor content or advertising, or maybe they are, and they’re just interested in creating kind of another source of revenue. How do you step into that? What are the first steps for somebody who says, “You know what? I want to bake some Christmas cookies and I want to sell them.” Where do you start?
Bjork Ostrom: And obviously, that’s what you talk about, and when you talk about students. I also want to hear about your background with your business and the business around baking and the education platform you have for folks there.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah. Wow. So, oh, it’s twofold. First, if someone wanted to start, the crazy thing is, is honestly, if there was a food blogger who wanted to start, I would not recommend them to start baking and selling. I would actually recommend them to start speaking. Speaking is another form of income a lot of times that we’re afraid of, but it’s great because if you have a blog and you’re sharing your expertise, then you’re already authority to some sense. So I would recommend a person if they had a food blog, which is something that I did, even with my baking business in the beginning, to try to partner with companies.
Amanda Schonberg: I’ve been blessed to work with Williams and Sonoma, Kendra Scott, women’s organization, LSU School of Business. So see if you can maybe speak and share your story if you’re ready to with others, because speaking is great. I mean, not only do you get an additional dose of revenue, but you’re letting more people know about your brand.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Amanda Schonberg: So that…
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah. That’s the first thing that I would actually recommend. But if they wanted to bake, you need to look up your cottage laws in your state to see what your laws allow, what your laws don’t allow. Start with a small group of friends. Sometimes friends or supporters, start with your friends and family, but you first want to start validating your idea. It’s a lot of first things you want to start with.
Amanda Schonberg: Obviously, you’re going to need a name. You have to make sure all that clears, but start locally within your community, but also start by giving. And I know that’s what a lot of people don’t want to hear. They’re like, “Well, wait, you just told me to give. And I told you, I want to make money.” I do. But I believe in servant leadership. When you serve people and you start just by serving people and saying, “Hey, this is my craft. This is what I love,” the sales are going to come natural. People are going to say, “Well, I need this for this,” or, “I need this for that.” And then you sit back and you test and adjust. And test and adjust. But yeah, that’s something awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: I love that. I’ve often used the example on the podcast about if you move into a neighborhood, bringing cookies over to somebody, in this case, it actually is baked goods. But like a lot of times we think about starting by asking it would be kind of like moving into a neighborhood and being like, “Hey, can I get some cookies from you?” But instead, what a great way to kick off a relationship to have a conversation to literally in this case, bring over a plate of cookies or cupcakes or whatever it might be, say, “Hey, I wanted to give these to you. Just so you know, I’m moving into a stage of my business where I’m thinking about sell these. If you’d ever need cupcakes for a party or a get-together, let me know.” Is that kind of the basic premise. It’s almost like a way to have the conversation?
Amanda Schonberg: Absolutely. Put yourself in a position to where you can give, like you mentioned new to the neighborhood. But yeah, it’s a wonderful way to start the conversation because people may remember or, well, they may forget what you say, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. And I think a lot of times it’s just back to kindness 101, which is a lot that sometimes the world is missing. But people will remember a kind gesture. It goes a lot further than just knocking door to door or, “Hey, I’m selling now. You want to buy? You want to buy?” There’s a total language around sales.
Amanda Schonberg: One of my favorite books is called The Psychology of Sales. People buy things for multiple different reasons. So I always say give. Once you plant those little seeds and you water them, you’ll turn around and reap a harvest. And when I say give, I mean go big, go all the way to the top, all the way to the top. So look at some of the places that your city has such as galas or community events, private auctions, school, places where you can give a large quantity because the more people that … That was what I did, with Chef Schonberg’s Sweets, I went door to door. And I don’t mean door to door literally. But I called organizations. I worked to get my name out there. And I think that’s something that a lot of people take for granted. I call it footwork, like Mike and I.
