Whew! I've finally had time to sit down and gather my thoughts to write this post after a crazy November and December of making pies around the clock, battling through snow storms during deliveries, keeping up with a bunch of papers that have been piling up, and taking and editing hundreds of pictures - very few only make it to social media for your information.
In this post, I'd like to share some of the things that I've learned this past year with you and the plan going forward with Ma Pies. After all, it's been slightly over a year since I made pies from home and shared at The Farmers and Makers Market at cSPACE, and still less than a year since Ma Pies has been incorporated. Perhaps you will find it amusing or at the very least, it's something to consider if you ever start a business venture.
Play your strengths
Everyone has things they enjoy and hate spending time on. I love experimenting and being in the kitchen so wearing my brand on my sleeve, the product is what Ma Pies focus on first and foremost. It's the biggest reason customers come back for.
Other things about the business I enjoy include delivering pies and meeting my customers, working on the website, writing my personal thoughts, and taking pictures although they're still amateur photos.
Knowledge is the best way to save on time and expenses
Enrolling myself into the pastry school and then working in the baking industry were the best investments I've made. Not only did I learn new skills and recipes, but it also allowed me to work more efficient in the kitchen. The end result is a high-valued product and ability to produce large quantities.
There are other professionals out there that can teach us how to improve on our weaknesses. In my case, those are bookkeeping and photography so I hired professionals to teach me in those areas. If I hadn't, I'd probably be spinning my wheels in mud still or paying someone to do that on a regular basis.
Word of mouth is much more impactful than originally anticipated
I've heard businesses having more new customers through social media but Ma Pies' new customers are overwhelmingly from word of mouth. Whether it's a referral from a family member or friend, or a recommendation from a Facebook post, most people try Ma Pies after you did.
Be open-minded and try different things
No one knows the best way to show the brand or message to the viewers as there's no secret formula. It's a series of trial and error like experimenting, as nothing is guaranteed. For instance, if you've visited the website throughout the year, you've probably noticed a lot of changes including the loyalty program, photos, addition of Ma Pies' story and blog, and overall structure of the website. I think I've stopped when I fully enjoyed going through the whole website and heard multiple positive feedback from my customers although you can bet it'll keep changing or evolving.
The success of Ma Pies thus far is mainly due to returned customers and the idea behind this subscription plan is to give customers better value in exchange for monthly commitment. Subscribers would enjoy regular discounts and perks through this program and Ma Pies would have a more predictable revenue which allows us to create more deals in the future. More on this once the subscription app that we're looking at comes into fruition.
This is most requested by you and we should have a vegetarian pizza pie available soon. Another vegetarian pocket pie will be added to the menu as well to match the success of the Mushroom Mornay Pocket Pies.
Gluten-free and gluten-friendly
A gluten-free pie is impossible for us to make as there's wheat flour everywhere on the dough sheeter regardless of how well it's cleaned. A gluten-friendly pie is still possible.
However, we're looking at adding mini gluten-free cakes. It was something that I've learned making in New Zealand and it's very addicting! My friends and I love them!
Part of our success is due to collaborations with Fabefo, Namo Bistro, Element Café, The Bullet Coffee House, Main Street Market, and soon YYC Dustbusters. Ma Pies are always looking to continue to collaborate with other local businesses so feel free to pass this message to business owners out there! It doesn't have to be in the food industry.
Once we achieve a more consistent monthly revenue, the next goal is to attain a permanent location.
2020 was once-in-a-lifetime kind of year (hopefully). Starting a business comes with many challenges especially with Covid thrown into the mix, however the success of Ma Pies wouldn't be possible without you. You've tried our pies; you've shared them with your friends and family; you've visited our website; you've read our story; and you've talked to me. Thank you for your ongoing support and I hope we're making a difference in your life with our pies! See you in 2021!
Corey Ma, The Pie Guy