It is only fitting that the first product from my new company, Amai Tea and Bake House, is brownies, my favorite dessert. I honestly didn’t think I would start with such a rich and chocolaty item as my first product, but it turned out to be the perfect choice for the holiday season. We sold hundreds of champagne brownies last week and worked almost 24 hours a day to get them baked, packed and shipped on time. It was a great challenge and I thank everyone for their orders and kind comments on the site.
When people say that starting your own business requires a lot of work, they mean it. My average working day ran from 8 am to 2 am, with little to no rest in between. Of course this won’t be the case once we have everything down to a science, but it highlights the intensity required to get something off the ground. I could not have made it through this week without the help of my business partner Kathryn, fellow baker Molly, and most of all, Andrew. Andrew was there every night helping in any way possible, and knew just the right time to make a joke or give a nice word of encouragement. I feel very lucky. Thank you everyone.
So what did we actually do this week? We weren’t exactly the model of efficiency, but we learned a lot. The week would always start by cranking up the Hobart mixer and baking large batches of brownies (in 14″ x 14″ pans). Once those cooled, it was time to cut the pans, which can take several hours to complete (if anyone knows of a brownie cutting tool hiding out there, other than a long knife, please let me know!) The difficult thing about brownies is you don’t really know how well they turned out until you start cutting. For example, I varied the baking time by 4 minutes on one batch and they came out so undercooked we couldn’t use them. I’m still trying to figure out where that batch went wrong, and our only guess is that the butter was too warm or the oven temperature was off. In the future, I would advise people to start with a nice and simple product like cookies where you can immediately tell if they are done or not.
While the brownies were being cut, the rest of the team was working on cutting labels and paper to wrap the brownies in. Since our packaging is still in the prototype stage this took a particularly long time to figure out, but hopefully we’ll never have to go through such a manual process again. Our biggest scare of the week came when orders exceeded expectations and we ran out of boxes in the middle of the week. We placed a last minute order through the box website, Uline.com, and were able to get replacements in the very next day (shipped from Pennsylvania). Uline saved the day.
Once the brownies were inside the decorative packaging, which was no small feat, they had to be securely packed for shipping. I advise any business to take advantage of the free boxes provided by the postal service, since buying boxes can really add up and take off from the bottom line. You can order these boxes online from USPS.com (where you can also by postage with free delivery confirmation), but I figured this out too late in the week and did everything the old fashioned way in the post office. Of course, going to the post office in the middle of the Christmas season did lead to some memorable moments. My favorite time was when we were standing in a line of at least 20 people and we could hear a woman at the front counter yelling to a postal worker, “Thank you for your help you f***ing a***hole!” to which the postal worker screamed back, “Your mama!”. Yeah, I’m not kidding. In the end the packages got on out on time, and the postal workers were generally very nice and helpful.
Now that this special holiday run is over, it’s time to apply the learnings and start building the company. They say you’re not really a company until you actually sell something, so even though we have been putting together plans for the business over the last couple months it just wasn’t real until this week. So what is Amai Tea and Bake House about? I hardly know where to begin, but will do my best to outline it in upcoming posts.
I hope you enjoy the brownies. Happy holidays!