09 September 2011

I'm Coming Out

A few years back, I had planned to open a cupcake store. I started writing a business plan, I attended several reunions at the Chambre de Commerce and I signed up on a few different real estate sites to get alerts on properties that met my criteria. Then I found out I was pregnant, and so those plans kind of went out the window. In the interim, I started my small business, first as Little Miss Cupcake now as Sugar Daze, and I have watched my two babies grow practically side-by-side. My real baby heads off to school this week and for the past several months, I have been thinking about what this means for my business baby.

If any of you were in France over the summer, you know what a lousy summer it was weather-wise. I was stuck for about 10 days on the West Coast with my kids in the cold and rain with nothing more than a few cable channels and my iPhone to entertain us. One afternoon as I was going through my spam mail, I saw I had received a list of available properties from one of the sites I had signed up with all those years ago and having nothing better to do, I opened it. A quick scan of the properties and 1 in particular popped out at me. Here in France, if you want to rent a commercial space, one of the things you will encounter is the "droit au bail" or the right to a lease -- usually an exorbitant fee that needs to be paid upfront in order to then have the pleasure of paying a monthly rent. This droit au bail....not so bad. And the rent? well, I could swing it with my current revenue as a part-time business. Imagine if I worked more like full-time?

Upon my return to Paris, I called up the realtor and I went to visit the site. It has a lot of promise. Subsequent visits have shown some flaws which are more than skin-deep but we'll see what the contractors have to say. I'm still terribly torn about not being "accessible mom" like I have been for the past 8 1/2 years. I worry that while traveling down this path, I will never see my kids again. In all honesty, I figured this next step was still a few years down the road. But then I saw what I think is an exceptional deal, and my heart told me to check it out. I'm also still debating what exactly I want this space to be....a site with a commercial kitchen? A space where I can offer classes? A traditional store? Time will tell. And maybe this whole thing won't go anywhere. But since I have so many people write me often for advice on starting a business here in France, I thought I would share this adventure with you and try to document the process here. More to come on this!

Lastly, I have reached out to many of you in the business since starting to explore this idea and I just wanted to say an enormous thank you to Jane, Aimee, Rebecca, Liz, Louie, Sam and Sylvie (I hope I'm not forgetting anyone). Your help and advice has been invaluable! And also thank you to Lindsey, Bryan, Meg, Jennifer and Lili -- my friends and cupcake fans! I so appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy schedules to help me and share some encouraging words.


  1. Well I hope you find what you really want and if you need someone who loves to bake and can be a loyal little worker I'd love to do it! In the last few years I've realized if I could go back and do my college years again I'd go into dessert making. I get real joy out of it and can totally see why you do it.
    Good luck with your big decisions coming up @Bookmore and I are always interested as to what's going on with you.

  2. I will definitely call you for an extra set of hands! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting and I so very much appreciate your and @Bookmore's support!

  3. Oh, Cat! This is fabulous news. Looking forward to following along and thank you for letting me in. I think you will be a grand smash success! And as always, if you ever needs an ear to bounce off thoughts or concerns let me know!

  4. That is great, if you do decide to go ahead and open your business!! I hope everything works out to where you can have a successful business and still be there for you family like you want!!! :-)

  5. hi, good luck on your business. Would love to (finally :) ) see you open a shop. However...

    I don't know much about "bail" and opening a business and stuffs but I think you have to be careful about what kind of bail you're signing for. I *think* there are several kinds. Some of them, after a certain amount of time (I don't know if it's a year, 3, 9 years...) allow the "rentguy" (??) to increase the rent however high he wants to. There usually is a slight raise from year to year but it's controlled with some kind of index. But after a certain amount of time (say you sign for a 3 year "bail"), rentguy could just decide to double or triple the rent. Or not renew the "bail".

    Not all "bail" have the same conditions though. I think some protect the "shop owner" more.

    Plus, I think when you buy a "bail", you have to ask for a specific bail. (say if you have a bail that allows you to sell lingerie, you can't go and start selling ties). So maybe you'd want a bail that allows you to bake and sell your product and give class.

    If you haven't already, you should ask someone who really knows about that stuff. And look it up the internet. And read the "bail" conditions carefully.

  6. Cat-

    This is just fantastic news. You'll do wonderfully, and the Paris streets will love having your cupcakes shared even MORE.

    I can't wait to see the progress and success of your cupcakes in their own new physical space... kitchen.. classes.. shop... these are all such wonderful ideas.

    And of course you know if it's shop that I'll be there ALL THE TIME for coucou's and cupcakes.

    Congratulations! Let the games begin!


  7. Thank you all! It certainly is an interesting time and I am anxious to see what the future holds. I think I am most excited about having my own dedicated space to work in, and of course to be able to do a lot of the fun projects I have in mind for so long. I appreciate all your support.

    Chupivore - thanks for weighing in on the lease matter. I in fact have several family members who work in real estate here in France and literally the first thing I did once I saw the space was ask for a copy of the lease so they could go over it with a fine tooth comb! :P