David Crabill: Welcome to the Forrager podcast where I talk with cottage food businesses about their strategies for running a food business from home. I’m David Crabill and today I am talking with Diana Shockley. Diana owns a pie shop in Carmichael, California called, I Love Pie, but she started as a cottage food business, baking her pies from home.
She began her business only two years ago in 2018 and after just a year and a half of running her home based business, she expanded into her brick and mortar bakery last year. Many cottage food businesses dream of opening a brick and mortar shop someday. So Diana, I know many people will want to hear your story.
Welcome to the show. It’s great to be talking to you today.
Diana Shockley: [00:00:45] Yeah, thank you, David. Thank you so much for having me. it’s an honor to be a one of your first guests on your podcast. Actually the timing of this couldn’t be better. Tomorrow is actually my two year anniversary of having my very, very first, pie stand at the farmer’s market or first day going live is tomorrow.
So timing is kind of fun.
David Crabill: [00:01:03] Congrats on that. That’s a huge achievement.
Diana Shockley: [00:01:06] Thank you.
David Crabill: [00:01:07] so, Diana actually lives very close to me. We both live in Carmichael just outside of Sacramento, California, and I first met her in 2018 back at the farmer’s market, and that was, when I was actually looking into selling my fudge at the farmer’s market and kind of getting an idea for what it would be like to set that up. And Diana, you are one of the very first people who really encouraged me to move into that farmer’s market and then a year later I was selling alongside you.
Diana Shockley: [00:01:37] Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really fun. It’s a lot. You got to put in a little bit of work and time to, get fully set up to be out there to do everything legally correctly your business license your cottage food permit, your multi-event vendor permit so that you can sell your stuff at farmer’s markets and other festivals and stuff. it’s a little bit of a process to start, but once your rolling, then you’re just going out there and selling your stuff and hopefully having fun and making money.
David Crabill: [00:02:04] We have a lot to get into today, but I want to roll back to the beginning. That’s two years ago exactly. Walk us through why you decided to start this business and of course, why pie?
Diana Shockley: [00:02:17] Well. It’s always been a goal of mine to open a bakery someday. I always thought it’d be something that I would do, much later in life, like maybe when I retired, and, just thinking about it a lot. And, I did go to culinary school and took some baking and pastry classes and some business classes, um, a few years ago. And, um, I had a normal day job Monday through Friday, nine to five, and I wanted, something that I can do with my daughter on the weekends to just spend more time with her, let her get involved in, what the launch of our project kind of looks like. And she’s a little brainiac. so I always picked her brain for ideas, cause she’s, I’m about to be 12 and just the mind of a child that age, they just think of things that sometimes, I wouldn’t have thought of.
So, we’re doing it as a hobby and we’re like, a pie stand would be really fun. Where could we do it? And then, where do you set up pie stands, was like, one of my, I think Google searches at the time and farmer’s markets we’re popping up. And I thought, well, duh, like that’s exactly where you would see something like this.
So we visited several farmer’s markets and, both my daughter and I, decided Carmichael one’s kind of fun. Like, I like this one. And mind you we were looking at these markets in February, so it wasn’t really a clear picture of what they look like, at their peak season. So we, talked to the market manager got set up and two years ago tomorrow, like we set up our first booth. I remember, being out there, it was cold wore two pairs of pants, like three shirts and a sweater, and I had my pies out there and I’m looking at her, I’m like, what am I doing? What are we doing? This is ridiculous. And our first little customer walks up, we’re like, Oh my God, customer, customer, customer.
And we sold out that day. So it was really like, Oh, that was fun, sold all our pie.
David Crabill: [00:04:13] Wow, nice, so how many pies did you choose to bring to the very first market?
Diana Shockley: [00:04:17] The first market we brought 30 pies. And, um, when we do the farmer’s market, we do this smaller six inch pies. Yeah, it was 30. We sold out that day. And, yes some of it was brand new customers, some of it was family and friends that of course came out to support me. Um, like my very first customer that walked my up to my booth was actually my sister.
David Crabill: [00:04:40] I think we all have that kind of experience. My first day selling fudge was a lot of family friends coming to support.
Diana Shockley: [00:04:47] It’s good. That’s how it should be. Yeah.
David Crabill: [00:04:49] So why did you choose to do pie in particular?
Diana Shockley: [00:04:53] I’ve always been obsessed with pie, and I really got, sort of like super obsessed maybe two or three years before I did my first farmer’s market.
I just got good at making pie and pie crust and I would just make it at home for neighbors, family and friends. Obviously holidays. And, then I, experimented with other recipes and fresh fruit and I was just like, Oh my God, pie is so much fun to make. And it is a lot of work, but to me like making the dough is just like so much fun when you like really do it like, Like the most natural way possible, like you’re using your hands you aren’t using machines or anything, you’re just crumbling that flour with that butter. Um, it’s so much fun and very therapeutic, I think. Um, I used to have, like pie themed parties at my house. We’d invite, like invite like 40 plus friends and I would um, have like pie themed games. We’d do like a little backdrop that looked like a pie stand. This is like way before I even thought I was going to have one. Um, we’d make mini pies because I liked the, I just liked the way the little mini ones looked. They look so cute. Um, so we’d make um, like 50 plus many pies, like nine different flavors, several of each. And we’d lay them out. Every, and it, basically, this pie party would be like a pie tasting party for fun. Like, just to come over, taste some pie. We do a pie walk instead of a cake walk to send people home with like the pies that were leftover. Pie eating contest, like we have some funny pictures of that.
and I think at that point is when I made like these little felt headbands where I, we were wearing little tiny pie hats. Uh, my daughter and I made one. And then that kind of became one of my signature looks when I was at the farmer’s market. people love the hat. They’re like, I wore it every single Sunday without fail to my market, and so did Caitlin. When my daughter came out with me, she wore her little pumpkin pie hat. So it’s funny, I’m like, actually like I had these hats before we did this, cause that’s how obsessed I was. So that’s kind of where it stemmed from. So that’s, when we decided to do a hobby, um and sell pies, like pies was the easy, obvious choice for me and for us.
