Welcome to our So You Wanna Start A... series, designed to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the journeys that went into creating some of your favorite local brands.
Today's guest is Jess Anderson from Jess Desserts, a dessert shop in Des Moines, Iowa.
Our favorite piece of advice: "Grow within your means." Much of the advice you'll read out there is all about growing quickly and explosively but that doesn't mean that's the right pace for everyone. There's a time to take risks and a time to improve what you already have going. Jess is a perfect example of someone who's put in the work with patience and continued to steadily grow year after year!
If you're curious about starting a dessert shop, learn a little more from Jess and connect with her using the links below!
I own a dessert shop and have always had a passion for baking. As I got older, it fit more and more into my life and became something that I wanted to pursue as a career. I knew early on that I wanted to have my own business, but I didn't know when or how that was going to happen. I went to Iowa State and have a degree in food science. The fall after I graduated I was doing a lot of orders (mostly for family and friends), and then it started to pick up. One night I was sitting at home and decided there was nothing preventing me from starting my business, so I just did it! I signed up for my business name and did all of the initial things. That was about three years ago!
One of the first big things that happened was that I got to make desserts for an event at The Hall in Valley Junction. The company I worked for saw that I was doing business and reached out, and I made cookies and cupcakes for them. It was Harry Potter themed, and I got to be creative and do whatever I thought worked. It was way out of my comfort zone and I thought it was probably too much too soon, but it went over really well. It was a big confidence boost for me to have somebody trust me with the process.
I think my biggest struggle is the behind the scenes business stuff because I'm afraid of doing something wrong. Like, tracking my income or expenses. That's the hardest thing besides growing the business and pushing through.
1) Just do it! I know that's cliché but honestly there's never going to be a perfect time. You might have an opportunity, but there's never going to be a time where there's not obstacles.
2) Grow within your means. I talked to somebody that owned a local coffee shop when I was in college. They were very successful, but they always said they just grew as it was right for them. They didn't jump way ahead and spend a bunch of money on something that didn't make sense for them at that point in time. When I started my business three years ago, I wouldn't have gone and bought a building and spent thousands of dollars setting up a kitchen .Now I'm three years in and I'm thinking about that for the next steps. Go one step at a time.
3) Always be learning. I have learned a lot of different skills from different people, not all baking-related. For example, things about business and being personable with people. Some good things and some bad things. Even now I learn things from TikTok or videos of somebody making something. Don't underestimate the ability to learn from other people.
I'm at a bit of a fork in the road. One of the next steps would be adding someone to my team to help manage some of the growth. The business really took off this year, which is amazing but it can be overwhelming sometimes because I'm doing everything. The other thing that I'm split about is the next kitchen option for me. I've been renting a commercial kitchen space and that's been great, but I'm growing out of it. It's not the best option for me right now, so I have started looking at retail spots and also thinking about a mobile option to reach more people. The farmers market has been great to be in front of people every week and I think that's such an important thing for my type of business. I'm considering the options and looking around trying to figure out the next best thing to do. We're going to ride the momentum from this summer a little bit longer and hopefully get settled into a new place this fall or winter!
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With episodes on everything from pitching the media to effective Instagram strategies for local business owners to winning a Food Network show, Local to Legend is all about everyday people building extraordinary legacies for themselves and their brands. Find it on your favorite podcast app.