A: My passion for baking started when I was taking classes at Anne Arundel Community College, and it continued from there. I have worked in bakeries, grocery stores, catering companies and any other place that I could gain knowledge about baking and business.
There is nothing like owning your own business. You can work for someone year after year and do what you are told or you can break out on your own and realize your dreams of being your own boss. There is nothing like seeing your business succeed and knowing that you are the one responsible for that success.
Q: What are your plans and goals with your bakery?
A: In the short-term, I would like to open a retail storefront this year and update my Web site. In the long-term, I want to be a self-sustaining company and be able to build my dream bakery where I have all the equipment I need, the layout is exactly what I want and I can have tables and chairs for customers to come in and sit for a while. I plan on running Fields of Heather for many years.
Q: How many hours per week do you work?
A: When I am not very busy I spend about 10 hours a week doing paperwork, trying new recipes and getting caught up on all the business items that I can't do when I am working in the kitchen. During a busy week I could work 50 to 60 hours a week.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in growing your business?
A: The lack of funding for small business startups has been my biggest challenge. To get a bank loan they want collateral, usually in the form of real estate, they want tax returns for the business or you and a solid business plan. I had a solid business plan and tax returns, but banks didn't even want to talk to me last year because I didn't have collateral. My business is also a bakery, which under lending practices is categorized as a restaurant, the number one failing business startup. My only option has been to continue as I have been and hope the lending market opens up, but it has not done that yet.
Q: What programs at your school were the most helpful in starting and growing your business? Why?
A: When I started at AACC, I was a Baking and Pastry Major, and I had to do an internship in a bakery. After a month I realized that I was going to need more than a Baking and Pastry Degree to start my own business. I ended up double majoring and also getting a degree in Business Management. The classes in small business, sales, human resources and so many others opened my eyes to all that I needed to know. Below are some of the highlights of what I learned in each class:
- Entrepreneurial Thinking, Creativity and Opportunity Recognition helped me come up with new creative ideas for where Fields of Heather should go with new product lines, and it helped determine some of the areas that I might need help in.
- In Entrepreneurship: Sales and Marketing for Small Business I learned marketing ideas that didn't cost a lot of money and how I could use them for Fields of Heather. At the end of the class I had my marketing plan written for Fields of Heather.
- Entrepreneurship: New Venture Planning was the class where they helped you write your business plan or in my case rewrite my plan. We bounced ideas off each other, got help with where to do research, and wrote our entire business plan in 15 weeks.
- The last class was Small Business Accounting, where I learned how to use QuickBooks software. When I left this class I already had my QuickBooks set up and I was ready to start using it in my business.
Q: What do you think the most important things community colleges can do to help encourage and support young entrepreneurs are? Why?
A: They need to get the word out that they are there to help, that they have the resources and the professors who are willing to help guide people through their entrepreneurial journey. They need to get the school involved in getting the word out to the professors and teachers at the colleges. It doesn't matter what degree the students are studying for, there is always the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship. If the professors don't know what is offered, then they can't offer it to the students. Also getting the students in the program to help promote it is a great way to get the word out. You get a better response from students if they talk to other students in the program. A potential student would rather ask questions to someone their own age and not an older professor.
Heather Howe (27)is the founder of Fields of Heather, LLC. Fields of Heather is a full service bakery that specializes in decorated cakes for all occasions, decorated sugar cookies and any other type of baked goods. Founded in 2001 and operating full-time starting in 2007, the business is growing every month.
Heather graduated from Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in 2003 with an Associate's degree in Culinary Arts with emphasis in Baking and Pastry and Business Management. She returned to AACC in 2007 to receive her Associate's degree in Entrepreneurship. Heather also has a Bachelor's in Food Service Entrepreneurship from Johnson and Wales.