Solving One Problem at a Time: Baker Sadie Scheffer on Gaining the Confidence to Run a Small Biz
Love can make people do the strangest of things — including finding a new passion for making gluten-free sourdough bread! Such was the case for Sadie Scheffer, who started baking to win the heart of a gluten-intolerant love interest. Although that relationship didn’t work out, her enthusiasm for gluten-free baking soon went from a hobby to a full-time business.
Over five years later, the Bread Srsly brand can be found in grocery stores across San Francisco, as well as at craft shows nationwide. We spoke with Sadie about the benefits of a getting a business education, the challenges of expanding your production and why you should recruit your mom to help spread the word!
I first started baking to impress a gluten-intolerant boy who I had moved to California for!
Things didn't work out between us, but I determinedly made cookies for about a year and got pretty good at gluten-free baking in the process. It was a fascinating challenge, and as I got more interested in fermentation, I moved towards making breads. I found out that I also had an intolerance for gluten, so I created a sourdough starter. I began selling it to my friends in order to make some money for recipe development.
At the beginning it was just a hobby I had while I worked at a coffee shop, but it kept growing and I decided to launch a gluten-free bread company called Bread Srsly. In my first week I had 13 orders! People came to my house to pick up their loaves.
From then on, I baked once a week. I began working full-time on the business in 2012.
Who was your very first customer?
My first customers were my friends, until I met a friend of a friend who helped turn my idea into a business. She worked at an allergy clinic and after she told one of her clients about my products, word just spread!
Pretty soon I was getting requests from the press. As the publicity grew, I was able to go full-time. Now, I get most of my customers from craft shows and social media platforms like Instagram. Also, my mom and my mother-in-law always hand out my business cards when they meet people!
When did you know your business was going to work?
About four months into starting the company, I was talking to some of my customers and they recommended I go to an all-female business class.
I ended up enrolling and it was incredible. It taught me so much and it gave me the confidence to realize that I could make it work. After that experience, I had the business knowledge as well as the product.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
The biggest surprise was that, around two years in, I became really interested in the business side of running a business. Rather than doing all the baking myself and have someone else run the company — as I'd initially thought would happen — I now don't do any of the baking at all!
How do you price your products?
Honestly, I made it up in the beginning!
When I was first selling directly to customers, I picked a number in the middle of what two other brands were charging. But when I won a wholesale account, I went for the lowest price I could, which was $6.
Doing wholesale was a huge eye-opener. At a farmers' market, I might do 20 hours of work and only part with six loaves. But with wholesale, a grocery store could sell the same amount and I’d only have to do 20 minutes of delivery. Since then, I mainly do wholesale and my markup is tailored to that.
I'm currently working on bringing my prices down, though. Because sourdough is so labor-intensive, it means that we’re currently one of the most expensive breads on the market.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days change so frequently that it's hard to have a routine!
Since my bread is made in a special baking facility, I tend to get up early most days. I head into the office to take care of any admin that needs doing, as well as set tasks for my employees who handle marketing and finance.
After lunch, I might help pack orders in the kitchen, or I’ll have meetings with clients. I usually go home around 5pm. The business is getting to a stage now where it runs smoothly, so I have more time to spend with my husband and friends — which is great!
If you could go back in time, what's the one thing you would do differently when you were starting your business?
I like to solve one problem at a time, so if I knew how many issues I'd have to figure out when I started my business, I might not have started!
I wouldn't change much because it's been a great learning process — which I've taken one step at a time. The only thing I would have done differently is to have more confidence in myself and to believe that I could achieve more than I ever thought possible!
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I love hearing about how other people manage their work-life balance — how they run a company and have a family.
As Bread Srsly becomes more self-sustained, I'm moving towards working remotely. So I'd like to learn about how other business owners are able to work away from the office while still staying involved.
Share *your* work-life balance tips with us below!
Do you have tips for Sadie that she can use when she moves to running her business more remotely? How have you learned to balance family life with growing a small business?
Share your stories, tips, and ideas with us below! :-)