Amanda Schonberg: So I would look back and I would get one of our city’s magazines that always had like the top fancy shmancy people. And I’m like, because, hey, they’re my target audience. They live in these nice fancy mansions and stuff like this. I want to be where they are. So I position my products in front of them. And one of the biggest events I ever gave, it was like the second year in business, probably was like about 500 samples and it paid off tenfold because I had a system. I wasn’t just giving. I also had an email list. I was collecting emails. So I was starting the relationship off. I was following up. Then I was … Yeah. So it’s a lot of strategy in it, but it’s good.
Bjork Ostrom: I love that. And what’s so smart about that is you’re kind of finding the hub. Not only do you have a customer profile of who you want to connect with, but then you’re thinking, where are these people hanging out? And then how can I get in there in a way that’s going to be the least amount of friction? And the best way to do that is by giving to your point. In that then there’s a level of trust, there’s a level of connection, and it’s a great way to kick off a conversation-
Amanda Schonberg: And then now you actually get to leverage that too, because now you can leverage, “Hey, I worked with this company, I worked with this brand.” So now you get to leverage that event to get yourself in the door to other places.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you can say, “Hey, I worked … We supplied cupcakes for this gala event in 2020.” And people are like, “Oh wow. That’s cool.”
Amanda Schonberg: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. How did you go about getting email addresses in those situations?
Amanda Schonberg: I learned early on. One of the first business courses I took was actually by Daymond John from Shark Tank, and he talked about-
Bjork Ostrom: Shark Tank, yeah.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, he talked about email building and relationships and why. And I’m a person. I always go opposite. I know some people love social. They love to collect followers. I tell my students, don’t worry about that. Your email list is way more valuable and followers because there’s times where Instagram is down. Instagram is a business. You may have 10,000 followers. That doesn’t mean that all those people see things. But an email, that’s a one-to-one. Not only can I check it. I can tell if you open it, if you didn’t open it. I can get better at it. Maybe you get better at the subject lines, get better at the information I put.
Amanda Schonberg: So I always knew if I had your email, I had a direct way to contact you, and I didn’t have to worry about, did you see my post? Did you see my sale on social media? And once I saw that people purchase more through email, then I was like, “Okay, well, this is definitely way to go.” So now that’s something that I teach my students. Don’t worry about building a following, worry about building a list, worry about building relationships, building one on one.
Amanda Schonberg: So that was one of the first courses I took years ago. And that was one of the biggest things that I took away from that. And Amy Porterfield, too. I’ve taken DCA. Amy Porterfield Digital Course Academy. And she’s big on email list as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So with that, like at the event, did you have people… Is it like, “Hey, want a free cupcake? Sign up for the email list,” or is it just sitting out or is it online? You place an emphasis on it?
Amanda Schonberg: I always like to softly pitch people. I’ll say, “Hey. Would you like to join our list by being the … ” I make feeling like a list. I tell them by being a member of our list, you get. So it’s really the verbiage in getting them to sign up, not as opposed to, “Hey, you want to get on my list?” I say, “Hey, would you like to be a member of our VIP club? Our VIP club is our email subscribers. By being a member, you get first dibs on sales, promotions, and other events and popups that we’re going to be at.” And I still do that to this day.
Amanda Schonberg: So everybody, I just had an event last week. It’s really big in our state. It’s huge. Everybody was waiting on that email because they knew I have to get my coupon. And they knew the only way they were going to get that coupon was by being on my list. And I think I ended up with like a 97% open rate, which is like-
Bjork Ostrom: Which is a testament to your marketing and also your product.
Amanda Schonberg: Yes. Yes. So everybody, and they were just waiting for that, that one word. And then as they were coming to my booth, they were telling me the secret word. And I always make it something that’s funny, that it’s always something long, it’s always something funny.
Bjork Ostrom: What was the secret word last time?
Amanda Schonberg: Oh, this time is, I’m a lover of all things sweet.
Bjork Ostrom: I love that. That’s awesome.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so people come up and they’ll say that. And that’s kind of the secret word, the secret phrase that gets them what they want.
