What do you do? 

As an executive chef at a nearby 5-star resort, I wanted to open a bakery dedicated to making out-of-this-world cheesecake cupcakes. Since my initial opening in June 2020, I have worked on expanding my product line beyond cupcakes to whole cheesecakes, praline candies, ‘bomb’ candies, and others.  Josef’s Sweets has developed a distribution channel with several retail stores and restaurants in Talbot County. I have also conducted Italian cooking classes in my bake shop kitchen which has a perfect set-up for training events.    

What inspired you to start your business? 

My father had been a baker and my brother and I wanted to carry on the family tradition. He opened a similar store in Michigan and was quite successful. My bakery Josef’s Sweets was named for my father and a tribute to the family legacy. 

What's special about your business? 

My experience allows me to create sweet delicacies that are differentiated by appeal, quality, and complexity.  The complexity of multiple sweet pastry products, chief among them cheesecakes in mini, personal and full sizes, with at least 15 varieties and flavors sets Josef’s apart from other pastry shops.  As the differentiated cookie assortments, holiday pastries, cheesecakes, and other candies, all with a personal flair in their development as compared to batch-made, supports that Josef’s products are standouts. 

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner? 

We opened the store 26 days after signing the lease. This was exhilarating but draining since I work 80 hours a week in my daytime job as an executive chef at the Inn at Perry Cabin.

Though we doubled sales versus forecast in our first month we had lean months too. These ups-and-down of opening and operating a new business extract an emotional toll.

What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner? 

Josef’s Sweets is a “passion project” so I get great satisfaction from having my own business, having employees dedicated to my vision, giving back to the community.

What influenced you to seek help from SCORE? 

I had the elements of a business plan in a PowerPoint deck. It had sufficient visuals to tell my story, but it lacked the necessary details and planning elements that would attract a lender, and did not set realistic expectations for the business.  Ed and I spent much time on the pro forma assumptions and depictions that would better anticipate the likely financial performance.  Having located a space that fit my business plan, there was a time crunch to close the lease. Ed and I worked intensely, some days and nights quite late, over a month to get everything where it seemed to ‘fit’.  We contacted lenders and secured a loan with my personal banker. 

How SCORE helped. 

SCORE got us from concept to actualization in quick order.  Also, SCORE provided me a second set of eyes on plan/project.

What's great about my mentor? 

Ed French took a personal interest in my new business and was available to me 24X7. I had over 50 conversations with Ed French in the period leading up to launching Josef’s Sweets.  Having been educated at The Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park, NY, I had no training on the business side of the culinary field.  Ed French was invaluable in helping me develop and refine my business plan which ultimately helped me to secure a loan from my personal banker.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business? 

The best advice I can offer is that it’s important to have enough working capital to get up and running.  Also, talk with community leaders and service groups in advance of opening to utilize all available local resources.

Cheesecake by Josef's Sweets
Josef's Sweets by Gregory James

My Mentors