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February 07, 2016
I've never been one for celebrating Valentine's Day. My hubby and I always have a lovely dinner with friends. He sometimes buys me flowers in the days leading up to or post Valentine's Day but that's about it. Now that we have kids, I usually spend more on getting them something than buying something for my hubby.
But now Valentine's Day feels very different. Very special indeed.
You see, I signed the lease on my commercial kitchen/factory space for Tout de Sweet on Valentine's Day.
I KNOW! Can you believe the timing? It was really super weird and I feel like perhaps it was the universe telling me that I was making the right move. That everything was going to be OK.
That was last year. 2015. One year ago next weekend.
The story goes, I had been looking for a commercial kitchen for months. I had decided that if I was going succeed in the candy business I needed to wholesale my goods to other stores. To do this, I needed a commercial kitchen.
Despite looking at the cottage food laws in California, which I feel should be applied to Canada to help new food businesses establish a solid foundation before they jump into paying full-blown rent, I decided that I would have to follow the traditional path and pay rent.
Then what I discovered is that finding a commercial kitchen in Victoria is next to impossible! Seriously IMPOSSIBLE!
There are shared spaces, but that would mean I couldn't claim there were no cross contaminants like nuts and gluten (which is a big part of my values in producing candy that is low in allergens!).
In some cases I would have to travel for ages to get to and from the kitchen, which wouldn't work for my family since I still have one child in elementary school.
And then when I started to think about building my own space/kitchen, well, the cost of doing just that was huge and I was just starting out (and needed to put my investment into things like packaging).
I had this grocery list in mind when I started looking for spaces. A wish list of sorts:
1. Be close to a school so that parents would see me on their way to/from picking up their kids. I'm not so concerned about having the kids be the driver of sales, it's the parents (mums, in particular) I'm after.
2. Be beside another complimentary business that is busy. I looked at spaces that were beside coffee shops. Beside a bike store.
3. Not have to rely on the retail side. When I first brought up the idea of having my own shoppe with my hubby, he pointed out that I wouldn't have flexible hours and this is what we needed as a family right now (and for the forseeable future). He was right.
So although I wanted to be beside another retail business, I didn't want to BE a retail business. I wanted to focus on wholesale so that I could shut up shop when my kids needed me to be there for them (after school, on weekends).
4. Not have to commute and have the ability to bring my kids, if needed. I looked a two shared kitchens but one would require I travel 40 minutes each way (that's not good travel distance when the school calls you OR when you hit a traffic jam on the way to pick up your child from school). The other was in a very dodgy area of town that I'm pretty sure had some very dodgy neighbours above and beside. I would NOT feel safe going there at night or bringing my kids there.
After 6 months of looking for an appropriate space, and in desperation for wanting to get this business going (I'm not the most patient person in the world), I almost signed the lease on the dodgy kitchen I mentioned above. Like really! The lease was in hand and I was going to sign it.
But then I decided I would do one last look online because I really didn't want to have to go with this kitchen. And voila - this sweet little space was available online.
I knew the space instantly because I had approached the previous tenant, who was a gluten-free baker, about sharing it (she said no because it was too small a space). And the rent was the same amount as the dodgy shared kitchen I was about to sign.
I immediately emailed the owner and explained that I wanted this kitchen and I would do anything to get it (I obviously did). Here's the kicker:
1. The location was kiddie-corner to my youngest daughter's elementary school. She walks to my shop every day after school.
2. The location was not only beside a great bakery but it was also right around the corner from my brother's bike shop. There are also a fish & chip shop, real estate agencies and doctors office throughout the one block.
3. Because of the location (in the basement of a converted house), I would not be relying on retail but would focus more on wholesale with a 'touch' of retail.
4. It was 9 minute commute from my house; a mere 1 minute commute in the morning after I drop off my daughter at school
So I guess the moral of this story is to always make a list of what you want and put it out there to the universe. You never know, you actually might get it when you least expect it.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone. Here's to dreaming big and loving the dreams you make come true for yourself.
Tout de Sweet Confections is located at #1 - 1267 Fairfield Road, Victoria, BC. Come visit me!
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