David Crabill: [00:06:55] What kind of flavors do you sell?
Diana Shockley: [00:06:58] Oh my gosh, so many. I have 60 plus recipes of pie. But my favorite pies to make are the fruit pies, because being at the farmer’s market, you get first pick of the best, local, locally grown fruit that’s out there. So, our blueberries, blackberries, the Apricot’s, peaches, cherries, so I mean, the fruit pies are just the best when the fruit is fresh and ripe and local and it’s not ripening on some truck coming from, who knows where, so
David Crabill: [00:07:32] How many flavors did you start with, way back when?
Diana Shockley: [00:07:35] Um, I think my rotation, like my very first market I think we had like three kinds of pie. Um, and then we were doing, four to five flavors, per farmer’s market. And then in the peak of our season, our first year, um, when we were doing like 60 to 70, of the six inch pies, we tried to have like six, at least, different flavors because all of the fruit’s in season at that point, so it’s hard to make a decision. It’s like, okay, do we want to bring, 20 cherry pies? It’s like we got like a ton of cherries, but like not everyone wants cherry. So it’s like, okay, we do some of these, some of those, just a variety because people have different, preferences and some people aren’t even like fruit pie at all, they just like the cream pies. Which when I was a cottage food vendor, I didn’t do cream pies, cause that was one of the things you weren’t able to do.
David Crabill: [00:08:21] Yeah. Well, what I like about your story is that you didn’t do anything revolutionary, right? I mean, a lot of people who get started in this business, they have this mindset, they have to do something different in order to be competitive. They have to come up with some new product that nobody’s ever thought of before.
Diana Shockley: [00:08:39] Yeah absolutely, and that, that’s, that’s one of the things like business books tell you, if you’re gonna start a business you want to be the first to market, you want to be the best or, have some kind of unique edge or have like a, some kind of niche, idea twist on, whatever.
I wanted to open a pie shop, but, I thought that’s going to be way down the line. And then when we opened our pie stand, a pie shop opened in the area at the same time, and I’m like, shoot, someone beat me. And yes, there are some other like pie shops, or pie cafes that aren’t just pie shops, but they serve food as well. And there are some that have been in this area and come and gone. I definitely knew I wasn’t the first ever, but, um, there wasn’t a go to pie place and I wanted to be the first. I wasn’t quick enough, so there was another shop that opened, and so I’m like, okay, well then I need to be the best.
I strive to, take my time on the pies and do things correctly and make every single one delicious. There were times where like maybe a pie that would look perfectly good to someone else, like did not meet my standards or a particular pie box got too smudgy from like fingerprints of like butter, I wouldn’t use that box. I would throw it away and like, it has to look good. It has to be consistent. The quality has to be consistent. And so I was really strict about that then, I’m really strict about that with my team now, and I think people like that when they come, they knew what they were getting and that it was good every single time. So
David Crabill: [00:10:05] Yeah, certainly, we live just near Sacramento, so there are dozens and dozens of farmer’s markets, grocery stores, bakeries. I mean, clearly, this isn’t the first time someone’s tried to sell pie in the area, right?
Diana Shockley: [00:10:19] Yes.
David Crabill: [00:10:19] So there’d be a slew of competition. But what we want to figure out today is, why do you think you succeeded when a lot of other people have probably sold baked goods at the farmer’s market, the same one you sold at, and they’ve struggled or maybe haven’t had the success you’ve had. Do you have any initial thoughts on that?
Diana Shockley: [00:10:37] Yeah. I think one of the biggest contributors to our success at the markets, um, as a cottage food vendor, uh, was consistency. I’ve seen some really good products, people that come out there, as a cottage food, and they start to develop a following and then they’re gone for like a month or two months, or they have, I mean, things happen in life sure, but, um, people the, the customers will come around that, going to the farmer’s market every weekend or every, whatever day they go is their routine. That’s where they get their vegetables, that’s where they get their food, and so you want to become part of their routine. You want your stop to be one of their regular stops.
It’s consistency. I sacrificed so much that first year. I commuted like 45 minutes to work Monday through Friday, and then 45 to an hour and a half on our way back home, just going rush hour traffic, the freeway’s here, so congested. My daughter’s school is not close to my house, and it was, it was a big toll on me, but then like, I look forward to the weekend, on all day Saturday, we’d bake, and on Sunday we’d go to the market. And even though I didn’t get a break or a day off, I was very adamant about going out there every week. I didn’t really go visit my parents very much that year. There were people who had weddings and bridal showers and, like there were, if there was a wedding on Saturday, I’d bake. I’d start like working on my pies before and then like when the wedding was over, I’d get home, like I’d finish baking my pies and I’d go to bed at midnight or one in the morning because I wasn’t going to miss my market.
Like my customers are waiting for me. They’re expecting it. And consistency. Consistency is absolutely the, I think the number one reason why we were successful. Obviously my pie crust, the crust has to be good, but um like the business aspect. I feel like the consistency was it for sure.
David Crabill: [00:12:23] Yeah. That’s excellent advice. I remember when I first met you and I asked you “What’s been the most surprising thing about starting this business?” And you said “Honestly, just how many people buy pie all the time.” And that’s the thing with pie. We live in a very health conscious area where it’s all about organic and eating healthy and pie is not known as being a healthy kind of food.