Amanda Schonberg: I said, “You have something to tell me?” They’re like, “Wait, wait, I have a coupon.” I said, “Okay, well that means you got something to tell me. What you got?” “I’m a lover of all things sweet.” They just love it.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So at some point along the way, you’re building your bakery business, having some success there, and then eventually realized I can help other people who are looking to do this by teaching them over the six, seven years that you’ve been doing this in a shorter amount of time so they don’t have to go through the trials and tribulations of some of the things that you’ve done and also just your history in culinary training. So at what point did you start your community around bakers who want to learn kind of the business side of it, and then talk a little bit about what that is and what that looks like.
Amanda Schonberg: So I initially started that probably about almost going on five years ago. I was actually on Periscope. I used to use Periscope a lot and other people would go on Periscope and sometimes they would be working or doing demos. And they had problems. I would say, “Hey, do this, try this, try this.” I was always behind the screen. And then it got to the point where people started, you start knowing names and regulars. And then one young lady said, “You should go live. You should share.” And I was like, “I don’t know about that.” But they kept asking. So eventually, I did. I went live, I shared, and it just took off from there.
Amanda Schonberg: Then people were like, “Will you teach? Do you teach this? Do you teach that?” I remember one of the first lives I did, it was kind of like some of my students who were probably listening to this, they remember. I said, “I’m going to do a baking one-on-one class for free.” Again, I stepped into teaching, serving, giving. One hour, an hour and a half long class. And during the class I got hot. So I took my wig off. And people were … When I teach, I talk to people like regular. I’m not filtered.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Amanda Schonberg: This is probably the longest I’ve gone without cursing, but you know.
Bjork Ostrom: Good for you. Good for you.
Amanda Schonberg: I’m not filtered. My jokes are normally pretty racy because that’s just the type of person I am. And I looked up and there were like hundreds of people that were on this live broadcast. And I was like, “What the heck. ” Like, “Where do y’all come from?” So I just literally started making them say where you from, this and that.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, it started with Periscope. And at the time I created a group coaching program. I had a membership. But I did it with a partner. It was another young lady who used to go live also. And we would go live at the same time. So I said, “We’re both going live.” And we sat down, we got to know each other. “Why don’t we make something of this?” And we did.
Amanda Schonberg: We had a partnership for about four years, and then it ended. And I went out my way. She went her way. There’s a lesson in everything.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Amanda Schonberg: I’ll stop saying that.
Bjork Ostrom: And what do you feel like the lesson is for you in that ceasing of partnership?
Amanda Schonberg: Probably to just believe in yourself. Believe in yourself.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
Amanda Schonberg: I do believe people come and go in our lives for a season. So I’m never one to badmouth anyone or anything. Everything, every time we come into contact with a person, it’s a learning lesson, that the season just expired. I had to believe that I was enough, that I was more than enough. And I was. I am. And she is too. Definitely wish her the best, but I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with.
Bjork Ostrom: And point being, you can do it on your own. Like …
Amanda Schonberg: You can.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s maybe things that somebody else wouldn’t normally do, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do them. You can pick it up, you can learn it. Yeah. That’s great.
Amanda Schonberg: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: So Baking for Business is the name of that business. Who are the people that would be a good fit for that? Like people that would be, you’ve talked about your students, and then maybe some success stories that have come from that as people have worked with you.
Amanda Schonberg: Oh, wow. So yeah, so Baking for Business is my passion. I love helping people start, build, and grow a cottage bakery, or any other type of bakery. We have people who have storefronts. We have people who have trucks and trailers. Most of the people are what we call cottage bakers, meaning that they bake from home, their own land. So anyone who has a passion for food, for just baking or… And not just baking. We have chocolatiers, those who don’t even… candy making, confection, sugar enthusiasts, food entrepreneurs, anything like that. So yeah, we have a monthly group coaching membership and it teaches bakers the business side.
