“Bloom where you are planted,” is the advice Karin Bourque offers when asked what one piece of information young, career-minded military spouses should know. It’s this philosophy that appears to have led her where she is today, sitting in her son’s Tae Kwon Do class being interviewed, while disciplining her 3-year-old, calculating what orders she needs to complete tonight for work, and determining what new items she needs to buy for her shop, Bad Wolf Bakery.
“My life is definitely fun. It’s never boring,” Karin explains as she contemplates how much more she has to accomplish today before she can finally find dedicated “me” time. Her positive outlook has been a guiding force as she created her own business in 2013—a business that now has a solid customer base and is continuing to grow and, well, bloom.
From Three Little Pigs to The Big Bad Wolf [Bakery]
Karin conceived of her idea for her bakery while in Hawaii for her logistician officer husband’s work. She has a Master’s in School Administration, and taught for four years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Then, in the process of eating gluten-free and paleo, she found herself “bound and determined to make something amazing out of coconut flour and almond meal.”
Even Karin admits that many of her first creations weren’t, well, edible. Her husband signed her up for a cake decorating class, which helped her flourish in the kitchen. Soon, people began to talk about her tasty creations, gluten-free and regular alike. Through a move to Kentucky and another pregnancy, she continued to wear her apron and get busy in the kitchen, making “cakes for our neighbors, holidays, celebrations, and pretty much anything I could think of.” She began to share her gluten-free/paleo treats, and before she knew it, people were telling her that they loved her product. Bad Wolf Bakery, named for her kids’ love of The Three Little Pigs, was born. “A talented friend offered to create my logo, I set up an email address, website, social media accounts, printed business cards, and hit the ground running,” she shares.
The Joy of Baking
Karin admits that sometimes, she feels like she has three jobs: mom, military spouse, and business owner. While this may be true, her love of baking keeps her job from feeling too much like work. Her goal in creating the bakery, which does not have a storefront but sells goods online, was entirely about finding a job she enjoys that also offers her flexibility. Sometimes, those are jobs you simply need to create for yourself.
“BWB isn’t making me rich,” Karin points out. “But it is funding my love affair with baking. Whatever profits I bring in go directly back into my kitchen (or donated to the cause of the month as part of “BWB Gives Back”).” This philosophy about business has enabled Karin to think of the endeavor as a sort of “test run, figuring out sourcing of ingredients, shipping costs and marketing.”
She may not know just what’s ahead. Her husband plans to retire in seven years, and in just a year her kids will both be in school all day. “I’m feeling out this business to see if it’s really something I want to pursue in the future,” she explains. And that’s part of the fun.
The Business of Cakes & Cookies
It’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice in the world of running a bakery. For Karin, it’s also about making smart choices. “For any military spouse, your ideal business should be something you enjoy, bottom line,” she explains. “But you also need a market for your goods or services and you should be able to set up reasonable price points.” According to Karin, that means having a clear business plan, and realistic expectations. She also advices including the spouse in the process. “Running a small business is going to affect your whole household, whether you like it or not,” she adds.
In addition to maintaining her business savvy, Karin also focuses on leveraging social media. She describes it as her lifeline since she doesn’t have a storefront. While she admits that some policy changes on Facebook have hurt the reach of small businesses, it has still been the key way for her to distribute information. “Generally, less than 10% of my followers actually get to see my posts, but it’s the best way to organize photos, information, and put stuff out there for people to find,” Karin points out.
Her business also implements Instagram to expand its reach, using hashtags to attract attention and interact with more people. She supplements Instagram and Facebook with a blog and email newsletter to maintain contact and forge relationships with new and repeat customers.
Through the social media management, business planning, and actual baking, Karin still values the experience of actually being “present” while at home with her family. Working from home, for anyone, makes it easy for personal and professional time to merge. “It’s very important to keep your work schedule manageable and be clear with your goals,” she advises. “You can make it work though,” Karin adds. “You could consider getting your kids into a day program or preschool. You might want to hire
help with housework. And make sure you set aside time to take care of yourself.”
Through all the juggling and commitments, Karin’s journey is undoubtedly a fun one, driven by risks, rewards, and a lot of fun. Perhaps her best advice is that she recommends seeing it all as an adventure. This philosophy inevitably makes everything a little sweeter.
Meet Our Guest Author – Jill Pohl
Jill Pohl is a freelance writer in Washington, DC…at least for now. Her husband’s Air Force career takes them all over the country (and hopefully all over the world!) She currently blogs at www.visionsofjillhanna.com and writes for Elite Daily, Wall Street Insanity, and a variety of digital marketing agencies. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her at the Krav Maga studio, riding horses, or binge-watching Netflix and eating doughnuts.