why we won’t have croissants for a while / generalized grumpiness about the entrepreneurial life

I’m really proud of our croissants.

They’re gorgeous, buttery to the max, and entirely vegan, yet not made with horrible artificial crap. The only ingredients are local organic flour, beautiful organic coconut butter, sea salt, organic coconut milk, a bit of organic sugar and a pinch of yeast.

I’m always thinking about how making chocolates epitomizes the idea that something can be “simple, but not easy.” That’s the croissants recipe to a tee. So simple, but it’ll take you five hours to make it. When I make them for the shop, I make 100 or so at a time, late at night while I watch movies and make Jacob hang out with me, then I freeze them and bake just a few a day, which sell out in the morning and then that’s it until tomorrow, because day-old croissants aren’t the perfect apex of ultimate perfection, so out they go. (We make Croissant Caramels with any leftovers at the end of the day!)

Around the holidays last December, I just couldn’t cut it anymore. My late nights were spent making chocolates for the flood of orders, and something had to give. So no croissants for a while. Then I went on vacation. When I came back I made a batch, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t incorporate the coconut oil into the batter efficiently enough, and it all leaked out when they were baking. I had a feeling the batch wasn’t going well, but I was tired and didn’t want to do another “turn” (folding the dough like an envelope and rolling it out into a thin sheet is called a “turn.” My recipe has four of ‘em.) so I just went with it and they were not fit for eating and were barely fit for grinding into crumbs for Croissant Caramels. When you make a recipe that potentially brings in $300 (100 croissants x $3 each), ruining it pretty much ruins your day. But it happens, and I was gentle on myself and decided to just not make croissants again until after the next crazy time, Valentine’s.

You might have noticed that it’s now mid-March and no croissants have been forthcoming.

I’m trying to find ways to make the shop (which I love) compatible with not working 100 hours a week (which I do not love), and it seems that somehow croissants just aren’t compatible with that goal. The other thing about croissants is that in order to make them as fluffy as possible the coconut oil needs to be as cold as possible, which means that rolling it out is a major workout for your wrists—rock hard fat on top of cold dough. Can I say it again: not easy.

Unless, that is, I buy something called a dough sheeter. A dough sheeter is basically a giant pasta machine, the kind you might have gathering dust in your garage that you always mean to break out to make some homemade ravioli but never really do (I have 3. Sigh.). When I buy a sheeter, we’ll be croissantizing up a storm, because the dreaded rolling step is taken out of the equation—the dough just magically passes through the sheeter four times and presto, done!

But a sheeter is $1000-$1500. So: not easy.

And here’s where I get grumpy about being a small business owner, particularly a vegan one. There seems to be this trend in the vegan world of for-profit businesses asking for donations in order to start up or stay in business. This infuriates me. I know the money donated to these donut shops or bakeries who want to buy an espresso machine (yep) comes from well-meaning animal advocates, which means it’s not going to wonderful animal charities who desperately need the money. Not that small businesses don’t need money—hoooo boy, they do. We do. But (and I know I’m making myself sound really high and mighty here, and it’s probably because I feel really really really high and mighty about this) no matter how much I want a dough sheeter (and no matter how much you might want croissants!), I couldn’t live with myself if I put up a Kickstarter.com campaign to get my pals and customers to “donate” to the “cause” of me making money.

We’re still slowly doing renovations on the building the shop is in (stay tuned for a fun announcement, around next month or so!), we still have to pull off all the ugly siding on the outside of the building, spring is coming and I really want to buy a cool bike rack and some beautiful landscaping outside the shop, quarterly sales tax is due—it’s going to be a while until that sheeter enters my life. But that’s just the way it goes.

And that’s the story—a bittersweet one, you could say—of why we don’t have croissants right now.

But soon!

 

12 thoughts on “why we won’t have croissants for a while / generalized grumpiness about the entrepreneurial life

  1. holy tealcats, i can’t believe no one will loan you $1500 for something that will pay for itself within a few weeks or a few months. i’m a working poor schlub from schlubville or i’d loan you some dough.

    that said, why not have a good oldfashioned socialist fundraiser? you make the most magical goodies ever. you can’t go wrong if you just use your amazing creativity. put on a show. raise money for a nonprofit in addition to the exact amount you need for the croissant thing. stuff people with chocolatey soul food. a lifechanging experience will be had by one & all.

    • Yeah, I could totally get a loan, or put it on a credit card, even. But I’m done with running my biz that way, I gotta just save. :) good idea for a (non donation) fundraiser though!

  2. you can look at it as a pre-order type of thing.

    anyone who donates $30 gets a punch card for 10 croissants. and maybe a $50 donation can get them 2 punch cards. it’s not charity then, and they would have eventually spent that much at your shop anyway.

  3. I’d be down for a pre-order type of deal. Your croissants were amazing (even after being shipped all the way to NV) I keep hoping to get some more :D I’ve asked some of my local vegan friendly bakers but they are not up for the challenge! This post makes me admire you even more btw. Just keep staying true to you!

  4. You could make croissant sales into a charity in their own right. Raise money for the sheeter and then donate a dollar from each croissant to an animal rights group! Win. Win. Someday I will come to NY and visit your shop in person. California is far to far. Best of luck to you!

  5. You do not just run a business, you provide a service. Taste is such a powerful medium for memory and emotion, as you doubtlessly know, that should not be undervalued. Biting into a croissant that throws me into a memory of my first visit to France with now passed family members, years later, brushing crumbs off the face and hair and fingers of a lover, years later, discovering in drunken glee croissant french toast. Food allows us to time travel, therefore, you, the baker, have given countless customers a ticket through a bend in time and space for the price of a pastry. Hopefully, you can see how lucky we feel, and how grateful. Would it hurt to give it some further thought? To consider what principles you are ostensibly holding on to, and what role pride may play (oy vey, I know, but just speaking from experience on that one)? There is nothing shameful, weak, unethical, etc. about a community supporting each other’s livelihood when that livelihood is providing a service to the public with global consciousness and sensitivity.

    Off the soapbox, sorry! Pclvr has got the right idea. You can totally make this work, and you would not be asking for help, but for customers to put their money where their mouth is (ha!).

  6. Ok I’m late to the party, but! I wanted to put in my two cents as a fellow young bootstrapping* entrepreneur that I totally get where you’re coming from, especially in terms of being in a new business and having to reflect on the past year with a critical eye of what to keep and what to pare down in order to be the most efficient/profitable without suffering burnout.

    I basically chopped my entire line of greeting cards from my online shop because I realized that although I loved them, customers loved them, they flew off the shelf, etc, I was getting burned out printing/folding/packaging/mailing the darn things – much easier and less stressful to print off 135 wedding invitations and pack them all in a big box to ONE person (really, two!) than to package up 135 greeting cards separately and mail them to 135 separate people.

    My friends helpfully suggest “get an intern!” “hire an employee!” but I’m really not in a place for that now, but maybe in the future! Here’s to a future of success where we’ll have dough sheeters and minions aplenty, paid for by our own profit margins!

    Ruth

    *Wikipedia helpfully defines it for those not in the know: “Bootstrapping in business means starting a business without external help or capital. Such startups fund the development of their company through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses”

    • Yeah, exactly! It’s hard to make those decisions, especially when people like things you can’t do in large batches. Everyone goes nuts for things with candied flowers, but I have to make them in small batches because I can only watch Reno 911 and make candied flowers for so many nights in a row and pretend that it’s “free labor”…ah, the entrepreneurial life!

  7. Pingback: 2012 Highlights (from the entire Lagusta’s Luscious crew!) | Lagusta's Luscious!

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