If your coworkers beg you to make your killer Guinness chocolate boozy pie every year or you like to spend your non-work hours perfecting your Baked Alaska recipe, you might want to consider turning your apron into your day job attire. Or maybe you were inspired by Melissa Ben-Ishay, the entrepreneur behind Baked by Melissa, who quit her day job in advertising to start her popular cupcake company. In this week’s entry in the How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Shannon Radke, co-founder of Cinnaholic, a vegan cinnamon bun franchise, about how she turned her baking hobby into a full-time career.
Meet the Bakery Pro: Shannon Radke
Before she started Cinnaholic, Shannon worked in the veterinary field, but even as a kid, she loved baking pineapple cookies with her great grandmother, grandma and mom every Christmas. In her 20s, Shannon rediscovered her love for all things sweet when she started baking again. She brought her baked goods to work and donated treats to local bake sales and vegan events. But it was a chance meeting through an online vegans and vegetarians group with her future husband, Florian Radke, that changed her life: He suggested that Shannon turn her hobby into a business. With Florian’s background in branding and marketing, Shannon jumped at the opportunity, and Cinnaholic was born. Currently, the company has five locations — in Berkeley, Las Vegas, San Diego, Atlanta and Southlake, Texas — with four more on the way.
1. Get the word out. Before Shannon even opened the doors to her first Cinnaholic location in Berkeley, California, she started a blog called Confessions of a Cinnaholic to spread the word about the business idea she and Florian were developing. “We sent samples of our product to all of our family, friends, local businesses, anyone and everyone really, in hopes of getting solid feedback and a bit of word-of-mouth promotion going,” says Shannon. She spent about a year developing the recipe — experimenting with different fats, flours and sweeteners — before she landed on the perfect dough for her signature vegan cinnamon rolls.
2. Be a business shark. In May 2014, Shannon and Florian made their TV debut on Shark Tank and scored a deal with one of the sharks, Robert Herjavec. They ultimately decided to go in a different direction, but appearing on the entrepreneurial pitch show earned them tons of interest. Shannon shares her tips for making it on the show: First, have a unique product. Second, know the numbers for your costs, expenses, profits and valuation and more: “They will definitely quiz you!” Lastly, exude confidence. “This one is difficult under pressure, especially if you’re an introvert like I am. You have to forget that eight million people are going to be watching your every move. Own whatever it is you’re selling,” says Shannon.
3. Prepare yourself. Shannon isn’t shy about the many long hours she’s logged making Cinnaholic a successful bakery business and franchise. “It took me a year of making phone calls, calculating costs and researching ingredients, etc., in addition to working my full-time job,” she says. As you plan to quit your full-time paid gig, think about what you’ll need to launch your idea off the ground before you can ditch that dependable biweekly paycheck.
4. Network like a boss. Even though Shannon confesses that she’s an introvert, she’s made sure to head to networking events specifically for women entrepreneurs. “Reach out, ask questions, take notes and research. Resources are abundant online, and there are plenty of people willing to lend a hand and help you reach your goals,” says Shannon. Test out your idea with like-minded supporters in an empowering environment.
5. Learn from every experience. Though a lot has happened with the bakery since it opened in 2010 as a family-owned independent cinnamon bun shop in the heart of Berkeley, California, Shannon chalks up every lesson she’s learned as good life experience. “We’ve had several recipe flops, challenging moments in learning to manage things, days where we may have not made the best decision. But we just take mental notes and try again until it works for us. That’s just life though, right?” says Shannon. Every entrepreneur will encounter challenges along the way, but taking it in stride will keep you going forward.
6. Surround yourself with support. It takes a village to raise the capital to start any business, and Cinnaholic is no exception. Shannon credits Florian’s and her own incredibly supportive families with helping them financially, emotionally and physically. “Our families have been crucial to the success of Cinnaholic,” says Shannon. Their families offered a loan when she first started the business, Shannon’s mom runs the bakery’s customer service department and Shannon’s 14-year-old daughter even pitches in to help at the Berkeley location.
7. Carve out time for your passion. Shannon worked a full-time job while spending a year to create Cinnaholic from the ground up. She shares that every business needs dedication, money and long hours. “Find ways you can carve out time to work on your dream project, even if it’s just a few hours at night at first, and start saving by building a financial cushion,” says Shannon. While it might not be easy, the payoff will be well worth it if you get to make your dream career flourish from all of your hard work.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Cake Decorating Online Class ($9): Learn from pastry chef Tessa Huff about how to bake a cake from scratch and decorate it like a champ. Plus, when you’re done, you’ll have a gorgeous vanilla cake made with homemade buttercream!
2. How to Start a Successful Bakery or Baked Goods Business ($100): This three-hour course, held at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, covers the basics of a business plan, marketing and positioning your bakery as unique.
3. Join a Networking Group for Women Entrepreneurs (Free): Learn from other #girlbosses who have successfully launched their own companies by attending a meetup or a networking conference near you. Check out the website Empower Lounge for even more resources for women business owners.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Cinnaholic)