Name: Stephanie LaCroix

Age: 50

Title: Owner

Company: Engine 5 Bakehouse, Waterville

About: The neighborhood bakery specializes in a full line of pastries, pies and breads.


Stephanie LaCroix

Who was your biggest influence in starting your business? 

I don’t think any person actually influenced me. It’s something I always wanted to try. I had tried lots of other things. I’ve had many different careers, ranging from a teacher to a park ranger, to just working for the hospitals, doing office work, that sort of thing. Doing accounts payable, all that. I really enjoyed baking and people like my baking, so I was encouraged to try it as a profession. My undergrad degree is in wildlife biology, of all things.

There’s a satisfaction in seeing that other people enjoy what I make, and making something that actually tastes good and people really get excited about it.

How do you foster creativity in yourself or your staff?

I tune into what goes on in the industry. I do subscribe to newsletters and keep up with what’s going on in the baking industry in general. I get my ideas from that but also from listening to my customers. I am always asking people what they are looking for and what they would like to see. I am judging by what sales are going well and what sits there for a while. I’m a creative person; I don’t like to get bored here, and fortunately my staff doesn’t either. We’re always looking to try new stuff because we don’t want to get into a rut.

We had a couple of ladies who would come in maybe once or twice a week looking for carrot cake. I would always encourage them to order a carrot cake, because my business isn’t enough yet where I can stock a case full of cakes and expect them to sell. So we struck a deal  that I would make a carrot cake bar for them. They did come back and buy them, but in the meantime, the carrot cake bars started selling to everybody else. Because of them pushing me to have that sort of product in the lineup, I have now added it permanently. It happened as well back when I started with quiche. I always wanted to make quiche. I was pretty overwhelmed, but I had a customer who came in and gave me her phone number and address, and wanted me to let her know when I started making quiche. Now I make quiche every day.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

I got a lot of help, a lot of encouragement from New Ventures of Maine. Even over three years ago, I started doing research and going to as many workshops as I could find. I really had a good relationship with that organization and went to a series of intensive business workshops. For a three-month period, I drove to Brunswick every week. Through that program I was introduced to so many other people, speakers that would come in and talk to us and give us advice.

In my mind, it’s don’t give up. You will be only as successful as you allow yourself. There really isn’t any end point. Your business is always going. You are not going to reach a certain point and say, “Now I am going to sit back and relax.” You have to keep things fresh and keep them moving. Your business is a living entity.

I don’t know where I picked it up along the way. I have seen it in books and probably heard someone say it, was that you need to work on your business, not necessarily in your business. I have always had that in mind. You can say it all you want, but the reality of being able to do that is a challenge. Industries like mine, where you are baking, or a more creative outlet like photography, you go into it because this is what you love to do. But the reality is, if you want to be successful, you will spend very little time doing it. You have to step back and look at all the aspects. And little by little you have start to hand the reins over to other people. It’s not that I have a hard time letting go, it’s difficult to find people who understand your way of thinking. You can’t expect other people to think the way you do about your business. To them it’s just a job.

Where will you be in five years? 

I will stick with this business. I will give it a good effort for the first five years just to make sure it’s actually a business, so the IRS doesn’t call it a hobby and close me up. I opened in June 2018, so I have been open just nine months.

What surprised you the most in starting a new business? 

Nothing, really. I was very fortunate to have such a long-range plan. We purchased the building over five years ago, and it was a long renovation process. During that time, I was able to get other jobs, getting experience in the baking field. I was able to go to these workshops and seminars and talk to people and talk to people and all that. I really felt that it was worth the effort. I really didn’t think I would have any surprises, and to date, I really haven’t. I knew one of my biggest challenges would probably be employees, and it has turned out to be. That’s kind of a full-time job in itself — taking care of employees. Nothing’s really, truly surprised me. It’s no harder and no easier than I thought it would be. It’s hard to say how you’re going to feel in the moment. I knew I would be tired. But it’s different when you’re actually tired. It was like: “I’m not going to have a life from now on.” Now I’m living not having a life. I knew it would be a challenge. It’s not a surprise I have to find the time to find the balance. That’s one of my ongoing challenges, finding the me time.

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