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Updated: July 24, 2023 The Hustle is Real

I set my shame aside and returned my bakery to profitability

Renee Diaz smiling Photo | Courtesy Renee Diaz Renee Diaz
Read Renee Diaz' other The Hustle is Real and The Struggle is Real columns through the links at the bottom of this article.
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Every July, The Queen’s Cups closes for a week-long vacation. After a busy spring season, everyone is tired and needs to take a breather, like school-aged kids waiting for Christmas break. This spring in particular, we had an intense eight weeks of specialty menus and custom orders. I applaud my employees for staying positive and dedicated during a whirlwind.

Yet, I had this feeling in my gut every time I looked at our bank account. Something was off, but the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was investigate what was happening. I pretty much always choose avoidance at first until thoughts take over me and I feel compelled to act, which is exactly what happened in this instance.

Finally, on one particular Friday, I reached out to a trusted confidant and asked if I could call them when I finished work. Throughout the rest of that day, I felt on the verge of a panic attack, secretly taking deep breaths in the bathroom and talking myself through it. I left work, got in the car, headed to get myself a large Diet Coke with extra ice, and sat in a parking lot crying for a half hour, practicing over and over what I was going to finally say out loud to this person. I had no grasp on the business side of TQC, and I had stopped being the employer and became the employee. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and lonely.

Once I had the courage to make that phone call, I was met with sincere love and guidance. This person made me feel normal, shared their own personal experiences, and left me with two things. First, there is always an answer. Second, do you know your numbers? The answer to the second question is I had no idea about my numbers. This was a major point of shame and embarrassment.

I had to uninvite myself from my pity party, put my pride aside, and get to work. I dedicated my entire vacation to reintroducing myself to my business. I went through every single recipe, converted cups to ounces, looked at the price per ounce, knew the yield of each, and determined the cost of our ingredients. From there, I had to add labor cost and overhead to determine if we were even selling the item at a price that would cover everything, let alone make a profit. Reluctantly, I had to raise my prices for the first time in two years. In total, I spent 9 hours and 45 minutes on my calculator doing math, not including the hours of recipe work, community research, and comparing prices of items between our vendors. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience, but it reignited the fire in my belly.

After going through my pricing, I had to tackle the next beast: bank statements. I had two highlighters, yellow and purple. Purple was allotted to frivolous spending, and yellow was dedicated to seemingly high vendor bills in need of reevaluation. I was spending money on more unnecessary items than needed, and most of my vendor bills had gotten to a price range I could no longer afford. I had to cut back or make difficult decisions on ending relationships I held for almost a decade. After going through bank statements, I took our top six categories of items, chose the three best sellers, and created a list for my managers and employees so that they could see it themselves. When we returned from vacation, we discussed what certain things cost and began to manage our donations and waste, by creating a donation list and waste log. There was an excitement in the air to be back, well rested, and making the business better.

Doing these exercises was mentally draining, but it was the most necessary thing I have done all year. The main goal was to get a grasp on costs while not compromising our quality of work. I came up with solutions to problems, cut unnecessary spending, and reduced monthly bills in order to continue purchasing the best items for our customers, who we are so appreciative for.

Renee Diaz is the owner of Worcester bakery The Queen's Cups.

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August 7, 2023

I am not a business owner but can relate to the feeling of putting the blinders on until you can no longer avoid what's bothering you. It's scary to sit down and confront what you know in your gut is an issue. Amazing things can happen after tackling what you've been avoiding - and sometimes what you thought was a mountain to climb is actually a small hill. Thank you for sharing, Renee! I love your cupcakes and hope your business stays part of the Worcester community for years to come.

Sharon Tonelli
August 2, 2023

This was a wonderful article and it should be read by every business owner. Kudos to you for putting it out there and many could use this as guidance.

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