- Welcome to Founder Finances, a new insider series dedicated to the monthly budgets of founders.
- In this story, a bakery founder shares her monthly budget of $15,000.
- She says investing in transparency and planning are the most important steps.
Shawn Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2019, just a month after moving her 8-year-old bakery, CheeseCaked, to a new storefront.
She immediately took time off from managing the company to receive treatment and closed the bakery. Two years later, after completing chemotherapy, she relaunched the brand. Since then she has scaled the bakery, opened two retail locations and surpassed 39,000 Instagram followers.
“Sometimes businesses start out in a way that’s in the mind,” Brown said. “Then when they reach the public, they go their own way and you have to adjust to what people want.”
One of the hardest parts of running a business is securing funding so it can grow, she said. While she has taken out a few small loans, the majority of the cost of doing business comes out of her own pocket.
Window displays and social media marketing are two of the most lucrative investments, even if rent and advertising alone cost more than $4,000 of her monthly budget, she said. Especially with fears of an impending recession and inflation affecting many aspects of their business, staying visible as Brown continues to build her brand is crucial.
Brown breaks down her April budget, how to invest in visibility and prepare for uncertain times.
Here is the budget breakdown
Invest in visibility: digital and stationary
When Brown relaunched CheeseCaked in November, she opened a storefront in downtown Atlanta’s underground district. In March, she unveiled a location in Norcross, Georgia.
Brown didn’t originally plan to open two brick-and-mortar stores, but said it helped build brand awareness from customers who were unaware of CheeseCaked before going out of business. Today, customers visit the stores to buy desserts, celebrate special occasions and even host events like weddings, birthday parties and deals, Brown said, adding that creating “experiences” has become part of her brand.
Brown spends more than $4,000 a month on rent and store expenses like Wi-Fi and other utilities. After the physical storefront, Brown said social media is another necessary expense for her brand’s relaunch.
She hired her first social media manager in 2016 — when she felt her brand growth was stagnating — and grew her social media following by tens of thousands through organic content. Today, many of CheeseCaked’s 39,000 Instagram followers become paying customers, Brown said.
“When I started, a couple of food bloggers reached out and one asked me if they could run my page,” Brown said, adding that this social media whiz was charging $100 a week.
Convinced by her mother that it would be a worthwhile investment, Brown paid the $100; Within two weeks there was a line out the door, she said.
“Now it’s part of payroll and social media management is one of my most important things,” she added.
Also, as the store reopened after her cancer treatments, she used social media to gauge whether the brand would be missed and would have returning customers.
Budget strategically for market conditions
To stay on top of finances, Brown invests $625 a month in accounting services and constantly re-evaluates which baked goods are the least expensive and least cost-effective, she said.
With the economy changing and inflation skyrocketing — where cream cheese and eggs were particularly hard hit — she had to make choices like: B. removing dishes from the menu or changing their prices.
“I had to raise the prices, but I didn’t do it across the board,” Brown said, adding that she raised the prices on about 40% of her items.
It’s important to stay strategic with pricing during tough times, she added.
“When I’m bad financially, so are my clients,” she said. “And I don’t want to push myself so far out of the market that they can’t even come in and buy something.”