Have you noticed lots of new small-scale businesses popping up since quarantine began? We noticed that trend, too. So we spoke to three brand new business owners about what it’s like to start a business during quarantine, and how they logistically get it all done.

Meet The Bakers:

Thy from Mims SLC

Britt from Challah Back Dough

Mandy from Mad Dough

How did you decide to take the leap into starting your business? 

Thy: With the initial shutdown in March and loss of household income, I knew we would need to find a way to make some extra money during this time, knowing full well that it could potentially be long-term. At the time I also noticed a lot of folks stocking up on items that have more longevity on the shelf because of limited resources, and less fresh food. With some baking knowledge and food handler’s permits in hand, I thought selling bread and offering no-contact pickup and delivery options would be a solid way of bringing fresh bread to the community while also creating some needed income.

Britt: The morning of the earthquake I was awake making bread for a couple of friends.  The earthquake was my first.  I felt an overwhelming urge to do something to make ends meet. 

Mandy: Losing my job to COVID was the main push. These doughnuts have been in the back of my mind for a long time, and I was waiting for the perfect moment!

Do you have a day job? How much of your time is this business taking up?

Thy: I do have a day job! By day I am a full-time marketing manager for Salt Lake Community College and am also currently pursuing a graduate degree. Mims SLC is around 20 hours a week for me at this time, though in the beginning it was much more while I was trying to figure out all the logistics. Tripp, who now does most of the baking, is putting in around 35-40 hours a week.

Britt:  I do not have a day job.  Franck’s Restaurant in Holladay was my job during the shutdown.  I ran to-go orders to cars. They are a fantastic establishment.  I am choosing to not serve tables for the time being.

I’d say in a perfect world, everyone would order by Sunday night and I could get all of the baking and deliveries done in three days.  Everyone orders differently.  In the beginning I was working everyday.  Now I try to keep it Monday-Thursday and my regulars get their deliveries on Fridays. 

Mandy: Nope! Full time doughnut lady. I work Monday-Saturday. Probably much more than full time, but so worth it!

Where do you think you are gaining momentum for your business? Is it solely through social media, word or mouth, or some other platform? 

Thy: The momentum for Mims SLC is definitely a combination of social media and word of mouth. Many of our customers will buy multiple loaves at a time and ask us to deliver to their friends or family, and in turn those folks will continue ordering from us if they love the bread. Instagram has been a great way to share our process and get into people’s hands.

Britt: My momentum is coming from fulfillment in what I am doing. My sales are coming solely from word of mouth. Lots of people order to surprise their friends as a gift. But instagram is my only site currently.  I’m still thinking how best to utilize challahbackdough.com

Mandy: I think the delivery system has been really popular during these quarantined times. That, and the bismark style doughnuts are so special and versatile. It’s easy to have a lot of fun with the flavors! My friend, Rae Silva, helped me get to the groovy aesthetic. I think that has set us apart as well. Instagram and word of mouth is all Mad Dough has needed!

Bread from Thy’s business, Mims SLC

What was it like to begin selling a product during this pandemic? How has COVID-19 forced you to pivot your business plan?

Thy: I knew that trying to start a small business during this pandemic was risky and there was a lot of fear that nobody would want the product because they already have access to bread at any grocery store. I think what we offered that other places don’t is a fresh, artisan bread with no preservatives, baked to order. It became something special for us to be able to provide this to folks, especially with the option of no-contact delivery, making it more convenient for them during this odd time.

Britt: Since I started during the pandemic, my business model was tailored to it. I will continue to deliver bread.

Mandy: It was incredibly stress-inducing and nerve-racking. But it also felt magical and organic. “Spreading sunshine” felt exactly like what our community could use during these uncertain times. The only pivot was to actually start the company! The delivery system was a no brainer.

How did you find your client base? How have you turned an Instagram following into sales?

Thy: I found our client base in a very organic way. I have not paid for any services. I asked a few friends to follow us on instagram and share our business. From there, it’s just been through sharing and posting and the support of our community that we have grown to be steadily busy. We have gifted a few loaves to folks around the valley who we thought would enjoy our bread. Turning Instagram likes into sales can be hit or miss. Some weeks business is hot, but other weeks it can be really slow. It’s really just being present and offering a good product that folks are eager to try. 

