Monday, February 27, 2012

Journey to the Jillicious Desserts Bakeshop (Part 1)

It's been an exciting, long, crazy, busy, stressful journey and just three months ago, I saw my dream of owning a bakeshop finally become a reality. So many things had to fall into place, so many people helped and hours and hours of planning, organizing and learning have all come together to create our new retail bakeshop.

Many people have asked me about our history and how we found this location of our bakeshop and although it may have seemed to have happened quickly, here is the timeline of what was happening behind the scenes and some of the details that made up this process.

If you have ever started your own business, you understand how much work goes into getting a real brick and mortar location up and running--but, for those of you that haven't experienced this, I hope I can provide the insight and details about how my experience worked out.

But I should start at the beginning, which takes us back to 2004...

August 2004

While driving back to California from a road-trip home to Oregon with my best friend who I grew up with, we started talking about ideas about what else I could do professionally.  I had been working with a company that had provided me with many great opportunities and several promotions and although I was good at my job and had enjoyed most of it for years, I didn't feel like I loved it as much and I knew that it wasn't my passion.  My friend told me about her cousin that had started culinary school in Portland, OR and as she told me about it, I thought "hey, this sounds interesting, I need to find out more information about this field." 

When I say that this was an interesting thought, you need to understand about my background.  I learned to bake and cook at a fairly young age from my Mom who taught Home Economics and Food Science for years, so I had a wonderful influence and a love of  cooking and baking from as far back as I can remember.  I especially loved to bake and that love had continued throughout the years into adulthood.  So when I say that was an interesting idea, I was finally putting it together--I could do something I enjoyed and it could be a career.

That night after getting back home to the Bay Area, I googled culinary schools and pastry chefs to find out more information.  I found a website of a school in San Francisco and emailed them for more information.   I had no idea that I lived less than 30 minutes from a well known culinary school.   A couple of days later, I received a phone call from someone from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.  We talked for almost an hour--she let me ask lots of questions and she patiently answered them.  After some time thinking about how this seemed like something I would like to know more about, I made an appointment to visit the school.
September 2004

I took a tour of the culinary school and after seeing all the students and talking to a few of the chefs that taught there, I just knew that this was the path I needed to take.  About a week later, I applied for school and decided to start the program in February 2005.  Although it was still a few months away, I needed to make preparations to leave my full-time job in San Francisco and I didn't want to leave before the holiday season, which is so busy in retail stores and I felt like after being with this company for over seven years, I wanted to give them time to find a replacement.  I finished up my last week of work for that company in January 2005.

February 2005 - September 2005

I was officially enrolled in the Baking & Pastry Program at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, CA and began classes in February 2005.  My first class was a Cakes Class and I knew within the first couple of days that I had definitely made the right choice to change careers (I didn't doubt this, but the confirmation was a nice feeling to know I was doing what was right for me.)   I loved everything about this class and knew that I would specialize in cakes and I loved everything about making cakes, decorating cakes and having that creative outlet in making delicious and beautiful cakes.

During my schooling, I came up with the name Jillicious Desserts for a project that detailed owning a bakery and I hoped that one day I would actually be able to have my own bakeshop.
I worked hard in school, not missing even a single day and took lots and lots of notes that are so valuable to me even today.  I even met my mentor Chef Doug during my last months of school and have had the opportunity to work with him even since that time.

*There are many more details about culinary school--too many to cover here, and I may dedicate another post about my experience and classes.

October 2005 - December 2006

Graduation at the CCA
My best friend, myself, my Mom & my best friend's Mom.

After graduating from the CCA, I searched for a position in my new field and found that I had to go through many, many interviews and inquire about jobs to find out the details and if something would be a good fit for me.  While looking for a job, I still was able to spend time with my mentor and learn as much as I could to prepare me for the future.