Diana Shockley: [00:12:45] Right, yeah definitely not our pies!
David Crabill: [00:12:47] Especially for a farmer’s market, why do you think you were so successful?
Diana Shockley: [00:12:53] I think it’s just that darn good. I was surprised. I thought 30 going out the first day was a lot, but I’m like, okay, well, I don’t know how many people come out here. Hundreds of people go to the farmer’s market in one day they, they, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you count them, there’s hundreds of people that go through there. Even a slower market, there’s hundreds of people. And, I think the farmer’s market in particular, the, one of the reasons why I did the small pies, not just because they look fricking cute. But because it doesn’t look intimidating. If I want them to keep buying pie, they need to finish that pie so that next week when they come back, they’re getting a different flavor or they want another one. And we would have people that were like a family of four and they’d split that little pie into four little pieces. I mean, definitely you can sit down and totally eat that whole little pie. I’ve been known to do that several times.
But I think the size, that’s why people were, it didn’t, it wasn’t like an intimidating thing. It was, all in moderation But yeah, it was, it was really surprising how many people, like, I think when you find something that tastes good and, a thing that I definitely need to point out is our pies don’t have that much sugar in them.
Because the fruit is so ripe and so sweet, I always would eat some of the fruit before I determine how much sugar I was going to add. Um, but on average, most of our pies have a 20% sugar to fruit ratio in weight. So, even being a cottage food vendor, like one of the first things that I bought was a scale, um, so that it would be consistent every time, cause the volume and the air in a pile of fruit or, two cups of flour is just, it just can vary so much. So when you bake, you want to weigh. I always was really strict about the amount of sugar. If you Google like a standard blueberry pie recipe, or a cherry pie or any kind of fruit pie recipe, it is 40% on average. That is so much sugar. You’re not having a jam pie. It’s supposed to be like a fruit pie. You’re supposed to taste the fruit.
David Crabill: [00:14:48] And that’s, again, the consistency, right? You, we were talking earlier about the consistency of going in the market, but that’s consistency of the product.
Diana Shockley: [00:14:56] Yes, consistency. Yeah. I should put that in big giant letters in our kitchen right now so everyone knows that’s our top priority here.
David Crabill: [00:15:03] So walk us through the pricing. One thing that’s unique about you is that you sell smaller pies, six inch pies. How did you price those pies starting from day one up until now?
Diana Shockley: [00:15:14] Yeah. Well, in culinary school you learn how to price and cost, um, recipes. So, I just kind of applied what I learned there. How much sugar goes into like making a batch of pies, divide that by the number of pies. And you get a super small amount, but then like, how much does, sugar cost? Divide that by, grams and you get how much each ingredient costs for your pie.
So, depending on what is in season, how much the vendors are charging for their fruit, I pretty much did an average. Like some pies, I didn’t make a lot of money on, other pies, they were really inexpensive to make. So it was all about the balance with the numbers.
I wasn’t really that interested in making a ton of money from it when I first started. And I’m like looking at this little pie and I’m thinking of myself as a consumer, and I’m like, I don’t know, like seven or eight bucks for this guy, like, let’s cost it out. And like, I was only making a few bucks per pie, which definitely did not pay for my time, but again, when I first started, it was for fun. Like I was making my money on my day job, so I didn’t need it. And then, it was getting serious. We did raise our price up $1 the following year. So right now we just want to stay there. So it’s like they’re $9, and on average we make, like $5 per pie.
And so it’s all about like whipping out like quantities, so that, you can get through a ton at one time. In the peak of our summer, we’re doing 60 to 70 pies, and then, we’ve done like a peach festival where we sold, 130 pies and sold out in a couple hours.
We did an out of town Apple blossom festival and we brought, 300 plus pies and we sold out of those. So it’s, once you get a good system and a good timeline, you just whip those out and you get good at it, you get fast. But again, the quality and the consistency, you can’t sacrifice that.
David Crabill: [00:17:03] I know that you started by not making a lot of money cause you weren’t making a lot of profit, but now this is your full time thing. So how has that worked out? Cause you’re still selling pies at $9.
Diana Shockley: [00:17:16] Yeah.
David Crabill: [00:17:16] But you’re making a full time income off of it, I guess.
Diana Shockley: [00:17:19] Yeah. So, we do still sell the six inch pies at the farmer’s markets when we can get out there, hopefully we’ll begin out there more consistently. But those six inch pies, I just don’t want them to go any higher than that. People should be able to afford a good treat, but in our pie shop, we sell eight inch pies.
So we sell big pies and pies by the slice. And we have other products too. We have salted caramel in jars. We do pie pops. We buy wholesale jams and resell them in the shop. We now have wholesale coffee beans, and we resell them in the shop for just a little markup. our margins are small on those things, but we’re not, we’re not making them. We have ice cream and coffee and tea and those things have high there a high markup. So, overall the shop is really picking up and it, we’re doing it. So,
David Crabill: [00:18:04] So when did you get to the point that you decided you needed to move from a home kitchen into your own kitchen? You actually skipped a step. Most people just move into a shared commercial kitchen. You went straight to having your own kitchen.
Diana Shockley: [00:18:19] Yeah. Well, even though, I had a really good job and I was making some money on the weekends, we have a lot of expenses in our family, so it wasn’t, it was one of those things, like it’s going to take me so long to save up enough money. And my business wasn’t old enough to show, profit for two years so I can go to a bank and get a loan. I’m like, I wanted it now. Building out a commercial kitchen was not in the budget and just definitely not economically feasible for my business.
