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Shifting my business from home into a commercial place!

I’ve been taught to never say no to sales, because we work so hard to get those orders, refusing to do them would be a shame. So, when my friend at a multinational bank said she would introduce me to their admin for a potentially continued business contract and I knew we weren’t at the scale to do it – I didn’t say no. Instead, I decided it was time to move out of home to fulfil this requirement.


There are home bakers who are quite happy with the number of orders they are getting; they want to stay niche and specialized. They don’t want to dilute their craft by the desire to expand their reach. I admire them, because I can probably never replicate their skill myself. Then there are others who want to grow their business, but are too afraid to take the plunge. Go ahead and do it, I’ll attempt to tell you how. I’m going to break it down for you, so if you are in a similar situation – it’ll be easier to follow.


1. WE NEEDED A SPACE

Mummy measuring the entrance to one of the rooms.

In school, none of us are really taught about rental agreements or carpet area. So, I literally started keeping an inch tape in my purse and measuring everything I saw. Now, I can look at a room and tell you approximately how many square feet it is.


For 3 months, every evening my mother and I would walk down every road near our house and take photos of “TO-LET” boards. I tried to look online, but didn’t want to pay brokerage fees so decided to search on my own. I’d suggest you have some criteria that will help you narrow down your search – these were ours:


  • It should be near home (I didn’t want to waste valuable time in traffic)

  • It should preferably be on the ground floor (we would have to carry heavy cartons of ingredients regularly ourselves and didn’t want to waste energy on the stairs)

  • It should be around 500sqft

  • It should have a bathroom, because knowing that we’d be hiring girls, we didn’t want to make them share a dirty bathroom with all the other shopkeepers of the building


Some landlords didn’t agree because it would be a kitchen. Some didn’t agree to make a bathroom in their premises (isn’t this absurd?). We almost signed the contract with one landlord before we realized the folks upstairs drink and gamble every night and my parents didn’t feel it would be a safe place for us.


I had an excel sheet of so many landlord’s numbers, that I had decided even if I never make it as a baker, I can at least be a broker. It was a tiring exercise, but one day, we finally found our little kitchen. The to-let sign was so tiny you could barely see it – but my mother magically found it and we went to check it out. It was a two-bedroom place with a kitchen, bathroom and empty living room. The landlord was renting it out as a commercial property (you can’t do commercial business in a residential premises) and the ask was decent. We went ahead.


2. ELECTRICITY AND APPLIANCES


There were two things to take into consideration. The electric connection needed to be commercial before we could start operations, they charge higher rates but if you are on a residential meter then we were told that BESCOM (the city’s electricity board) can penalize you up to Rs 50,000.

We visited BESCOM at least 15 times

The other thing was the total electric supply of the premises. It was 3 kilowatts and before moving in we needed to ensure that all our electric appliances would not add up to consume more than this amount. We can request BESCOM for higher electric supply only if the entire building is not already supplied with 25 kilowatts and unfortunately that criteria had been met. That is the main reason we chose to buy a gas oven and not an electric one. We also had a domestic fridge instead of a commercial fridge. Bakers will find it hard to believe that I never bought a stand mixer, we used a hand mixer and put it on a stand instead.


3. THE INTERIORS


Choosing to be a cloud kitchen before opening a retail outlet is a very cost-effective way of starting because you lower your fixed costs and can choose a non-prime location for reduced rent. The same goes with our minimal furniture, we didn’t think any customer would ever come (we were wrong about this) so we found second hand furniture from my apartment. In fact, when the aunties in our building heard that I was opening something, most of them contributed their extra furniture almost for free. As a matter of fact, as I write this blog I am still sitting on the office chair and table that I got for Rs 300.

Saachi painting "Dream it, Do it!"

The advantage of the space being originally designed as a home was that we did not have to build walls to make rooms and invest in plumbing for a water connection. There were already sinks, a granite slab in the kitchen and cupboards for storage in the rooms – that really helped us save any immovable investment.


We knew we would have to repaint the walls before we left the place, so we took that as a free reign to do whatever we want on them while we were there. Our total budget to decorate was Rs 500, so we bought a cannister of paint for Rs 110 and painted “Dream it, Do it” on one side and printed photos of our cakes + the team on the other side.


4. MOST IMPORTANTLY: LEAVE YOUR EGO AT HOME


A lot of young people tell me they don’t want to take their parents money or partner’s help to fulfil their dreams. I have no qualms about admitting that yes, I did have some savings but my parents also helped me with the investment we needed to set up. My friends did up our walls and we still reminisce about the time when our biggest worry was the paint all over our hands.


If any entrepreneur is telling you they made it on their own, they are lying. If you have the good fortune of having help at your disposal, then ask for it. Whenever your internal motivation dies down, you still won’t stop working hard for the sake of all the people who have helped you along the way.


When we finished the first pooja and my parents went back home, I sat alone in an empty kitchen with tears rolling down my cheeks. Not because I was sad and not because I was happy, but just because I was there. Sitting in my own little kitchen, dreaming it and doing it.

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