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My heart is pounding, my hands turn cold, a tingling sensation begins to overwhelm my body as my breath becomes shallow. My legs give way and I pass out; falling into an exhausted mess on a grimy rubber mat.
I was ready for hard work. I was ready to push my body and extreme lack of sleep, and I did, but I was not ready for the anxiety, stress, and abuse of the heart of owning a business.
This blog is the one I have wanted to write, but am still too scared to expose my story and true feelings. There are two things that are certain about my post-DaisyMoon-storefront feelings:
- I am very grateful for my experience as a bakery owner. I say to my mom “It was a Harvard education for a community college tuition!” I learned so many things, and in no way is this blog a complaint, regret, or slander on anything I experienced these past 9 months.
- This new blog is meant to be what my brick and mortar could not, a true place of my expression. When I want, how I want, and as messy as I want.
I fully admit to being a romantic in heartbodysoul. I see every day with extra glitter, and the cup isn’t just half-full, it’s got free refills! This inaccuracy of life’s true perspective can hit me hard. No matter how many times it happens, I am always shocked life isn’t as I dreamt it would be.
When I envisioned DaisyMoon Bakery I saw a place of joy for everyone. I wanted to open my big Italian heart to the world and feed them to happiness.
And I did do that.
But I also got so lost in my own world.
At the time, I had been gluten-free for about 10 years. Being the insane lady I am, I developed some really kick-ass gf desserts. Being a professional baker, I wanted to produce gf products that were so yummy it didn’t matter if it lacked wheat flour or not.
If it tastes good, does it matter that it’s gluten-free?
I didn’t think so. It seems that most people don’t give two poops about what they put in there mouth. Unless it’s healthy… better not try to give them that!
I wanted to save West Virginia’s peoples one healthy dessert at a time, and then one day — the world!
I made sure that my products would stand to the test by fooling 400 people at a food competition into believing that my Tiramisu Eclairs was “totally normal”. One lady said how it tasted just like her Pate a Choux; I had to bite my tongue so hard not to confess I made it with coconut milk and tapioca flour.
So, I was feeling confident and decided to launch a Kickstarter to raise money for an opening.
300 beautiful people helped me raise over $11,000 in just 30 days.
I expressed my gratitude to my supporters time and time again, and I still hope they feel my heartbeat in awe for their help.
My heart also skips a beat with the weight of humility knowing that so many never even got a chance to stop in while I was open for 9 rollercoaster months.
So 10k later, and many, many, many, thrift store finds later I open DaisyMoon with $352.46 in my business bank account and four days till payroll for a staff of 8.
The first few days of opening were a spectacular boost of ego!
Every day we would sell out of everything… twice or even three times a day. Of pastries. Gluten-free pastries.
It was insanity.
No matter how many friends I pulled into the kitchen till midnight, or how efficient and pre-planned I tried to be, I could not keep up with demand. It was brilliant!
We not only made payroll with ease, but I was also making a profit!!! I mean, holy shit… here I am, just a few days in and I’ve been making money already! I was over the moon with joy and strength.
Then I hit an emotional ultimate low.
The lack of understanding that some patrons can have was a hard thing to swallow.
Most food establishments likely cringe at the possibility of having a customer who has a food allergy. They are a difficult client, and above all, you don’t want to make them sick.
80% of our patrons had an allergy of some kind. Saying we catered to a tough crowd is an understatement. But I loved my sensitive babies and did what I could.
The customer who walked in and expected Kroger prices and availability was an easy one to handle. And then there are some who your heart goes out to; they must have something tough going on to be as cruel as they are.
Day 7 into being open and it was 30 minutes till close and I was ready for a chair after standing and being insane for the last 18 hours.
Little did I know that I was about to get my first real taste of hot tears and the stab of an asshole of a customer.