So I decided to start scoping out locations that already had a kitchen in them and I’m not, cooking savory foods so the laws and the requirements for a smaller kitchen are different when you’re not doing some of those things um like using meats and fish or whatever. Um so I was like okay let’s look for a space that there was either already a bakery in there or a restaurant in there that closed or a coffee shop that closed. They’ll have what I need and then we can fix it up, and that way a $30,000, $40,000 build out now went down to like $10,000 and that was a lot more doable. You know we found that location and then I wasn’t ready yet financially I wasn’t ready to go for it But it was so hard to find those it’s not like coffee shops are closing left and right. And so I was like we need to move into this space like ASAP. So we were just a few thousand dollars short so we started a Kickstarter campaign where people family and friends will make a pledge to give you X amount of money if you reach your goal. So I I believe like our goal was like $5,000 or something like that. And so we reached our pledge goal, and then when you reach your goal then you know everyone gets charged the pledge that they that they did. I got the money and then it’s like okay here we go let’s sign the lease, and we did and yeah it worked out but there really is no right time to jump from one thing to the other cause it’s super scary um like when you’re quitting your full time job. I recommend like if anyone’s going to do it like try to hold onto your day job If you have one like as long as possible before you really pull that plug because it is scary but you have to just do it because there will always be something that comes up some kind of personal commitment or some financial setback. I wasn’t ready to do it. My husband and I were in the middle of IVF and so we had just paid up all this money to try to have a baby and I think we’re still going through our procedures and stuff and I’m like I need to quit my job because there’s never going to be a right time And the date that I wanted to quit my job came and went and then I’m like I’m just going to do it. So one day I just typed up my notice and gave it to my boss and I’m like crap, like I don’t know what we’re going to do but oh well I guess I’m gonna just figure it out and you do if you want it bad enough you figure it out. And so I think I’m in another interview someone I told them like you just jump and it’s like sink or swim and I swam hard.
David Crabill: [00:21:17] I saw that Kickstarter campaign. I love that. But you made the decision to jump first, right? And then you chose to do the Kickstarter to kind of make the money.
Diana Shockley: [00:21:26] Yeah.
David Crabill: [00:21:26] It wasn’t like the Kickstarter actually was the make or break for you.
Diana Shockley: [00:21:30] No it would have just been harder to start. It would just would, I might’ve even pushed out the opening date. There’s just so many expenses that even myself Like I’ve read so many business books like my whole life cause I always wanted to open my own business of some sort I just didn’t know what. There’s just lots of things you don’t think about and it just kind of adds up. And my day job I was a project manager so I had all my project plans and my budgets and everything and still like Things come up. It’s crazy So we definitely needed it And without the help of family friends we wouldn’t have been able to open when we did. But we were tight on money I didn’t have a ton of startup capital. I didn’t, I wasn’t blessed with some trust fund or anything like that. Um I was in that shop like the coffee shop was really dirty that we took over. It was you know there was no one in it. It was sticky and dark colors and I’d finish up at the farmer’s market on Sunday I’d come to the shop after we got the keys and I was in there scrubbing the floors. I scrubbed the grout almost all of it by myself like towards the end my mom and my sister helped me. I bought like brushes and sponges and cleaner from the 99 cent store. And I’m on my knees and I’m scrubbing grout and I’m just trying to brighten it up cause I didn’t have money for floors. I’m like these floors are nice they’re not broken If they can just be cleaned. And then we bought paint I painted the shop. We lightened it all up and did some repairs changed out the wall outlets so they’re prettier. Scrubbed the crap out of the windows they had tons of old stickers and tape. And it was a lot of grubby work but I didn’t have I couldn’t pay someone to do it so we had to do it, So
David Crabill: [00:23:04] Well for someone listening who wants to know when to jump ship and move into a commercial kitchen or their own kitchen, what would you say? How did you know? I mean you had someone working for you I assume already. You had a certain number of customers, recurring customers. You had a certain number of sales.
Diana Shockley: [00:23:26] Yeah.
David Crabill: [00:23:27] What was it that really made the difference with knowing, okay, I’m definitely ready to move?
Diana Shockley: [00:23:33] I think that one of the perks of starting out as a cottage food vendor is that you do develop a customer base and a little bit of a following so when you move into a brick and mortar store You have a little bit of backing you know that some people are going to go through that come through that door. It’s not just starting fresh No one knows who you are. Going out to the farmer’s markets and selling your product as a cottage food vendor You’re marketing you’re basically out there marketing yourself every single week so you ha you built you build your customer base. So it’s it is definitely one of the a definite plus when you’re moving from that business model into like a brick and mortar. Definitely.
David Crabill: [00:24:12] And how were you communicating with your customer base outside of the market?
Diana Shockley: [00:24:16] Um well we’re Pretty active on our social media. We do interviews. We reach out to local media to come out and visit us. We provide donations to nonprofits and they talk about us um like at their dinners or their auctions. And so that’s another way that we stay in front of people. I’m lucky to be by two very well established restaurants: The round table and silver Saki sushi that’s for us to meet next to me. And the employees that work there they promote us too. On Thursday the team from silver Saki they come right before their shift. They come to the pie shop. They buy one or two whole pies and they bring it and they share it with everybody. They share it with their customers even. So I’m very lucky that, yeah
David Crabill: [00:25:00] It’s a little lucky but I don’t know if you can attribute it all to luck. I mean I feel like your personality and just how dynamic of a person you are must have made a huge difference on your success.
Diana Shockley: [00:25:10] Yeah, I love people and I know that everyone that’s at, all the vendors that I’ve met at the farmer’s market they love people too. I mean there’s one or two grumps sure, but mostly I mean like it’s so much fun being at the farmer’s market. It’s not just like the camaraderie with the other vendors. Like It’s just its own little sort of community And the people that come out they’re like friendly people. You’re outside, you’re in the sunshine. Everyone is happy and in good spirits and so friendly. And it’s families It’s older people It’s gosh just everybody there they’re so nice and it’s so it’s so great being out there.
