How It Began
Until 2011, I spent my career at desk jobs. When there was a party at the office, a family event, and every time I was stressed, I was in my kitchen. It’s always been where I was most comfortable. In 2011, it was time to leave my job. I hadn’t planned on leaving, and I didn’t have a next move ready. My husband (yes, he gets the credit) said those words that changed our lives: “Why don’t you become a baker?” It sounded much better than sitting on the couch wondering what to do next.
I thought I’d enroll in a culinary program, since the only formal education I had in cooking ended in 1968 in Hostess Class (yes, there really was such a thing). At 57, I enrolled in West Valley Occupational Center’s culinary program. Chef Susan Holtz has years of experience and shares it beautifully. One of the first things I learned is that professional bakers don’t use measuring cups - we weigh everything because it’s more accurate. The lessons reinforced things I knew about cakes, cookies, and pie dough, and taught me plenty of new skills in laminated dough such as croissants, cake decorating, and how a professional kitchen is organized. To continue my education, I went on to Los Angeles Trade Technical (LATTC) while I worked as a production baker at Universal Studios. I was on the fast track to learning what I didn’t know about baking. But there was a missing piece. I had no idea about owning a business.
In the spring of 2013, I left LATTC and Universal Studios with the goal of starting my own baking business. When you’re thinking of starting a business it is a great time to talk to experts. SCORE! At SCORE LA, I found the people and resources I needed to get my business off the ground. Having gotten good advice, I enrolled in the free, 10-week Entrepreneurs’ Training Program at the Valley Economic Development Corporation (VEDC) to learn how to write a business plan. I crunched numbers at my kitchen table, developed a logo, had professional photos taken of my products, talked to people who knew the restaurant business, created an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), purchased software to help manage the books, and applied for a permit to operate a home-based bakery under the Cottage Food Law. On September 1, 2013, I opened Red Carpet Cookies (redcarpetcookies.com). Friends and friends of friends started ordering cookies, cakes, and gift platters. I joined the Chambers of Commerce, donated cookies to non-profit organizations, and started calling on caterers to offer them my desserts.
Growing With the Help of SCORE
Within six months, it was clear that I wanted a commercial kitchen space. Working from home had significant limitations – I couldn’t make anything that needed refrigeration, and could only have one employee. We found a space and a contractor, went through the build-out and licensing, and spent countless hours on the phone with trusted advisors. This is another time you really want people like SCORE on the other end of the phone! In the fall of 2014, we opened our current location in Van Nuys, California.
We’ve been in our location 2½ years. We have pivoted several times, moving away from that original business plan. Now, we provide more than cookies. Our products and services include reception catering, wedding cakes, cookies with logos, and gift boxes shipped across the country. Our clients include universities, airports, corporations, wedding planners, and individuals who love desserts. It’s still an adventure every day!
The hardest part of my journey has always been not knowing what I didn’t know and with the free expertise, mentoring and support from SCORE, my dream has come true.
If you a thinking of starting a business, call Greater Los Angeles SCORE at (818) 552-3206 or go online at scorela.org. They are ready to help.