She walks in, seeming like our ideal client. Except that she was evil. She walks up to the counter and opens the conversation with “I was in here the other day and I was so underwhelmed that I walked out. Then I was telling the people at the co-op how we need more gluten-free desserts and they explained how everything in DaisyMoon is gluten free.”
Me: “ Why yes, everything is, and I am glad that you came back! I am sorry that it wasn’t clear to you that our desserts are gf, I’m certain that if you asked the staff they would have explained. It is also written here on this sign…” I point out some tiny print on a sign on the register.
“OH COME ON! I can’t read that! And why should I have to ask? Anyways it looks terrible in here. It’s so underwhelming. I mean where is everything?”
“I can totally understand madame, but you’ve happened to catch us right before close and we have already sold out three times today. We are also within the first week of opening, I am just trying to keep up myself. Usually, our counters are lined with cookies and cinnamon rolls, when we sell out it doubles as an espresso bar”
“Ugh. Who would want to stand here and drink their espresso? I mean, At least put it in front of the window so they have something to look at. I mean this is just terrible, I worked in a bakery and we had the counters covered and fully stocked all the time. This looks pathetic. There’s nothing here” (blah blah blah)
“Well madame, what would you like to see?”
(a small reminder that she is in a pastry shop, not a chocolaterie.)
I was raised in a home where the customer is always right. I said nothing but kind things and tried to understand what she could possibly want from me at this hour.
My mind and heart was buzzing:
- Well yes, the counters are bare— but we are closing!
Your F****** espresso would be stone cold by the time you’d reach the window.
Oh, you worked in a bakery. Did you also run the business? Did you do all the baking alone? Was it the first week of opening?
Sure I could make my GF sign bigger… but I want to keep that secret on a need-to-know basis.
Maybe I should be working harder? Maybe I need to put in more than 20 hours a day!
I was ready to explode in tears and all I had to do was just wait for this evil to leave my bakery.
I began to hiccup on my initial flare of success and my confidence wavered. I began to seek ways to improve my business.
At this time I had yet to reveal that all of my products were gluten-free. I was still in the gluten free-closet, so to speak.
I knew that people who weren’t gf wouldn’t be interested and it would push people away. If someone could just decide if they liked my product without bias… that’s what I was after.
Some may think that I started to sell my dream/ soul to the highest bidder when I announced 8 months later that I was going to introduce wheat into the bakery. That was the last time, but not the first.
When I announced publicly that I was a 100% gluten-free establishment, that was the day I sold my soul.
Sales began to drop. The lurking phrase of “oh that’s not for me” haunted my heart daily.
Why did I have to tell the world? Who was it for? Not my idea, of course I thought that’s what people wanted, so I did it; I sold out to a few crazy health nuts.
The voice was so strong in my head about the products I should be doing, and what ingredients to use. If I don’t then I’m not a good person. I am failing the pure-food way of life.
I gave into the 1% of loud complainers and I began to make poor choice after another.
Why did they get under my skin so much? Why did anyone’s opinion but my own matter? Because I care. And that I think is the trickiest slope for all business owners.
We own a local business because we want to be a part of the town. We want to contribute. We want to please YOU.
Any parent can relate to this feeling.
By nature’s character, I look for positive change everyday. How can I run this bakery more efficiently? How can I cut costs? How many more shifts can I work so I can pay one less employee? Can I run workshops and make even more money during off hours?
So many questions through my head every minute of the day, and all the weight on just me. I made many choices, all with the intent from love and hope to make my baby grow.
I wanted to be the sole owner of DMB becasue I thought that was how I could finally prove to my parents, Morgantown, and the world how freakin’ strong of a woman I am!
It’s so hard not to fall into pre-conditioned lifestyles. Mine was “When I become a CEO or have a six figure, then I am successful”. Well, I may have been a CEO, but I was at about 6 cents a month for my salary.
I came from a family of business owners, and I knew I had it in me to do what they did. I had to. My chance was here and I started to mess it up.