David Crabill: [00:25:50] That is something I noticed when I sold at the farmer’s market. The ones who were selling produce maybe weren’t as dynamic, but anyone selling a craft or a food item, I noticed, was more of a dynamic personality. They were very out there, very engaging with their customers.
Diana Shockley: [00:26:04] I feel like we love what we do. So you’re happy because you’re doing something that you love. So the happy crepes vendor you know Sammy he’s I mean his business is called happy crepes so he’s gotta be happy but he loves doing that. People that make they’re making their jams and there you know out there hustling selling their jams And They’re selling something that they made So you take pride in what you’re selling so you can You where it came from, you know all about your products so you want to talk about it. Like it’s like you just can’t like, I’ve had a couple of people tell me to like okay you need to stop talking about pie. It’s like I can’t, I can’t! I think it’s just because you love what you’re doing and that you are excited it’s exciting and you’re happy so you’re just more personable when you’re in a great mood I guess.
David Crabill: [00:26:49] Yeah you have a fitting title to your business because you truly do love pie.
Diana Shockley: [00:26:54] I do love pie, yes.
David Crabill: [00:26:55] And that’s one of the things about starting a business that’s typically considered to be maybe a risk is that you love something but then when you go into business with it, then you fall out of love with it because you do it so much. But I guess that hasn’t happened to you.
Diana Shockley: [00:27:09] No and I’m being very careful to not get burnt out. I listen to podcasts and interviews with other um like female entrepreneurs that are also in the culinary and pastry industry. And you know they always get asked like what would you do different or what advice would you have for someone else? And I’m that person so I’m listening all ears. And they sometimes they say you know they work extremely long hours, maybe didn’t staff up enough or whatever. And I don’t want that to happen to me So I’m very carefully watching like the toll that it has on me on some days and making sure that you know I have a solid team that I can rely on and you know kind of give up some of the power and, delegate and be good at delegating is one thing that I’ve heard people say that they wish they did better. So, I’m just trying to learn from other’s peoples mistakes. But, um, we’ve had rough Thanksgivings, like I’ve had two rough Thanksgivings where I slept two hours tops, probably between both of them. And you go to bed really, really late and you’re back at it like really, really, really early and it’s brutal, but then it’s over and then you’re happy and you gave everyone pie and then you start over back to a more regular routine. But there are those kind of like tough days.
I’m not, I don’t see myself getting burnt out. It’s just, it’s too much fun and creating new recipes and playing with your herbs and your spices with your fruit and just different combinations of things and, kind of in, putting some savory elements into your sweet pies too. It’s, there’s some things that I’m working on and it’s, it’s exciting. You’re creating, so you’re an artist of, your trade when, and it just, because there’s so many different things you can do with pie, it just doesn’t even get old.
David Crabill: [00:28:51] Yeah your passion really shows.
Diana Shockley: [00:28:52] I’m still loving it. I go to bed thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it. I’m like, Ooh, yeah, I forgot I wanted to try that. And then like scribbling notes on things.
David Crabill: [00:29:04] Well so you’re talking about the product side of things, which is the fun side of things. But I do want to kind of still try to figure out why you are so successful in such a short period of time, and I remember you talking to me, that first farmer’s market, you talked about your background as a project manager. You’re someone who is comfortable with the nuts and bolts, and I want to understand how you think that helped you in this business?
Diana Shockley: [00:29:31] Yeah. I didn’t finish college. I went to SAC state for two years, and then I was just working, working, working, working.
Didn’t think school was for me. I just wanted to learn and get like hands on training wherever I worked. I worked as a hostess at a restaurant. I worked at a hotel as a front desk person. I worked as a project coordinator for a business improvement district. I was a marketing assistant for a title company. I did sales for a point of sell um, company in the pay card industry. So I like dabbled in a lot of different things that gave me just enough of a rounded skill set so that I could make it if I opened a business. When I first started as a project manager, I worked in the HR department, so I learned all the ins and outs of HR and the people on my team were HR business partners, so they were HR experts. And even now, like, I still like will tap on their shoulder and ask them a question about something. so I’ve kind of dabbled in all of these different industries that you definitely need to know a little bit about when you start.
You can’t just have like an amazing product and be a really hard worker. You’re just going to work yourself to the ground if you don’t have a little bit of business knowledge. And I think that you can get a lot of that too, from reading different business books. Like there’s a lot of business books, like how to start a business, how to run a small business. And it talks about like the basics of public relations and marketing and sales and all those things. So
David Crabill: [00:30:56] For someone who’s just starting out, are there any intro tips that you have for knowing how to start a business the right way?
Diana Shockley: [00:31:05] I would say, to talk to other people who’ve done it and, do sit downs with them and, ask questions. Like, even though I have my shop, I’ve asked a couple of like really well established business owners to have coffee with me. So far, no one’s taken me up on it, but you’ve just kind of have to be brave. And there’s a lot of people that love to see other people to succeed, and lift each other up. I definitely do. So if anyone ever wanted to like sit with me, like I’d be so happy to have like, Very candid conversation over coffee and just help people out.
Like, I love helping my team that I have now. Like I have a head pastry chef and she’s venturing off and doing her own thing and all I’m doing is like trying to figure out how I can help her. Knowing that that will result in her leaving me, and I will be very sad when that happens. But I just love to help people and be like a mentor too.
So, I mean, I’m only six months in. My business is only two years old, but I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to share. And I feel like we’re going to definitely make it. We’re, our business is growing and we have some amazing plans in store for this year and the future. So, I think it’s, first of all, like see other people that are doing the same thing and learn from their mistakes. There’s lots of mistakes that I made already. And every time something happens, I look at my head pastry chef and I’m like, do you see that? Don’t do that when you do, you have your concept, like, remember that, remember that thing that happened to me?
