questions and answers, and then questions again

October 26, 2009 |  Category:   life the biz


I’ve learned a lot about myself during my month off. I know that I need to work for my own sanity and self esteem. I can easily rise to the challenge of juggling multiple projects at once with gusto and tireless energy, however when I’m not working, I can be just plain lazy and unmotivated. I’m finally working again on a few projects and coupled with the upcoming holiday season I should be crazy busy until Christmas. Remember how stressful and sleep deprived last year’s Holiday!Cookie!Madness! was? Looks like we’re headed down that road again. This, however, hasn’t provided any relief to my anxiety as it normally does and I’m wondering if, for the first time I would be better served with a stable staff job somewhere that would bring in a steady paycheck with benefits. With both kids able to go to school full time next September, it seems like it could be financially possible to work on staff even though it wouldn’t be my first choice. The cost of full time childcare negated it before. There are other questions though…will I still be able to run W&S if I did work a staff job? Sure, there are many months where I work full time freelancing, but I don’t have a commute (which cannot be underestimated!), I can switch gears during the course of a day when I need to and I can do most of my work at night.

For the first time, Mark and I pretty much decided a few days ago that we need to have our own kitchen and open up a store. I’ve been really ambivalent about it and the thought of being married to a store with expensive overhead, debt and a huge initial investment makes my stomach churn. But where else is there to go from here? We certainly can’t continue like this for much longer. It’s sort of remarkable that we’ve been able to do every aspect of the business ourselves to date without any outside help at all. This includes volumes of cookies and orders, manning tables at fleas and festivals, designing, packaging, marketing, customer service, waiting at the post office with packages and delivering orders all over the city – all while holding other freelance jobs and taking care of 2 kids. It can get crazy. Why not get help, why do you do this, you say? Simply because we have to. They say that it often takes a business a few years to turn profit. We’ve been turning a profit practically from day 1 because of financial necessity. We’ve been resourceful and lucky in keeping our overhead low and we’ve worked hard. But even I can see that this can’t continue forever.

So the timeline for the store is 2 years when Claudine enters Kindergarten. 2 years is a long time. But it’s also not. Anything can happen, really. It can go both ways. Maybe Mark will throw his hands up in the air and want to quit. Maybe I’ll really warm up to the idea of a store and I’ll charge ahead with enthusiasm enticed by visions of the children hanging out behind the bakery counter after school. I don’t know. The food industry is not easy. Having a store will not necessarily make our life easier or make us more money, but at least we have some sort of plan, however vague it may be at this point.

Until then? I need a swift crash course on taking things one day at a time. It’s a harsh reality when you need to ask yourself “are you happy?” and you can’t really answer the question honestly to yourself because you are afraid of the truth. There are joyful moments as you can see from posts here, but lately I feel like we are largely moving on autopilot. Clearly we have some things to work on.

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  • Dinah October 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    How exciting that you guys are definitely going to open up a store! Scary, I know, but soooo exciting! I think it’s beyond remarkable that W & S has been just you and Mark up to this point, can only imagine what you’ll be able conquer with a few helping hands.

  • Avery October 26, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Remember that everyone has anxiety about the future. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s what keeps me going. It seems that what you have in your life is really good. Two beautiful kids, a dedicated, loving husband and a company that has opportunity for growth.
    I can’t ask myself the question “are you happy” because I know I won’t always like the answer – but I do know what makes me happy, and I’m sure you do to.
    I am currently in University in a program I don’t know is right for me. I’m scared for my future as well… heck! I have no idea what I even want to be when I “grow up”… but like you said it’s a day by day process.

  • mrs boo radley October 26, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Awesome. Enjoy the journey, wherever it may take you.

    mrs boo rad

  • Annie From Seattle October 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! A store will be fabulous! I can’t wait! I think I might have to come to NY for opening day, I really might.
    Oh, to design a retail interior…what fun for you, Jenna.
    Can’t C go to kindergarten early? She seems precocious.