I finally found a new bakery that was opening up near my home in Palo Alto, CA and was hired with the first group of assistant pastry chefs.  It was a Japanese-European style bakery and I quickly learned that although I had made many fabulous desserts in culinary school, it was something else to start at the bottom of the ladder and for the first few months, all I did was weigh out ingredients and prep other ingredients for the desserts.  But perseverance paid off and finally the head chefs taught me how to decorate their cakes using fresh fruits and their style of decorating.  I moved into other areas of the kitchen, working with cakes, tarts, chocolates, candies, jams, mousses, cheesecakes, cream puffs, breads, and other pastries. 

During this time, I began working on ideas and products for Jillicious Desserts and had even made a few cakes for friends out of the smallest kitchen I've ever had in an apartment. 

After being at the bakery for over a year, I realized that there wasn't really a place to move up within that bakery and so I made the difficult decision to leave the Bay Area and move back home to Oregon to create Jillicious Desserts into a full-time business.  There were several reasons I choose to move back home, including the offer from my Mom that I could live at home and license our kitchen there and also, Oregon is one of the few states that allows you to have a licensed home kitchen (California does NOT allow for that and it was very expensive to live there) and so I made the move home in December 2006.

January 2007 - June 2007

It took six LONG months to get our kitchen licensed.  Actually the quickest part was getting the license, but there were many hoops to jump through with the county.  There were many requirements that the county requires regarding the septic system, and other things that are not directly inside the kitchen.  After getting all of the requirements and going through a process that really could have been more organized on the county's end, we were finally ready for the actual kitchen inspection by the Department of Agriculture for the State of Oregon.  I had been in contact with the state inspector during the long six months of dealing with the county, so the actual inspection didn't take long at all.  By the end of June 2007, I was officially in business to bake and sell product out of our licensed home kitchen. 

*If you want something done, learn all you can and consistently follow up with people--this was something I've always known, but really put into practice during this process.  And it wasn't the last time I had to do this--if anything that was just the beginning.

During the six months of making sure we were doing everything legally, I worked on creating recipes for the Jillicious Desserts menu, trademarked my business name, and became a sole proprietor.

July 2007 - March 2010

From that point on, I had to learn about everything concerning my business; how to advertise, I created a website, practiced taking pictures of my creations for the website, learned more about photography, made my own menus, business cards and gave out lots and lots of samples, worked at many events and continued adding to my menu.  A lot of what I learned to do was out of necessity, because I didn't have the financial resources to hire professionals and so I figured it out and did it myself.

I began doing wedding cakes, and set up wedding consultations and provided the option for customers to either pick up their desserts from our home or I did deliveries, which I charged a small fee to cover gas and time.  Word-of-mouth became one my my best advertising tools and soon I was beginning to have repeat business.  I had clients from several nearby towns, Kings Valley, Philomath, Monmouth, Corvallis, Albany and Salem.  I loved working from home and having the flexibility of my own hours and I tried to take advantage of my time to practice new dessert recipes and create new products for Jillicious Desserts.

As I became more established with my business, it became clear that in order to take it to the next level, some changes would need to be made and this included the possibility of finding a retail location--but where and how would that happen?

*Coming up in Part 2...
I start seriously looking and planning to open a retail location.


  1. Jill...I loved reading this! Thanks for sharing and I do want to hear the next part of the story too!

    1. Thanks Carrie! The next part of the story will post in a couple of days. :)

  2. Great blog Jill, I enjoyed your story and to hear a lil something that you've done since High school. I look forward to stopping by your shop as soon as I move back up there in a few weeks.

    1. Thanks Jerry! Yes, do stop by the bakeshop when you are in town.

  3. As a fellow entrepreneur, it's great to hear about how you got started and how finding your passion catapulted you to where you are today! Looking forward to part 2...

    1. Danny: Thanks for your comment! Your story is also an interesting one and one that I think you should share. :)

  4. Inspiring. I'm looking forward to Part II.

    1. Thanks Jeff! It will be coming soon. :)

  5. Jilly, come back to us! You are an inspiration to pastry lovers global wide. We need your posts with delicious yummy tantalizing recipes.
    Do not forsake us please!