I think start there and definitely reading. There’s so many books about business, and I know that sounds kind of dorky and, a little cliché, but I’ve always been obsessed with reading business books like my whole life. I’m 34 now and since I was 18 I read business books. I, I wasn’t really that into fiction. So I just loved reading about, because it made me feel like one day when I do that, I’m going to be so knowledgeable and it totally, I mean I still have them.
I, when I hired my head pastry chef, I think I gave her a stack of like six books. Like, here you go, read these, cause these are totally going to help you. This is my favorite. This one will teach you that. And so, yeah.
David Crabill: [00:33:06] Alright, so what’s number one recommendation?
Diana Shockley: [00:33:10] I really like this book called Flux. And that’s, it’s not necessarily about business, but it is about being a woman and juggling like everything in life. Um just really in a nutshell, not to get into details, but that one just kind of, it just kind of refocuses you, and I feel like gave me like a really nice foundation. I really love that book. I’ve read it several times. Other books about psychology… there’s, Oh, I wish I knew. I wish I knew you were gonna ask me that. I could have come prepared with some of those, but
David Crabill: [00:33:46] Well I’ll put links to these in the show notes.
Diana Shockley: [00:33:48] Oh, yeah. Okay, great. So then I’ll send you a couple of my favorite books.
David Crabill: [00:33:52] Well, I wanted to talk a little bit about your team. Because most people who run a cottage food business, they’re just doing it on their own. But eventually, I know you started with your daughter and it was amazing to see how you integrated her. Didn’t she design your logo?
Diana Shockley: [00:34:06] She did.
David Crabill: [00:34:08] And how old is your daughter?
Diana Shockley: [00:34:10] She’s 11. She’s going to be 12 soon.
David Crabill: [00:34:11] So that’s fantastic that you got her involved, but then at some point you started to build a team, right? So what was your first employee?
Diana Shockley: [00:34:19] Yeah. I think my first employee, was the daughter of another vendor at the farmer’s market. And so, we talked and she already knew all about the markets because she was out there. She knew how to set up a booth. She knew how to hold on for dear life when the wind’s coming and it’s gonna topple you over. She knew all of those things because she worked out there with her dad. So, that was cool that she already had all that experience. She was my first one and then just kind of reaching out to my, network, a gal that I used to work with, her daughter also. She’s in her twenties now, but I needed help at the running the markets.
I, I couldn’t do a Saturday market and bake for the next day, so I couldn’t be in two places at once. So that’s why, I wanted to expand. But when I was, I got a lot of, like really good advice from my own customers out at the market. Some of them are business owners themselves, they’re not cottage food.
But, one of my customers told me earlier on, he’s like, well, make sure, if you continue, if you grow, make sure you teach people how to do what you’re doing. Cause I had a friend who had this, I want to say it was like something like an electrical or something. And he’s like, electrician and he hired people to help them with the work, but he wouldn’t train them how to do like the more important things. And he just got burnt out and then he closed up shop and then he didn’t make it. And my customer was like, you need to train some of these younger men to, help you with that work, you’re getting old man. And so I always listened, I always listened to what they say and I remember, I never forgot that. Because I really hold on to like the dough making and even in the shop, like I was only the only one making the dough and the only one like rolling it out.
And I keep remembering I like hear that customer’s voice in the back of my head. It’s like you have to train people on it. They can’t just assist you with chopping apples. They can’t just run the register, like they have to help me make the product or I can’t do it all. And so I’m like, still working on it, but I’ve not the only one that makes dough now. I’m definitely not the only one that rolls it out. And now I’m kind of letting go a little bit. It kinda hurts. Like, it’s like I’m letting go of my baby somehow. But I know it’s a necessary part of growth. So
David Crabill: [00:36:24] So you started in March of 2018.
Diana Shockley: [00:36:27] Yes.
David Crabill: [00:36:27] How long did it take before you hired your first employee?
Diana Shockley: [00:36:32] Mmm. So I think it was a year and a couple months, maybe? Yeah. So cause that first whole year I did the whole weekends by myself and then we were not at the markets January and February of 2019 and then, I quit my job in March, and I wanted it to be at more than one farmer’s market because I had to, at this point, I needed the money to pay my bills, so I expanded to like five farmer’s markets. So that’s when I hired, my first person is around like March, April of, so basically like a year, shortly after a year.
David Crabill: [00:37:06] Yeah, so you were doing like a year straight, every single weekend, you were out at the market.
Diana Shockley: [00:37:11] Yep.
David Crabill: [00:37:12] And, you had a job.
Diana Shockley: [00:37:13] And I had a job. It was hard. I did take like one or two weekends off completely. Um, I don’t remember why, but I did. There was a couple that I wasn’t there, but mostly I was out there. I mean, like I had bridesmaids from a wedding that I was in. I think I was the maid of honor on a Saturday and we had a wedding. And then I’m like, Hey, I’m like I don’t know what you guys are doing between like the, the ceremony and the reception, but I’m going home because I have to bake for two hours.
So if you guys want to, if you, if I’m your ride, you’re gonna have to sit in the living room. And they’re just, the bridesmaids are all dressed sitting there watching me like roll dough and get things in the oven and like, can we, can we buy one of those blueberry pies? We’re kind of hungry. This is all true story, uh, the adventures.
David Crabill: [00:38:01] Great stories coming out of the, any business, quite frankly.
All right. August 22nd, 2019 you opened your brick and mortar bakery. Walk us through that day. What is that like?
