Sometimes Change is the Best Ingredient in Small Business Success
Picking just one thing and doing it well can turn around an entire business.
When a craving strikes, sometimes there's no getting around it. You just have to have it.
Audrey C., a Yelp reviewer in Seattle, saw one picture of her friend's tres leches cake and that was all it took to send her to the internet to find one nearby. A traditional Mexican dessert, the "three milks" cakes are moist and sweet, but not overly so.
And if you know, you know how delicious they are, and also how hard they are to come by in the average bakery.
"I'm a really, really big fan of tres leches cake," said Audrey. "My best friend is down in California, and she sent me a picture of the cake that she was eating. And this just really made me crave it. It's a really specific thing, tres leches cake. The first thing that I did was go online and see if I know anywhere that sells that type of cake. And I actually found this place called Tres Lecheria."
Co-owner and baker Kevin Moulder owned Cubes Baking Company before it morphed into Tres Lecheria, and it was part circumstance and part quick thinking that allowed him and his business partner to pivot to a tres leches-only bakery during the pandemic.
"I remember it vividly. We were sitting at the bar next door to our bakery. And he was telling me, 'Hey, things aren't looking so good, Kev. What are we gonna do?' We had a tiny, tiny fridge at the time that had like four flavors of tres leches cake. Nine outta 10 customers were coming in for that. And nine outta 10 reviews that we were seeing on Yelp and anywhere else online were about that," he said.
"So let's give that a shot. Let's expand the options of our tres leches cakes, and let's just become a tres leches-exclusive bakery and see what happens. So that happened in 2020, and it's been the best decision we could have ever made."
While that strategic pivot saved the bakery, it was Kevin's ability to take advantage of another happy circumstance that allowed Tres Lecheria to expand beyond the walls of their storefront and into grocery stores up and down the West Coast. A former employee got a job as a bakery buyer at a grocery store, which led to more orders and another revenue stream. But it took planning and thought to make it work, and the willingness to accept change as a part of business growth.
"I think a lot of business owners get stuck and they're afraid not to make changes. They're afraid to abandon a certain concept. It's hard sometimes, especially when it comes to a passion project. It's hard to give it up and say, you know what? I really wanted this to work 100%. Sure it's working fine, but we are just spinning our wheels, never getting anywhere. We need to make that change," said Kevin.
As he expanded, Kevin used a graphic designer to make the most of his labels, using them as branding for the bakery. While he thought he had it nailed, a simple suggestion from one of the grocery buyers—to add color to the labels to differentiate between flavors—was met with a little resistance from Kevin, at first.
"I was resistant because I was like, this is just more money. And when we're just trying to survive, why should we make this change right now? So that was the conversation I had with my business partner. And he was all for it. He was like, she's the expert. And I was being resistant to that," he said.
"And then I remember the day that the colored labels came in, and I did a mock up on all of our flavors, and I put them in a line in order of the colors of the rainbow. And I was like, yeah, those pop. This was definitely the right decision."
The shift in branding was simple, but impactful. Sales increased, and his product became more recognizable, which resonated with reviewers like Audrey.
"I thought their packaging, their branding was really unique, and it stood out to me because with food being such a close interaction with people, you're touching the products, you're touching the packaging. I feel like that plays really into it and it adds to your overall experience."
Use these tools from the success of Tres Lecheria to expand your small business, including:
- Where you start might not be where you end up. Be open to pivoting your business based on internal and external motivators.
- Set small goals along the way to expansion to make it more attainable. When it comes to growing your business, set small attainable goals as guideposts to the bigger goals.
- Be open to opportunities as they come. Kevin didn't open his bakery with the intention of a national wholesale business, but the opportunity presented itself.
- Take constructive criticism as it's intended: to make your business better. Whether it's through reviews or feedback from a vendor, Kevin used those messages to improve his business.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Kevin and Audrey, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
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