Britt: I started with friends and friends of friends. A page called “the gathering platter” asked me to donate bread to one lucky winner. That gained sales by so many people sharing the giveaway.

Mandy: Mainly word of mouth. Before I started selling them, I delivered them to close friends and family just for fun. After they posted about it, I got so many messages from friends who wanted to buy them! I took the plunge and started selling them within the next couple days. It all grew very fast. We announce the flavor of the week through Instagram stories every Monday. After that, it’s usually a flood of Venmo notifications. Instagram has been an incredible tool for Mad Dough! Because of COVID (and especially in the early days of quarantine) we were all on instagram all the time. We didn’t need much more than that.

Challah from Britt’s business, Challah Back Dough

What has been the most difficult part of running your business right now?

Thy: The most difficult part of running the business right now is not having a formal website yet. All the ordering takes place through Instagram messages and that leaves room for clerical errors and takes me more time than it should. However, I really love chatting with our customers/new friends through Instagram, so I’m a little worried about moving to an online ordering service and losing that piece. I will have to find a way to strike a balance because meeting new people in our community has been one of my favorite and most rewarding aspects of this business so far… and I’m an introvert! 

Britt: The most difficult part about running a business right now is doing it all by myself.  I have strict rules for my social life.  Only a handful of friends I see that also take quarantine seriously.  Always in a mask.  I’d like to hire some help eventually. And finding yeast.  

Mandy: Knowing when/how to grow, and trusting my intuition. I want to please our customers, but I also want to always do what feels right in my gut.

Do you have advice for someone toying with a business idea? Is now the time to take the leap?

Thy: I say there is never a perfect time to start a business. There is always something. I think my advice is to be smart with your decisions, but don’t overthink anything. Nothing is permanent, so if you don’t like the way something is going you can change it. I have to remind myself of this all the time! You can always start small, and set attainable but challenging goals for yourself in order to grow the business. Be prepared for disappointment and frustration, but try to learn from those experiences. Another piece of advice is seek out other small business owners – bounce ideas off one another and figure out ways to support one another. It is invaluable.

Britt: My advice to someone toying with starting a business is to ask themselves:  Is this a healthy move for my family? What am I sacrificing for this business?  If you can answer those questions without hesitation then go for it!  My best advice is trust Salt Lake City.  The residents do believe in community. 

Is it time to take the leap?  Well if you are opening a “hand shaking school” then no.  But yes, it’s a good time.

Mandy: Figure out your “why?” Listen to your gut, and don’t take too much advice from anyone. You know your vision and you know what will be best for your business! Find peace and calm in every day to listen to your intuition. Also, no harm in trying. For Mad Dough, I KNEW it was time. I had no choice. If you feel that way, then it’s time!!

Doughnuts from Mandy’s business, Mad Dough

What is the most rewarding part of being a business owner so far?

Britt: When I left my last sales job I said I wanted to bake and not talk to anyone for a while.So I have got sooo much reading done using audible books. I’d say the most rewarding part is bringing people to joy of fresh hot bread.  For the older crowd they seem to really be taken back to a more simple time. 

Mandy: Seeing others be passionate about Mad Dough with me. I’ve had an immense amount of help and support from friends and family along the way. That kind of energy is tangible and beautiful. For me, Mad Dough feels like the ultimate form of self expression, and that feels really good.

What support are you looking for right now to help your business grow?

Thy: In order to grow the business, I really hope for continued and growing support from our existing customers as well as new ones. Down the line, I hope to work with some investors so I can move to a commercial space, but I am patient. Currently looking for someone to help us with a website and ordering system, and an accountant to help ensure I can keep this going long-term.

Britt:  The support I am looking for now is a delivery driver two days a week.  Also I would like to pick an established bakers brain on using larger equipment.  I’d like to see what software is available for ordering through my website.  I’d like to be connected with more egg farmers.  I have someone in mind for my logo designer. But I would like a stamp made.  Also I want to participate in feeding children in my zip code that have parents in need of some bread!

Mandy: I’m currently looking for the perfect kitchen to fit our needs. We want to feel inspired in the kitchen we work in, so we’re picky, but we know the right one will come!

Follow these bakers and place your orders!

Mims SLC: https://www.instagram.com/mims_slc/
Challah Back Dough: https://www.instagram.com/challahbackdough/
Mad Dough: https://www.instagram.com/maddoughslc/