Diana Shockley: [00:38:20] Uh, very stressful. Um, we were using two very small ovens because our convection oven was like back-ordered last minute and like it was going to be out a week later. So that was pretty brutal.
Um, so we had to just get there early that day to make as many pies as we could. I had no idea what to expect because I didn’t know, how effective our grand opening marketing was. And also I didn’t want it to be too big because I knew that we needed to learn. I was like, we just need just enough customers to like see what worked and what didn’t work, and then, revisit our timelines, et cetera, and then start again the next day.
There were a couple other things that just weren’t quite right, and I’m like, well, we have to find an alternative solution because we are opening on that day. I didn’t want, like there was, there’s this weird like point of pride for me to open on time because I was a project manager. I’m like, my project will go live on its live date, period.
And we’d get like this news that this wasn’t working or this actually needed, we needed that or whatever. And I’m like, well then we need to find an alternative solution because we are opening on that day. And even my husband was like, a lot of businesses when they set their opening date, they say, Hey, we got pushed out because whatever, the County permit needed this now or whatever.
And I’m like, the County gave us the green light. So there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to open. I’m like, we are going to open. In hindsight, I probably could have used another week to prepare, but I was like, we’re going to make it work, period. Like I, I knew that I have, a solid head on my shoulders, I have two working hands. I’m like, if I have to stay here all night long to fix or do whatever I need to do to prepare, I will. But we are opening. I think everyone worked that day. And my team at the time, I think was like three or four people. we also gave like free slices of pie to the first 20 customers, 25 customers, I can’t remember what we did. so we did a, a little bit of a smaller slice, and so they were doing the complimentary slices and then juggling like new order slices, and then whole pies. And then someone’s in the back making sure all those pastry boxes are getting folded and labeled and the stickers and liners and everything looks good. And meanwhile I’m in the kitchen trying to roll out more dough and it’s like, Oh my gosh, like we have a line people, like this is really happening. Like I need to make more pie, shoot. And so like I’m just making as many pies as I can. And then we had people that were like ordering to come pick up more pie in the afternoon. And so like I, at one point I was like, okay, we can’t take any more orders. They can’t just stay here all night baking pies because I have to prep for tomorrow, otherwise I’m going to start behind. And so we sold out that first day and I think the whole week we sold out. And it was, we were selling out later and later and later because we were making more and more pies.
And then, yeah, that first day was stressful. And then the part that was really hard is that, I think a lot of family and friends maybe don’t quite understand that I can’t come out. I’m our only Baker. People want to come behind the curtain and come say hi to you and come talk to you and congratulate you. And I love that. I love it now, but I’m like, Hey, Oh my God, I can’t stop. I literally have to rotate a pie right now, or it’s going to burn. even now, like people still come to say hi to me and I have to tell my staff, like, let people know that I’m working on an order right now, cause, like so many interruptions, then I’m, I’m there like three hours past closing because, you had all those setbacks.
But, now that I have help in the kitchen, I’m like, I’m in front all the time. Like, Hey, everybody, I just want to talk to people again. But yeah. That opening day was brutal.
David Crabill: [00:42:04] But that’s the kind of opening day and opening week that you want.
Diana Shockley: [00:42:06] Yeah. Yeah. And we had some, pretty solid, uh, customer service policies in place. Um, if we ever have a dissatisfied customer, we, we give them a full refund for their purchase and then we replace the product for free, so it’s kind of like double. And we don’t question like there’s no, you don’t question the customer.
And so, I also stress a lot to my people. Like, this is a pie shop. This is a fun place, a happy place. It’s a pie shop, so let’s be happy. And when the customers are coming in, like, let that radiate off of you and it’ll be contagious. And so providing really good service, even when people can see that we’re like a little flustered, people appreciate that you’re trying and that you care. So
David Crabill: [00:42:49] Before you started the shop, was your home getting overtaken by pie?
Diana Shockley: [00:42:54] It wasn’t, um, I have a big dining room and I basically took over half of it. So half of one, like our dining room had like a long table on one end and the other end, I basically turned into like a mini commercial kitchen.
I had like three stainless steel prep tables. I had, um, my mixers and I had a speed rack with like all my sheet racks or sheet pans on them. So if you just look at this tiny little room, it looked like a teeny tiny commercial kitchen. And then I had, my storage, my stainless steel storage rack on casters, and I had eventually two of those, one of them had all the pre folded boxes. Um, the other one had like all my ingredients. I also bought like two huge ingredient bins, one for my sugar, one for my flour. Cause those are the things that I use the most of. I was buying like 25 pound bags and like filling up my bins, and so it looked like a little commercial kitchen. And, I just had to stay very organized with all of that because I was limited to this small space.
So I was fortunate with that. I think before I built that, when I was only doing like 30 pies, I didn’t really need a ton of room, so I did take over my kitchen counters, but then I was like, okay, I don’t want to be here anymore. because it’s, I had to like close off the kitchen to everybody, like, no one can be here, no one can breathe around the pies. Like get away from here. Don’t even think about microwaving a hot pocket and infusing the hot pocket’s smell into this pie. I took over. So then I moved all of the operation except for the baking and my oven obviously, everything was in the dining room, and so when it was time to bake, then I’d be like, okay, no one come in here for two hours because I’m going to be using the oven.
My house always smelled so good. My mail person would, when they gave me the mail is like, what are you doing? Every time I come by here I’m like, what are they making in there? It smells so good. And I’m like, Oh yeah, it’s pie. Oh my God. Every time I deliver mail to this house.
David Crabill: [00:44:52] Well, what is it been like to transition from your home to now being in your own kitchen?
Diana Shockley: [00:44:59] It’s nice. It’s nice that I can, turn it off when I go home. because when it was in there, like I got tempted to like just walk into the dining room and experiment with a different recipe or, do a little bit of prep or, do extra cleaning on whatever’s in there.
