Anna Griffin wanted an encore career after retiring as a corporate executive in manufacturing. When she found a longstanding local bakery in need of a renaissance, her personal and professional interests merged. “I felt that I was capable of running my own business. I thought I should give it a go—otherwise, I would always wonder if I could have,” said Anna, whose Swiss grandmother was a master baker.
Founded in 1951, Lakeland Bakery is a “from-scratch” bakery in Elkhorn offering baked goods through retail, wholesale, and mail order. The retail bakery does custom work for special occasions, “especially wedding cakes, of course,” Anna said. The wholesale side sells to grocery stores in Madison and Milwaukee with bakery products “that are more durable,” Anna explained. “They want to emphasize local products, and we fit that niche nicely.”
“Be really good and have a niche”
Lakeland Bakery had been flagging under previous ownership. After purchasing the business in 2014, Anna’s first challenge was to earn her customers’ loyalty. Competitors include other local artisan bakeries and grocery stores with in-house baking and assembling operations. Anna differentiates on the quality of her ingredients and the breadth and beauty of her baked goods. “You have to be really good and have some niche products, like our fancy cakes and pastries,” Anna observed. “You’re not going to find those in a grocery store.”
SBDC advice led to a pivot
An asset of Lakeland Bakery that appealed to Anna was the industrial-scale kitchen. After meeting Kevin Kaufman, director of the SBDC at UW-Whitewater, Anna began meeting with him to identify opportunities to grow the business. “We ran the SWOT on expanding the retail vs. the wholesale,” she said. Kevin said, “She has a great operational mind—she really understands process.”
With Kevin’s input, Anna chose to focus on building a wholesale business to complement the existing retail business. Kevin counseled her on the steps that would take, and in what order. “He holds you accountable,” she said. “It’s easy to get sidetracked. He helps me focus on what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Recently, Kevin accompanied Anna to a new-business meeting, where she found his perspective helpful. “He’s always within arm’s reach—all I need to do is ask for help,” she said.
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-Whitewater:
- Pivot toward wholesale growth opportunity
- Sounding board for accountability, priorities
- Branding assistance from UW-Parkside graphic design students
Staffing for growth
In her corporate life, Anna could rely on delegation. Now she’s finding she needs to be a more hands-on manager. And yet, she knows she needs to work on the business, not in it. “I’m trying not to bake,” she said. “I need to train, hold people accountable, and still get my job done.” She’s working on hiring good managers but recognizes that it’s hard to compete for employees who want the career paths and benefits larger employers can offer.
Anna’s current focus is building business relationships with distributors who will carry some of her more durable products. “I’m working through the logistics of labeling, safety planning, nutritional panels—marching through that checklist,” she said. “It’s huge!”
Kevin has confidence in Anna’s future: “She has a passion for the business, the products, and the customers. She’s well-tooled for success.”