Sometimes you know what is hurting your business and yet you are blind to it. Some owners have the terrible experience of having employees steal money, my problem was mine cared too much!
How can you tell your staff that they work too hard? Their over achievements in staying late and helping out longer was killing my little profits. I may have been more proactive in the moment, but this was a discovery what was made several more months down the road when suddenly what I had saved up became depleted.
I thought spring would help us bounce back, but there was never a bounce. We averaged $80 a day sometimes.
I began to grasp at any good idea. I would make plans to grow like introducing more of a lunch scene. Then bulk foods.
These seem like small changes, but consider, my ingredient list just expanded, ordering became more complicated, more steps for me in the kitchen, I was working with a product I never wanted… sandwiches.
I WANT TO OWN A BAKERY!!
That means desserts only. That means sugar and sweet. Maybe the occasional savory thing (and we did already have pizza and soup). I never wanted to sell coffee. I didn’t want to be a cafe.
I WANT TO OWN A BAKERY
From the very beginning I lost sight of my dream and was practically told I couldn’t do it.
Today, I don’t even care I failed at this business. To me, it felt very little like the dream I hoped to imagine.
It runs through my mind every day still. What went wrong.
Working in a different style bakery now it makes my brain break every day.
The pace and shared responsibilities. Everything runs smoothly and without anxiety. I recognize that I don’t shoulder the weight of ownership, but there is so much to learn in how these guys run their business.
I wanted DaisyMoon to feel like this. Like fun.
Sure we laughed a ton and had fun, but we also had to bust ass way more than I would have liked. I could have been a better leader. I could have had better defined roles. I could have shared the responsibilities more.
So much I wish I could have done, and not at all for my own personal gain. For my staff. For my patrons. For my town. I cared so deeply to add something great and in the end it consumed me.
After a year of opening a gluten free bakery in West Virginia (umm yea….), planning a wedding, and building a house I began to unravel.
In May I began to have fainting spells due to overstress.
The first time was kind… I was sitting on the bed and Jamie came over and caught me just in time and laid me down softly.
Other times were less graceful, for instance, passing out at 5:30am on the kitchen floor alone. My eyes scanning the endless to-do list as they roll to the back of my head.
Fainting became as regular as ………
I paused here a long time writing this. Became as regular as: bathing, eating, dog walks, sleeping, days off, days working…… nothing was regular in my life anymore.
Fainting became inevitable.
Finally the week off from bakery-life came! I had been looking forward to a small break fo so long and now that my wedding day was one week away I got my wish!
Even though I wasn’t serving customers I was busy finishing building our house, establishing flower beds with over 300 plants, hosting early arrivals, baking my 11-layer cake, and other wedding mayhem.
The wedding came and it was beautiful! It was a party that many will probably not remember.
Upon returning to the bakery I realized my delicate balance of finances finally got caught up with me.
The one week we closed was enough to throw me out of the black and it became a matter of deciding.
I was the one with the weight of the choice.
I was exhausted, everything I had done up to this point seemed to have no gain. I was depleted.
Do I acquire more money to invest in this business that I have no idea what it is anymore, or do I just turn off the lights?
I am more than content with the choice I made.
I learned many things about myself, and about business ownership through DaisyMoon.
I am happy to say I haven’t fainted since June.
I am on the recovery of reobtaining my life.
DaisyMoon will forever have a toasty place in my heart, but right now it feels like recovering from a breakup.
I can’t even bake gluten free without wanting to cry and clutch at my chest. I am just now starting to have regular shits and not anxiety stricken bouts of diarrhea. I have gained ten pound back from the hell of overwork and lack of meals. I am exercising and doing healthy things for my body again.
It was a priceless experience and I am forever grateful to everyone who helped me through it.
The biggest takeaway is to have had more help along the way. It seemed like I could do it alone. I did 90% of it alone, but I could have had more help. Asking for help isn’t a weakness… it build strength and even more community and stability.
I can still be a strong woman, even with a team alongside me.