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How A Couple Bootstrapped Their Bakery By Living In A Bus For 18 Months

Bart Greenhut and his wife scraped together 19 years of savings and sold all their belongings to get their business off the ground.

[Image: Flickr user Ginny]

How do you transform a passion for baking into a full-fledged business? In a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread Wednesday, Bart Greenhut of Los Angeles-based Bart's Bakery explained how he and his wife went from selling batches of homemade chocolate chip cookies in farmers' markets to producing about 1,000 pounds of cookies a day.

The bus Burt and Judy Greenhut lived out of for 18 monthsImage courtesy of Burt Greenhut
The 90-foot tunnel ovenImage courtesy of Burt Greenhut

Getting there has taken plenty of sacrifice. Nine years ago, Greenhut and his wife, Judy, scraped together 19 years of savings and sold all their belongings to buy a 90-foot tunnel oven, an industrial oven with a conveyer belt for continuous production. For 18 months, they lived out of a bus parked in their bakery's lot.

That oven, he explained, is about 40 years old and cost $45,000—not including the four-week-long disassembly and reassembly process, which cost another $40,000. "We need to upgrade incrementally but as you can imagine we're on a tight budget," he said in a Reddit comment.

As for how the business is doing, Greenhut said profits are "close to zero," given the cost of operation: 40% of revenue to stores, 20% to brokers and sales representatives, 5% to shipping, and the bakery reinvests whatever it takes in. "I think we're going to do a Kickstarter deal in a few weeks," he said, possibly revealing the motivation behind the Reddit AMA. And why not? A potato salad can raise more than $60,000 on the crowdfunding platform.

Aside from telling other entrepreneurs to "be resilient and absolutely relentless," he also laid out his tenets for running a business:

  1. Provide the highest quality product and service. (Be better than your competition.)
  2. Have a vision of your business in 5 years.
  3. Be relentless (Work harder than your competition.)
  4. Take one day at a time.
  5. Make good decisions, always go towards the best alternative, don't hesitate to drop something that doesn't work.

Read the full Q&A over on Reddit.

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