It was 5:30 am on Sunday morning and I was in the bathroom, sitting on the floor crying.
Not my brightest moment, I must admit, but I want to share it with you anyway because I think we can all learn something from it.
That Sunday I was scheduled to have a pop up event at a local coffee shop. People had been preordering their treats all week and they were especially excited about the vegan donuts I had been advertising. It took me years to figure out how to make vegan donuts that tasted just like the real deal and I couldn’t wait to share them with my customers.
I made donuts all week long as practice. They came out perfect every. single. time.
Then came Saturday night.
I planned to make 140 donuts. I budgeted my time carefully to make sure I could get them all done in time. There were lists and charts and I had every single minute accounted for. And then…disaster.
Out of 140 donuts, more than half just didn’t rise. You see, yeast is a fickle, temperamental beast and it just decided it wasn’t going to work that day. Then out of the remaining ones there were a dozen or so that either burned or looked wonky or fell apart while frying.
None of those things had ever happened before! And there was no time to fix it because yeasted donut dough is not like a cake that you can whip up in 30 minutes. You have to make the dough, knead it, let it rest — it’s an 18 hour process! And I had 2 until I needed to be set up in a coffee shop selling them.
So I did what any quick thinking rational business owner would do: I told my helpers I needed 5 minutes. I locked myself in the bathroom and I cried. A LOT. Not the cute kind of crying either. I’m talking actual sobbing.
All I could think of was how I was letting my customers down. They had ordered ahead of time. They were looking forward to this. And now I had failed them! I’m the professional. How could I screw up this badly?
Thankfully, while I was spiraling in the bathroom, my helpers were stuffing the donuts that had turned out ok and arranging the boxes of preorders. When I came out, still distraught and puffy faced, they showed them to me. “Look, these look really good. You won’t have them for everyone but at least the preorders are all filled.”
I still felt terrible but I put on my big girl pants and went to the event. I posted in my IG stories how I wouldn’t have the donuts I promised because they didn’t come out and then I sat in dread.
Then people started showing up and to my surprise they didn’t have pitchforks and torches and weren’t eager to drag me through the mud for my immense screw up. Instead, most opened up with, “Are you ok? I saw your stories. I feel so bad!”
I apologized profusely and every single person just replied with some variation of “It’s alright. Stuff happens. Can’t wait to try them next time!”
What do you know? It wasn’t the end of the world. My customers didn’t hate me. My business wasn’t finished.
The Lesson Learned
I recently heard an interview with Joh Whaite from The Great British Baking Show. If you watch the show, you know he won Season 3 and he now has his own baking school in England. In the interview he was saying how his teaching style is compassionate because bakers are one of the most perfectionist, hard on themselves kind of people and they need to be told often how they’re ok and it’s not the end of the world if they mess up.
Well, I didn’t have John Whaite’s soothing English accent to tell me everything was ok on Sunday but I am so grateful that I had my customers’ understanding. They reminded me that it’s ok if things don’t go as planned sometimes and that even if I’m the professional, I’m allowed to have a bad day in the kitchen too.
I’m telling you, if this wasn’t the age of Corona I would have hugged every single one of those customers!
So why have I decided to share this with you? Well, firstly to tell you that if you were one of those customers, I heart you.
Secondly, if you’re a baker and you have a day when the dough doesn’t rise, the cake collapses, the cookies burn or the pie has a soggy bottom, know that you are great and you just had a bad day and that’s ok.
Do yourself a favor and don’t collapse into a pile of tears in the bathroom. That’s my professional advice.