Tantalizing pastries. Devastatingly delicious desserts. That's what Brandon Kelley makes ... expertly.
With help from MO SBTDC specialists, Brandon Kelley made the leap
and opened his own bakery in Jefferson City, Missouri. (Video courtesy
of Roger Meissen, MU Cooperative Media Group.)
Baking is his life. And now it's his business.
In August, the mid-Missouri native opened B.K. Bakery LLC. It's Jefferson City's destination for some of central Missouri's best tasting muffins, Danish, scones, cakes and pies ... to name a few of the delicacies he bakes every day.
Brandon is no stranger to private enterprise. His entrepreneurial bent can be traced to his junior high school years in Chamois when he started his own lawn mowing service. With nearly two dozen customers, his lawn duties kept him busy for three summers. "It was a continuous cycle. By the time I had finished cutting the last lawn in the cycle, it was time to start back again with the first lawn."
During high school he got a dishwashing job with Madison's Cafe in Jefferson City. At the time he had no particular interest in making a career in food preparation. It was just a job to earn some spending money. But soon he found himself asking his fellow kitchen workers how to advance from dishwashing. Their consistent reply: "Learn how to cook!"
So, after high school Brandon attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., to learn his trade. He earned an A.O.S. degree in baking and pastry arts.
Following graduation he worked in the kitchens of the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Wash., and the Upper Crust restaurant in Columbia. The owners of Upper Crust sought Brandon's advice in assembling their second shop in downtown Columbia. They asked him to select all the equipment for the kitchen. It was an assignment he later would apply in his own business.
He found all these professional experiences valuable. He also found his trade was becoming an art. But eventually Brandon grew weary and wary of selling his time and talents to others. So, nearly two years ago he decided a better recipe for his professional life was to work for himself.
"It's a lifestyle," says Brandon. "I'm doing what I want to do."
Preparing the many delicacies Brandon creates is a labor of love: "I get up every morning knowing I'll be doing what I enjoy. How can anyone go to a job they dread? I say, 'If you don't like what you're doing now, do something different.'"
Brandon decided to follow his own advice. But he learned early in the planning stage that the business side of baking was new territory. While his expertise in the kitchen is beyond dispute, he soon determined he needed expert advice to embark on a business venture. That's when he enlisted the help of Chris Thompson, MU Extension business development specialist based in Cole County.
With Thompson's help, Brandon tackled several basic issues related to starting his bakery: financing, location selection, business planning, marketing, breakeven analysis.
"I knew I couldn't figure all this out on my own," admits Brandon. "It was Chris who helped me face the big questions about starting a business, but he also helped me understand many of the little issues too, that can make or break a new business."
So far, B.K. Bakery is operating in the black. Brandon keeps a close eye on labor and material expenses. He also relies on as many in-state suppliers as possible: "I want to do what I can to help Missouri's economy."
Ida Cox, the bakery's general manager, devotes most of her energies to dealing with the customers and beverage preparation. That frees Brandon to devote most of his time to pastry and dessert creation.
"We had a good Thanksgiving," boasts Brandon. "We turned out about 90 pies in the days leading up to that Thursday. It was nearly more than we could handle. I'm hoping for a similar outcome for the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays."
Word-of-mouth advertising from his many satisfied customers seems to be doing the trick. He's got pastry and dessert orders coming in for many private parties focusing on the winter holidays. And for the second consecutive year, Brandon will create the desserts for the annual Jefferson City Heart Ball in mid-February at the Capitol Plaza. That event traditionally attracts more than 600 people.
"Of course we have yet to see how an entire one-year business cycle goes, so it's too early to tell for sure how well business will go. But right now we're doing better than we expected."
With Chris Thompson's help, the owner and pastry chef of B.K. Bakery has learned it's all in the preparation ... and the business planning.
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This story was featured in the Dec. 2009 newsletter.
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