Coaching boosts bakery’s efficiency, profit
Need more profit? Make more products, right?
Abigail’s Bakery’s organic and whole grain breads and rolls were popular at farmer’s markets and in Hannaford’s, Whole Foods, and other stores. So why was owner Jenny Gilligan’s business coach suggesting she eliminate some of her products?
“Why would we cut back?” Jenny thought. “Shouldn’t we offer more? You know, please all the customers? Offer them everything they want?”
The reason became clear when she and her coach calculated the cost of making each product. “He’d say, ‘Yeah, you’re selling more, but you selling more doesn’t equal more profit.’ ”
Jenny met regularly with her coach for three years as they worked on a variety of issues—from financial literacy, cash flow, and budgeting, to compliance, risk management, and marketing. With a better handle on Abigail’s business controls and its cash position, Jenny focused on producing the goods that created the most profit. She upgraded her website and sold more online. She focused her retail sales on the most-profitable stores and markets.
When we checked in Jenny in 2018, she was a happy business owner. “We’re really busy here,” she said. “Everything’s going really well.”
That wasn’t the case in spring 2013, when Jenny called the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Her business was barely hanging on. A contractor had made a mess of the bakery’s wastewater system and refused to fix it. The resulting lawsuit left Jenny unable to borrow money to make the needed repairs. The state threatened to close the bakery.
We financed the repairs and, after talking with Jenny about her business challenges, recommended a consultant. She was an eager student.
“He taught me to read the bottom line on everything we did here,” she says. “My business is really efficient right now, which I love. Production is very efficient. We’re not wasting time, we’re not wasting money.”
Increased sales, revenues, and jobs
As a result, Abigail’s sales rose more than 30 percent and revenues increased by two-thirds. When we made the loan, Jenny worked with one part-time delivery driver. She now has seven full-time employees and pays them a living wage.
Twenty percent of Abigail’s sales are now online, delivered to customers all over the United States through NH Made’s discount shipping program.
As much as Abigail’s business has grown, so has Jenny’s business savvy. She says she has a deeper understanding of the factors that drive productivity and sales.
“It’s great to have faith in the business and what it’s offering, and say, ‘Yeah, if we make this, we can make a profit,’ ” she says. “I can pay my employees very well and make sure they’re happy.
“I’m really thankful to (the Community Loan Fund) for matching me up with such a wonderful person,” she says. “It’s great that there’s an organization like yours that will work with small local businesses.”
The Community Loan Fund’s investors and donors made it possible to help get Jenny get past her business crisis and unleash her potential as a business owner. Investors provided the capital with which we made the loan, and donors provided funds for the consultant who helped grow her business.
This is how our investors and donors are helping strengthen local food systems—one business at a time.