Rachel Dunston is the talented entrepreneur behind Rachel Makes More Cake, a popular bakeshop in Clovis, California. Dunston began her business on Instagram, posting photos of her uniquely decorated cakes and taking orders for local pickup and delivery only. Recently, she’s made the shift from an exclusively online business to a brick-and-mortar store. Dunston spoke with Nav about how she’s navigated that change and overcome a few bumps in the road.
Online: The Perfect Place to Start
Dunston chose to start her business online because it required less capital and time to do so. “It was something I could do immediately when I decided I wanted to get into business.” She used Instagram as a place to be creative and post about the things she was passionate about – from baking to sewing costumes to daily life with her kids. Her cake posts garnered a lot of attention, and she began taking local orders.
Moving to a Storefront
As Dunston’s Instagram presence grew, so did her customer base and the number of cake orders she received. Her bookings would fill up so fast, she was unable to address a large percentage of potential clients. A friend with a candy and treat shop approached Dunston with a partnership idea. “I have a friend who owns a storefront who’s contracted me to come in and work from their location. I was in a position where I did not have to make a financial investment to be there because my name was so valuable. I was able to work out a contract that was beneficial to both of us,” she said.
Working from the storefront has allowed Dunston to grow her business and serve more customers. She has not had to invest capital into building the brick-and-mortar shop because her local following and Instagram presence is so robust. “My friend gets the traffic and the exposure that I’m able to provide by having already built that,” she said. “It is a good fit to bring in someone with a following if you’re going to make an investment in a storefront and you don’t have a following yet.”
Increased storefront sales have brought some challenges for Dunston. Primarily, she’s needed to hire help to fill the additional orders. While the added space of the store is beneficial, training employees has been difficult. “Having extra help is always a rough jump to make when you run your own business, but you get to a point where you can’t grow unless you invest in help,” she said. “It’s a hard leap to make, but it’s definitely worth doing.”
Though being in the shop has helped somewhat, Dunston is still not able to fulfill all potential customer orders, which is a pain point. “Because you’re in a store, there is an expectation of being able to fulfill all orders for your customers. But, right now, I still can’t fulfill all of my orders because I still don’t have enough trained staff and time.” she said.
Words of Wisdom
For would-be entrepreneurs wanting to get into business, Dunston advocates starting online like she did because of the lower overhead. “I think it’s important to start as soon as possible with whatever you can do within your wheelhouse with what you already have,” she said. Growing to brick-and-mortar can come later when you have more capital to invest.
Of making the move to a storefront, Dunston advocates finding a location that’s just right for you. “Be very careful about the size of your store in relation to the amount of time you want to work and the amount of business you want to drive. It’s really important to hit that sweet spot between the amount of space you need to work, but not so much that you’re paying for too much space, because that can really kill you.” Though Dunston’s retail contract does not include rent, she said seeing her friend grapple with this issue has been a learning experience.
Of making the transition to brick-and-mortar, Dunston said, “It’s a bit of a challenge to scale the business, but it’s a good challenge to have!”
This article was originally written on May 20, 2019.