  • quyen October 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Call me crazy but I think that a store front might the answer to all the chaos. A store can keep you organize, reduce travel time, give you the ability to expand your bandwidth, and be as efficient as possible. Have you thought about a postage machine so you don’t have to be at the post office so often? Yes, the cost to open a store is crazy but you and Mark have a winning business. I don’t see failure anywhere in your future. Good luck! By the way, the girls are BEAUTIFUL!!!!

  • Ginny October 27, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Plans to expand are scary and exciting! Is staying in the city important to you and Mark? Building a kitchen or a storefront is expensive in the city. I recall reading how NYC area bakery rental prices motivated the move of The Black and White Cookie Company once he was ready to expand beyond what his apartment could handle.

  • Kitty October 27, 2009 at 12:36 am

    It makes sense to take things a day at a time but it’s not always possible. I think we all think ahead + wonder (or ahem, worry though try not to).

    I doubt anyone can ever leave work at work, especially when it’s your own business but I think it would be nice to have a space separate to your apartment. Own kitchen sounds good.

    But would you keep distribution deals with existing stockists? Guess is in 2 years though so there’s a bit of time to have a think…

  • Laura@mtp October 27, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Hi Jenna, how exciting to have plans for a shop – it would make sense to separate home/work, although I understand when it’s your own business you never really switch off to it…at least it would free up your home space.

    On the work front, some people are happier with a regular pay check, others aren’t; I’m about to find out what’s best for me as I leave paid work on Christmas Eve!

  • Manya October 27, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Oh my God Jenna, I’m in the same stage as well. I’m in the process of taking my baking business outside the house and I’m scared to death! It’s like swimming in deep ocean. I just got back from a trip to Asia, and I’m “hiding” from everybody because I’m really not looking forward to the Xmas craze. My house is going to turn into a gingerbread house factory with no place to sit, sugar and flour all over the place, husband, two children, every day life problems, no sleep….Everybody tells me that it’s stupid not to open a store, but I’m so scared, I’m in a dilema. So I definetely know what you’re talking about.

  • Nina October 27, 2009 at 2:41 am

    I go back and forth on the store issue, too… I think that it is the only way to have long-term stability and growth (unless you go the factory-style wholesale route), but every time I’m in one of my rented kitchens and a freezer breaks or some permit issue comes up or a renovation cost is discussed, it’s so nice to not be the one to deal with it. 🙂 Everything is so expensive! I think that 2 yrs is a good goal to keep in mind, while being flexible depending on what comes up.

  • Chai Ling October 27, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Wishing you all the best of luck on your store opening project. Hopefully, I can enjoy a cup of tea and W&S cookies in a fine afterrnoon here in Singapore.

  • kate October 27, 2009 at 5:36 am

    I say go for it Jenna. Family friends of mine had a similiar business called Simply Beautiful Biscuits in Australia and started the same way as you guys and opening the store was the start of bigger and better things! Loads of luck!

  • Susannah @ Art Nest October 27, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Best wishes on opening a shop! I am a former business (small eatery) owner – All 3 of my children were ‘shop baby’s’ and all my customers have loved watching them grow! It’s very European to have the children with you!
    I agree with quyen – it just might be the answer!
    Again, Best Wishes – I look forward to seeing what happens~

  • chrisi October 27, 2009 at 7:04 am

    hi! I’m fairly new to your blog but it’s beautiful and I just wanted to say; breathe and keep going :] your girls are adorable and I know things get so hard but that makes us inventive… good luck with everything, I’m following! (every step of the way) :]

  • Perideau Designs October 27, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Congratulations on making a decision and the best of luck to you both. I have no doubt that this endeavor will grow leaps and bounds.

  • dee October 27, 2009 at 7:56 am

    working for yourself or for someone else seems to be the question of the century! i quit my office job about 2 months ago, and it has been difficult for me to motivate myself and work on things i am passionate about due to x # of excuses. i wish you the best of luck in figuring it all out!

    your daughters are gorgeous 🙂

  • Kwil October 27, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I think I am always asking myself these very same questions. I currently work a staff job and would long to work from home… but, yes, it lacks stability. And stability is exactly what I needed in order to gain some sort of control of my anxiety and stress issues. I am still on my quest to find a happy medium. It may never end.