Amanda Schonberg: So we have industry leaders, which I’ve been super blessed with. We’ve had Jaiana Francis who’s Rachel Hollis’ personal trainer. She came in and did a class on health and body for cakers and bakers because we’re on our feet all the time. We don’t think about that. We had Gina Neely from Food Network come in and she did a class on pitching yourself to the media. We’ve actually had Bake Diary. Bake Diary recently came and they did a total walkthrough presentation for my students.
Amanda Schonberg: I didn’t want it to be just me. I wanted a group membership that mimic how I learned. And I like to learn from different people. So I wanted tons of other people from other industries to come and teach us how to start and build. One of my favorite students, her name is Tara. She’s been with me for about five years now. And I remember she wrote a review. She was like, “When I first found you, I probably made about $300 in my business the first year alone.” Now she operates a brick and mortar and she makes over six figures. So I have, yeah, I have some amazing students.
Amanda Schonberg: I have a student named Demi. She loves her job, works for the hospital in Texas. But she wrote to me last year too. And she’s never going to leave her job. She bakes on the side. She’s like, “I bake on the side. I’m not going to leave my job. But my baking income surpassed my job income.”
Bjork Ostrom: Wow. Cool.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, we have some … I have some amazing students. I tell them, they teach me all the time. I just pour into them the mistakes that I made, the things that I learned, so that way it’s accelerates their growth.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I love that. I was listening to a podcast recently and they talked about one of the benefits of a side hustle being security and that we are all the CEO and president of our own business. And for a lot of us, we’ll work, we’ll have one client so to speak, and that’s our full-time job.
Bjork Ostrom: But what I love about the idea of somebody like the story that you just told is she’s diversified now. Let’s say there’s some huge cuts that happen at the hospital. She immediately has this fallback option to go to. Same on the side with keeping her job where let’s say she burns out and she’s like, “I just can’t do this anymore.” She has … It’s options. And I think that’s so cool when I think about.
Amanda Schonberg: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: There isn’t always the need to turn … to replace your full-time job. I think there’s value in keeping that if that feels like a good fit for you.
Amanda Schonberg: Absolutely. And she’s amazing. And she just landed a contract with Amazon.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh cool. Oh, awesome.
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, she’s awesome. She’s pretty awesome. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. One of the things that I thought would be important to share, because you’ve talked about it, we chatted about kind of briefly before, and there’s a phrase that you used, which is, it’s about not being … Well, I don’t want to say the phrase because it’s such a good one and I don’t want to take it from you, but your story and sharing your story and really leaning into sharing your story and how that’s become an important thing for you. I just really appreciated the perspective that you had and wanted to make sure that we documented that in the recorded part of the podcast, but kind of this pivotal moment where you stepped back and said, “You know what? I’m not going to let this impact me for the negative, but instead impact me for the positive.”
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah, yeah, was definitely for me, the pivot was culinary school. When I was in culinary school, I was almost done. I ended up losing my mom. She had got dementia. So I moved her closer to me so I can kind of keep an eye on her. Went one day. I tuck her in at night, check on her before school, after school, everything totally normal. That morning I heard a loud noise. She was my neighbor. We were in the same area. And it was her apartment that the windows were bursting that was on fire. So I lost my mom, my apartment. It spread. 12 different units were affected. 12 different condos were affected. So yeah, it was big. I lost my mom, apartment and car all in one day.
Amanda Schonberg: I remember having to catch three buses to get to the culinary school and catching three buses to get back while I waited on paperwork and insurance and everything to clear so that things could get back to normal. And it was a hard time. And I was depressed. I was tired. And I thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”
Amanda Schonberg: And in the beginning, I never used to like to share that with people. People would always say, “Oh my gosh. You just keep going and going and you didn’t stop despite what you went through.” But I always tell people, when you share your story, you control the narrative. So by me not sharing my story, I was afraid to share it because I thought, “Well, I don’t want people to say I’m a victim.” But you’re not a victim. You’re a victor. Everything that we go through, we all have tests. But the test that you go through is part of your testimony. Either it’s going to make you or break you. And I tell people, “It didn’t make or break me. It defined me. It defined my character and how I moved going forward.” And it was like, okay, if I could overcome this, this session of grief, this loss, then it makes you a little tougher.
