Insurance and Small Business

LESSONS LEARNED ALBERT RENE TREVINO Owner, Rene's Bakery:

August 27, 2007

LESSONS LEARNED

ALBERT RENE TREVINO Owner, Rene's Bakery

As most entrepreneurs can attest, the process of running a small business includes facing plenty of challenges. But viewing those potential obstacles as opportunities has helped Albert Rene Trevino build Rene's Bakery Inc. into a growing enterprise with a solid reputation.

One of his biggest trials was getting the doors to his Broad Ripple shop open.

Trevino had just parted ways with a former employer in 2004 when he stopped by the recently closed Tosa Euro Café to inquire about buying its bakery equipment. Instead, he found the landlord willing to rent the space at a rate Trevino described as "very reasonable." He agreed to lease the 25-foot-by-25-foot building and set about opening his own bakery.

The problem: "I had no idea how to," Trevino said.

Although the baker was confident in his skills-honed at Ivy Tech and numerous high-end restaurants around town-he lacked knowledge of how to start a business. So he bought a book.

Fueled by a belief that Indianapolis had too few quality bakeries, Trevino didn't listen when a former instructor stopped by the location and predicted Trevino's efforts would be short-lived. He decided to name the bakery for his middle name to give it "a more European feel," and set about raising money.

Trevino realized few investors would be willing to get behind a pastry chef. His startup money was cobbled together from loans on life insurance policies, and sales of stock and whatever Trevino had around his house that he didn't need. With the resulting $9,500, he bought a computer, software and necessary supplies.

On March 12, 2004-three weeks after Trevino's initial conversation with the landlord-the doors to 6524-B Cornell Ave. opened. By then, the fledgling business' startup capital was down to $3,000, and Rene's didn't even have a sign to advertise its presence.

"I had a lot of faith in what I did," Trevino said.

Rene's got a break when a local radio cooking show mentioned the bakery was open. Customers began trickling in, and Trevino sold enough in the first month to pay the bills. In its fourth month, the bakery generated enough revenue for him to collect a paycheck.

Three years later, Rene's cranks out about 650 croissants a week. Twelve employees keep the bakery running nearly 24 hours a day, and the bakery is on track to generate about $250,000 in revenue this year.

Now, "one of my biggest challenges is resisting the urge to grow too fast," said Trevino, 41.

Downtown Carmel and downtown Indianapolis are attractive expansion targets, but Trevino prefers to spend the bakery's revenue on quality ingredients and skilled employees, rather than on operating expenses.

One minute, he's discussing the need for more production space and the challenges his employees face working in such cramped quarters. The next minute, he's talking about how he believes he can squeeze more production out of the shop by rearranging equipment.

Likewise, Rene's limits its paid advertising to the neighborhood Broad Ripple Gazette.

"I don't want to tell anyone we do the best of anything," Trevino said. "I'd rather they say it on their own."

Trevino gets the word out about Rene's by donating gift certificates to charity auctions and taking the shop's wares on the road, to city art fairs, festivals and farmer's markets.

The shop's cakes, croissants, cookies and pastries also generate a fair amount of word-of-mouth advertising, which can result in write-ups in local and even national publications.

Trevino has big plans for his little bakery, but he knows he'll face a lot more challenges before those plans come to fruition-finding skilled pastry chefs, for instance, to staff any expansion.

Characteristically, Trevino seems undaunted.

"We're moving slow, but we'll get there, he said.
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