It was just too easy to go back into it. so that was one of the nice things of having the kitchen is that, I could lock up the doors and I go home and then I can be home and not be at work. So that was nice. Um, our kitchen that we’re in now, it’s, it’s still not that big. It’s pretty small, but I was used to navigating making 300 pies in a much smaller space so it can be done.
David Crabill: [00:45:43] How has the transition been on the business front? It sounds like you’ve become more of a manager, which you have experience in. But what is it like today for you and your business?
Diana Shockley: [00:45:55] I’m still very active in the baking. I still come in in the morning when our head pastry chef comes in, and our front desk person comes in. I still come in in the morning and I bake, and I roll dough, and I make the pies. I still want to be making some of the pies. I’m just kind of overseeing the quality, making sure everything stays, just continues to meet my standards.
There’s a lot of parts that are not fun. Um like, we had to let a person go earlier on, and that was, that was really sad for me because, it was just a necessary thing. The stress of making sure everything’s always sanitary and in order and repaired to be prepared for an inspection and, just for food standards and safety. Um, staying on top of my team, um, when they’re not following my gosh darn checklist. So those things aren’t fun. I wish I could just bake. So I do miss that. Like before I just baked and sold my pies, and now there’s like so many different things I have to worry about. It’s like, are we posting enough on social media?
We’re growing, so we’re using a consultant to help with our marketing cause I know enough to be just a little dangerous, but I don’t have the time to do it. Like if I just did the marketing for my business, it would be great. If I just did blah for my business, it’d be great. But I can’t do it all. And so I’m starting to let go of some of the power and I’m consulting with the right accountant and bookkeeper and making sure everything looks good on that end. Making sure that the cash box is, or the register’s always balancing and, just those kind of annoying things that have to be done.
It’s like, inventory and ordering supplies all the time. Like how did we run low on that and no one told me? I thought we were set for two weeks and crap, let’s, figure that out. And then those little things stress me out when I’m like, I just want to make pie, people.
Like but, um, it’s a lot smoother now. We had to like, work out some kinks, but I think we’re pretty solid now. But we’re six months in, like the first six months were just figuring things out and just doing the best we can. But now six months going forward, I feel like it’s going to be like, not smooth sailing, cause I’m sure new things will come out, but yeah.
David Crabill: [00:48:12] Where are you taking this? What’s your vision for the future?
Diana Shockley: [00:48:15] We want to increase our production and increase our sales obviously. We’re still not where we want to be. We’re almost there. So to be at a steady place where I want to be, and the fact that we’re almost there at six months is just kind of a little scary that we’re going to outgrow our kitchen too fast.
But my goal is to open another location towards the end of the summer. And then, after that, I want to get a concession trailer. So it’d be a lot easier for us to do festivals and farmer’s markets. the whole setup, the whole booth and stuff that it would eliminate all of that. You just kind of dry it up, park, unhook it and you’re good.
So we have a couple of things like that, um, doing more markets and events. Expanding our menu. Right now, we’ve kind of been doing, mostly just classics, but we have some more gourmet style recipes of pies that, people never tried before and, fruit combinations and like I said, including some like savory elements to some of these sweet pies. Um, we want to roll some new stuff out like that. we also have a few recipes for like vegan pies, so I’m kind of working on some recipes That, kind of cater to, different diets, and different restrictions that people have and choices. So, um, so we can provide pie to everyone. Unfortunately, because our kitchen is, the size that it is, we can’t safely do gluten free stuff. So I don’t see us going into the gluten free realm, but um like vegan pies and keto friendly and stuff. Yeah, definitely.
But we want to grow, we want to expand. Um, I still kind of want to stay in the suburbs with, our second location and then hopefully, next year, open a, a different sort of concept of our pie shop downtown.
David Crabill: [00:50:01] Downtown Sacramento.
Diana Shockley: [00:50:02] Downtown Sacramento is like my end goal. And it would still be a pie shop, but um a slightly different twist on our concept, which I don’t want to reveal too much right now. But
David Crabill: [00:50:12] It sounds like you’re definitely moving forward and it’s growing and expanding, and it’s very exciting.
Diana Shockley: [00:50:18] Yeah. Yeah. It is exciting. And, and it was exhausting, but now it’s, now it’s more exciting than exhausting.
David Crabill: [00:50:28] Well, Diana, I think that you are going to be an inspiration to a lot of people who are trying to go in the direction that you’re moving. And you shared a lot of great advice today about how to be consistent and how to market yourself. And it sounds like you put in a ton of work and now you’re really reaping the benefits of it.
Diana Shockley: [00:50:47] Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
David Crabill: [00:50:50] Thanks so much for sharing with us today. Can you tell us where people can find you?
Diana Shockley: [00:50:56] Yeah, so, our pie shop is at 4949 Marconi Avenue, Suite A2 in Carmichael. Open Thursday through Saturday 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM and on Sundays 11 to 5.
David Crabill: [00:51:09] And I think most people are going to be listening from across the country. So where can people find you online and contact you?
Diana Shockley: [00:51:16] I can also be found at, ilovepiebakeshop.com
David Crabill: [00:51:21] Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. It was a wonderful interview and thanks for sharing with us.
Diana Shockley: [00:51:27] Thank you.
David Crabill: [00:51:30] That wraps up the fourth episode of the Forrager podcast. You’ve got to admire Diana for her work ethic, consistency, and the clear passion she has for her pie business.
If you have your sights set on opening a brick and mortar food shop someday, and would like to get started from home like Diana, head on over to forrager.com to learn about your state’s cottage food law.
For more information about this episode, go to forrager.com/podcast/4. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you in the next episode.