“The help we’ve received from Northern Initiatives has been extremely beneficial.”
– Andrew Brand, Bake Superior Bread
Andrew Brand isn’t sure where his business would be without the technical assistance provided by Northern Initiatives.
“If we’d just gotten cash we wouldn’t have used it this economically,” he laughed. “We wouldn’t have even known what to spend it on.”
Andrew and Rachel Brand opened Bake Superior Bread in Ironwood in 2017 and have been Northern Initiatives customers since the start, including a second loan they probably could have gotten from a traditional bank. Over the last five years, they’ve learned about branding, logos, websites, online ordering (or not), Quickbooks, pricing, financial reporting, cash flow planning, forecasting, marketing, hiring, SEO, and budgeting through Northern Initiatives Business Services, including Initiate, an online learning portal.
The Brands ran with their knowledge. Where most small businesses fail in the first five years, Bake Superior Bread’s profits, net income and total assets have all increased.
And they’re still learning. Andrew is the manager and baker, while Rachel is the pastry chef and business manager. They’ve adapted their menu and baking in ways big and small, from adding more sweet items (“People just love sugar,” Andrew laughed.) to axing the pizza altogether.
Moving from pizza to sandwiches was the best change the bakery has made, Andrew said. “Our sales have almost doubled.”
Christine Rector, the Northern Initiatives business coach who worked closely with the Brands, remembers that fateful decision. “There wasn’t anyone doing grab-and-go gourmet sandwiches and that was a hit,” she said. She also advocated for a pricing change, explaining “You have to value what you have.”
Rector, now retired, relished working with the Brands. “To see that kind of success in a young couple and a young business is pretty cool,” she said. “Andrew and Rachel are committed to working in their business and on their business. They really care about the success and are committed to putting systems in place.”
Another tactic the Brands tried was online ordering, but it was one more thing to keep an eye on and, with only two people in the bakery a lot of the time, there weren’t enough eyes to go around.
From their restored historic downtown building, the Brands have watched Ironwood change. The new Iron-Belle Trail starts (and ends, the city is proud to proclaim) in Ironwood and goes to Detroit; historic buildings are getting new life; and green space and parks abound. Andrew laughed that the people moving in from big cities think Bake Superior Bread’s prices are low, while longtime residents think they’re high.
The Brands are proud of the quality and consistency of their baked goods and the key to that is keeping Andrew and Rachel’s hands baking them. Besides working 12-hour days in the bakery, the Brands home-school their two daughters, ages 8 and 10, so a work-life balance is essential. Staffing shortages have frustrated them for the past two years and, when considering the future, hiring someone to help free up some of Rachel’s time is the main thing on the list. But the Brands will continue to be flexible, with Northern Initiatives supporting them, knowing change is not only inevitable but can be embraced. “I’ve seen a lot of small businesses stagnate, which isn’t good for anyone,” Andrew said.
Bake Superior Bread success:
- A continued increase in profits, net income, and total assets
- During COVID, the Brands took out the tables and chairs in the bakery. Customers and staff love the extra space and there are no plans to put the seating back.