When the baker gave two weeks notice for his retirement at All You Knead Bakery in Beacon, NY, store-owner Simone Williams couldn't just hire another baker. The baker was her business partner, and he was the one with the recipes in his head and the kneading knowledge in his fingers.
Processing the information, Simone did what every successful business owner does: thinks up a backup plan for survival. When your main supplier of your product tells you he's going to stop making that product in the next two weeks, you've got to act fast, and that's what Simone did.
Simone did much of the marketing for the bread company, ran the day to day operations and dealt with press inquiries like for this story in the New York Times. She was the one who pushed for their bread company to move out of their former headquarters at a former high school in Beacon, which is where several other small businesses and artists had set up shops. Simone scouted a storefront location on Beacon's Main Street, and they moved operations. Simone's husband does the marketing, delivery and participation at farmers markets.
Simone had no experience as a baker, yet undertook the most crucial understudy role a person can take in two weeks. She watched her soon-to-be former partner bake each loaf, and studied every recipe for his techniques. She had him write out each recipe for her official cookbook, which has grown since then with her own recipes, like Samosa, as I discovered. As many small businesses can attest, the one experienced in an area of the business may not have a system written out, should they need to be unavailable for a length of time. These systems are crucial to a business's survival.
Simone learned to be a baker in two weeks time. She learned about the steaming of the bread, the kneading it, and the other secrets that were soon to live in her head. The bakery is thriving in Beacon, supplying many establishments with special order breads, including Adams Fairacre Farms. They have a fan following at farmers markets. And now their foot traffic is picking up in the store as Simone cooks up new recipes and aligns with other local businesses on the street.
I'm not sure I could have done it - taken my own course in baking in two weeks, and turning around to fill the orders that kept my business afloat. It reminds me of a profile story we did on chocolatier Nutty Steph's, who needed to scrounge up investment money to buy their chocolate factory from the man who made their chocolate who had been struck with cancer and could no longer make the chocolate. Add Simone's story to this list of Business Survival Stories, as she is an inspiration to us all!