Amanda Schonberg: I think a lot of times the success comes, we shy away from telling those stories. Tons of people have food blogs. And when I look, you could see some of the popular things, like it could be hot cocoa bombs or a pecan pie. And we’re all sharing what we think we should be sharing. But a lot of times we don’t share the story. Why does this matter to you? Why does this mean so much? Where did it come from? How does it make you feel? People connect with people, and I say that all the time.
Amanda Schonberg: So yeah. I definitely believe that sharing our story is the gateway to blessing and helping someone else who’s either going through something or who doesn’t know how to come out of something.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s so massively impactful. And the phrase that I love that you shared was not being a victim, but a victor. And that, I just feel like encapsulates so much, such a powerful phrase. Inevitably there’s going to be somebody listening to this podcast, whenever they listen to it, who would probably be going through a season of grief or a season of struggle or a season of difficulty. Would you have, knowing that you have been through that and are where you are right now, would you have advice for people who are in that season currently?
Amanda Schonberg: Yeah. It’s only a season. And that status it’s only a season. I believe that we’re all given a gift. And I do think that it’s our right to not just profit from our gift, but to prosper, to open up and to help people.
Amanda Schonberg: The word prosper means to thrive and flourish. So whatever it is that you’re going through, give yourself time. The grief period is different for everyone. But never forget who you are and never forget the calling or the passion that you have on your life. Someone on other side of the world needs exactly what you have. And it sounds so cliche and so crazy. But in a space where we have social media and stuff like that, you’ll be amazed at the people that we can connect with. Someone has what you need. So understand it’s a season, but also understand that if you have a gift, that it’s your right to share that with other people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. One of the phrases that I think about is just being gentle with yourself. I think about that with myself as well. Like, are we being gentle with ourselves? And I think a lot of times we aren’t. We’re pretty hard on ourselves, even if we are gentle with other people.
Bjork Ostrom: And I love that idea about how important it is for you to put your thing into the world. To your point, there are people who will need and benefit from whatever it is that you can create and that that’s making the world a better place. I think that’s a really cool thing to kind of focus on and to think about.
Bjork Ostrom: Man, we covered a lot of ground on this podcast and all really good things. And I know that there’s going to be people who are interested in following up to learn about what it would maybe be like to be a student, to hear a little bit more, to follow along with your journey. Where are the best places for people to find new you and follow along with what you’re up to?
Amanda Schonberg: Sure. You can follow along obviously on the website. If you want to join the email list, I give business tips out every single week. So that’s bakingforbusiness.com, as well as Instagram bakingforbusiness.com. And aside from the tips, we also have an apparel line. So we make marketing-driven t-shirts and stuff for bakers all over. So bakingforbusiness.com.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Amanda, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really fun to chat.
Amanda Schonberg: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. You have a wonderful day, darling.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. Thanks for tuning in. As always, a little plug for foodbloggerpro.com. And you can follow along with the podcast here, obviously. But there’s lots of stuff going on over at Food Blogger Pro as well. When you jump over there, you’ll see, we have the blog where we’re keeping things updated, little things like blog posts. The most recent one was a blog post from Alexa on how to protect content that you create online. Leslie recently published a post on content that’s trending in December. So we do post each month around considerations in the food world on what’s trending and things that you can be aware of.
Bjork Ostrom: And we also have obviously the membership. So if you aren’t a member and you’re interested in checking that out, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/membership, and learn a little bit about what comes along with a Food Blogger membership. And we’ll also continue to do this podcast each and every week. And our hope is that it helps you get a tiny bit better every day forever. That’s why we show up. So that’s a wrap for this episode. Make it a great week. Thanks.
As a person currently managing a baking business, I found this to be really insightful and relatable. Thank you for sharing.
We’re so glad you enjoyed this podcast episode, Shannon! Amanda has such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to growing a baking business.