Jessica Bruno and her extended family know all about running a family business. In fact, the Bruno’s Organic Bread of Heaven bakery, based in Gary, IN, takes the concept of “family business” to a whole new level. In 2014, Jessica’s dad started the organic, vegan, Kosher, nut- and soy-free bakery with one goal in mind. He wanted to build an economically sound business to provide jobs for Jessica and her nine siblings, plus all their spouses and children – and help support their local ministry.
Today, Jessica’s dad can put a big check mark next to that goal. Organic Bread of Heaven’s home-baked goods are available in nearly 80 stores in and around Chicago and are even sold on Etsy. Jess and her sisters bring their bread, cookies, pies, muffins, granola and more to multiple weekly farmer’s markets and other events. Jessica, who serves as the family accountant and is an active member of the QB Community, tells us about her family’s fascinating entrepreneurial adventure.
Jessica, what drove the decision to open a family-run bakery?
My family has been in the food business before. In the past, we ran a small bakery here and also in Kentucky, where we lived for a few years. When we moved back to Indiana, my dad wanted to invest in a business that would support all of us. We went to an equipment auction and ended up getting a very good deal on a large production mixer, as well as some other bakery equipment.
Around the same time, we were driving to visit a friend. We kept seeing signs that said, fresh bread sold here. Later that day, a man approached us in our van and asked, “Didn’t you used to sell bread?” He had bought from us years ago at a market. He told us it was the best bread he’d ever tasted and if we sold it again, he’d buy it.
With all these signs, we felt it was the Lord’s will for us to open a bakery.
It helps that we’ve always loved baking, and we think of it as an art. It’s also a science, because we’ve spent a lot of time testing and adapting recipes so our products taste great and are allergen-free, except for wheat.
We spent our first six months in business experimenting in the kitchen. There was a lot of trial and error. Now we know exactly how the ingredients influence the product, so it’s easy to replace eggs and dairy, for example, with other options.
With so many family members involved in running the business, how do you approach the division of labor?
Between my immediate family, plus a family of four that’s like family to us, we have a lot of people working on different aspects of the same business. My brothers each take care of things like packaging, taking care of the ovens, making sweet breads and doing the mixing. My sisters and I make the pies, and we tend to go to the markets and events – sometimes, we go to 16 in a week! My mom handles Facebook and Instagram. Another sister works on the website and marketing. My younger sister takes care of invoicing customers. I’m the accountant for our business, and I do some purchasing and sourcing, too.
On baking days, which happen on Monday and Wednesday, everyone works together in the bakery. On any given day, we get up between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., and we all pitch in and do whatever needs to be done.
Did you expect to become the number one number-cruncher?
Not at all. I’d taken a course on financial record-keeping and accounting, but one of my older brothers was planning to do the accounting. When he got too busy, I asked if I could help. I started slow, sending invoices and paying bills through QuickBooks. Now I do everything, and I love it.
It’s fun for me to interact one-on-one with customers and vendors, and I like the challenge of keeping up with everything I have to do.
Any changes on the horizon for Organic Bread of Heaven?
We’re excited about offering our newest product, frozen pizza. But truthfully, we’re not trying to make our business huge. Of course, we try to reach our yearly revenue goals, and we’re all happy to work really hard. We’re used to that. But running a successful bakery takes a lot of time. Our goals are to stay on top of all that we need to do and to continue working together as a family.
Before you go
QB Community members, do family members or close friends help you run your business? What helps you keep those relationships humming? We’d love to know.
I’ve been self-employed for most of my career as content specialist, so I know how much discipline and determination it takes to run your own business. As QB Community Content Chief, I love sharing the stories of people committed to doing things their way. I hope you’ll join our community and share your inspiring story!