    Sounds like an actual shop might be exactly what you need to actually create/sustain some form of ‘organized chaos’ if you will. Good luck on the decisions!

  • hammocks October 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

    you sound like you’ve hit that place where you don’t have a choice but to go up. it’s definitely scary to think about but i think you guys are pretty darn smart and will make the right decision. personally, i cant wait to see a w&s store! i’m definitely feeling similar in that i have hit a point where i have to outsource in order to grow, it’s terrifying, and some days i consider going back to a stable paycheck rather than worrying about my bills but there’s nothing like this kind of growth. terror and all…

  • decor8 Holly October 27, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Have you considered a cookbook?

  • dawn October 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

    have faith, face the fear and listen to yourself 🙂 you will know what to do when the time comes…you have a business that rocks and a beautiful family…you are very blessed!

  • mindy October 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    You are right, a store won’t solve all the problems, just create new ones. But if that is your (or Mark’s) dream, then you have two years to kick it around. Well, really one year, beacuse the econd year will be planning for the opening (if that’s what you decide). Just remember you guys are still young and that’s the beauty of being young, you still have time to make mistakes! So entertain all offers and suggestions and keep doing what you’ve been doing. If you are successful now, you will be successful then too–it will just be lots more work. (And, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go back to work–it’s calm, relaxing,and you should be following a dream too. GOOD LUCK!!!!

  • .amanda. October 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    ::smiles:: your goals are admirable.

  • Natalya October 27, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Good luck – your cookies are amazing! I’ll be following you 🙂

  • angela October 27, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I’m with Holly- have you thought of doing a cookbook? I have thought several times that I would love a Whimsy and Spice cookbook! I bet it would be gorgeous with your photos too…

  • Brenda October 28, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Oh yay! How exciting. Y’know, a cookbook could be incredible, but … if you put out a cookbook, then you have to follow up with another, and then another, and so on and so on. Which isn’t a bad idea, but timing wise, could probably wait for your physical shop to start and stabilize (AND bring a lot of attention to the new store!). I so love the idea of a W&S shop, whether in Brooklyn or a locale with lower cost of living/retail leases. 🙂

  • Fog and Thistle October 28, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Well it’s the most logical direction to go in and I’m glad it’s on the table. Don’t discount the idea of moving to the burbs and opening out here, where the rents are lower. We’d love some W&S in Montclair 😉

    I’m very excited about your forward thinking!

  • Bess October 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Wow, a store! What a great idea. I can totally picture it – think of all the fun you’ll have designing every aspect of it. Congrats on this next step, and good luck. I also wanted to say that I really appreciate how candid you are on your blog, thanks for sharing it all with us 🙂

  • jean October 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Do it I say! And plan NOW. 2 years will breeze by.

  • Alicia October 29, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I don’t know anything about shop ownership, but I would imagine that it would eventually give you the freedom you might want in time to develop new recipes, work on new products, etc. Look at Levain Bakery, people flock from all over to eat there, and it’s tiny, I’m sure if you get a good following, you can afford to pay people, and you guys can do all the fun stuff! Would be super exciting.

  • Gina November 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I have come to believe that it is quite fine not being happy all of the time. Some gifted people are born with a truly happy temperament, but many of us are not. Our modern day insistence that success is measured by our happiness quotient is a simpleminded contrivance. I think this Pollyanna obsession with happiness and positive thinking is unrealistic, and at times destructive. It’s ok to be in periods of less than happiness (I’m not talking about depression). In fact, for creatives like yourself I think it is crucial. It’s what gives your photographs their depth and that certain something that touches us. It’s what makes those fleeting moments of joy especially poignant and transcendent. And, autopilot is ok too, you’re gearing up for the next phase.