Honey & Grains Bakery
Salt Lake City
Doing what you love makes for a sweet life
Julia Robinson has wanted to own a bakery for as long as she can remember. As a 15-year-old, she started working in the food and beverage industry and realized her passion for making delicious food and connecting with people was getting stronger.
“I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. Even as a young child I was starting businesses and working every job I could. After getting a taste of being my own boss and doing what I love, I knew running a bakery was the right path for me,” Robinson said. “My favorite part of owning my own business is the sense of pride I feel when I tell people, ‘I’m the owner.’ It doesn’t feel like work when you love what you do.”
Robinson started working at a local store bakery and then built on that experience by baking elaborate cakes for her kids’ birthday parties. This quickly drew attention from her neighbors and friends. Soon after, she started a home-based, cake-baking business. Robinson continued baking from her home for a few years until a food-filled trip to France reminded her how badly she wanted to start a bakery of her own. She was also reminded on that trip how her father always encouraged her to be a dreamer and create her own path. So, upon her return she started looking for opportunities to make her dream a reality.
A chance encounter one day while she was out buying ingredients for another cake led her down the path to finding a bakery to purchase. She was definitely open to the idea of buying a bakery rather than building one from scratch. So, when another baker asked her if she wanted to buy a bakery, this was the opportunity she was looking for.
Robinson said that from the moment she entered Honey & Grains bakery in Springville, it felt like her own. “I loved the heart and story of the business and after tasting the breads, I saw nothing but potential,” she said. Shortly after, Robinson and her father, Jon Stewart, became the owners of Honey & Grains.
After deciding to purchase the bakery, Robinson and Stewart started visiting banks to secure funding for the purchase of Honey & Grains. Robinson said it was a difficult process and she had no idea where to start. That’s when she was directed to the SBA’s Orem Small Business Development Center by a local lender. There, Robinson met with Shaun Wilson and they began the process of evaluating financing options, developing a business plan, creating financial forecasts and preparing business loan applications.
“My biggest challenge was funding in the beginning. Shaun helped me with my business proposal, research and application process for funding (guaranteed SBA loan). They were there every step of the way. Whenever I was told no, my adviser helped me find a different path,” Robinson said. “Sometimes ‘no’ means ‘not now.’”
Robinson said the SBDC was tremendously helpful in the entire process of evaluating and negotiating the purchase of the business and also with the implementation of business processes using QuickBooks and general best practices for managing the business.
Honey & Grains focuses on wholesale bread-baking for local restaurants and eating establishments, but their storefront brings in a lot of local retail sales direct to customers. They primarily serve Utah County with a small customer base that extends to Salt Lake County and St. George. Now with the addition of her new website, they have started shipping orders all over the country.
Robinson is very proud that Honey & Grains is a scratch bakery. “I took it on as a personal crusade to save the store because scratch bakeries are a thing of the past,” she said. “It’s the smaller stores that really are the best place for great bread,” she added.
All Honey & Grains products are free of preservatives, additives and chemicals. They also source all their primary ingredients (flour and honey) from local Utah companies. The starter they use is basically liquid gold to a baker. It’s 115 years old and was passed down through generations of bakers. She bought the starter and the rights to the starter, so it’s protected.
Robinson said her focus for the next few years is local development of wholesale accounts in Utah and Salt Lake counties, but expansion is a goal. In the meantime, Robinson is currently expanding her product mix with options for gluten-free, vegan, cookies and donuts. “I try not to compare to other small businesses and I try not to copy anyone else. I want us to be our own unique bakery — not just another bakery with the same items,” she said.
“My advice is to work hard, but know your worth. You have to be alright charging people money for your products or services, no one can run a business for free and your time is valuable. Don’t give-up; use failure as a road map and as learning experience,” Robinson said.
Heeding her father’s advice to be a dreamer, Robinson had a website for a bakery developed and ready to launch years before she purchased Honey & Grains. She just needed a bakery. So, in 2018 Julia launched the Honey & Grains website and web traffic exploded. She explained that the site gets a solid flow of traffic on a daily basis with orders from all over the country.
Another boost in traffic has been her father’s appearances on the hit TV show "Ninja Warrior." The bakery has been showcased several times during primetime TV and when this happens, traffic and orders really increase. They even introduced Ninja Warrior bread during last season’s airing.
What makes Robinson most happy is seeing local orders come through the website. She said they always eventually end up in the store, and they always end up in the store during the holidays.
Last year was great for growth and improvement with the biggest thing being the hiring of new employees. They started with seven to nine employees and ended 2018 with 13. Additionally, they were able to secure several new commercial wholesale accounts from a few large restaurants.
Robinson has established several programs to give back to the community. Each year Honey & Grains donates over 500 loafs of bread to the local senior center in Springville. Additionally, they donate to local fund-raisers for elementary programs.