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SMALL BUSINESS | SMALL TALK

No Matter How You Slice It, Bakery Needs a Plan

September 17, 1997|KAREN E. KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q: I am interested in getting more information about how to start my own business. I am specifically interested in purchasing a franchise outlet of a bread bakery. Can you help?

--Melinda Carvalho,

Huntington Beach

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A: The American Institute of Baking, (P.O. Box 3999, Manhattan, KS 66505-3999) publishes a trade industry newsletter and offers baking classes, employee resources and information on purchasing bakeries and equipment. You can contact the association's information services office at (800) 633-5137.

Bread has always been a commodity that can be purchased for very little. What makes a bread bakery successful is that people are looking for breads that are better and different than they can find in the supermarket. That means a bakery has to find a niche, spend more and produce a superior product. The nice thing about bread is that you can add extras without incurring a lot of extra expense.

I advise you to do as much research as possible before you decide to purchase a bakery. Talk to bakers, bakery owners and other people who can tell you about the industry. There is a very small circle of bakers in this industry, and it is not hard to reach most of us. If you decide to purchase a franchise, the parent firm should help you with many decisions you will need to make, such as how to hire a baker, choose your staff and find the right location.

There is one bakery I know of that operates franchise outlets. It is called "Great Harvest" and is based in Montana. You can contact the company at (800) 442-0424 to request an information packet on their franchise opportunities.

--Robert Snoddon, managing partner, wholesale bakery, Il Fornaio, Irvine

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Q: I have an idea for an invention. I have done research and found that there is no patent on this idea. Drawings and other necessary documents have been prepared, and I have plans for how to market my invention. The problem is I cannot go any farther because of lack of funds. Do you know of individuals or groups looking for new ideas and willing to finance or be partners in a new venture?

--Alex Z. Rupisan, Walnut

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A: The first thing I recommend you do is file a "provisional patent application." This is something new that the U.S. Patent Office has come up with in the last couple of years. You fill out two forms, which you can get through the patent office or at the Los Angeles Central Library, attach a description of your invention and $75 and send it in.

As soon as the patent office receives this application, your invention is listed as patent pending for one year. During that time, there is no examination of application but you have all the protection of a full patent application.

This allows you a year to try to obtain funding or put your product on the market and see where it goes. If you are successful at the end of the one-year period, you can consider filing a utility application out of the profit you have made--instead of out of pocket.

There are private individuals who have set themselves up in the business of funding inventions as a way to make money. Also, there are people who act as a type of broker for a new invention and will take a percentage of your invention in exchange for going out and spending their time and effort trying to make connections with people who can actually produce a product for you.

Of course, there's always the possibility that through networking you could find an individual investor yourself, but I urge you to be very careful in doing so. There are any number of scam artists out there who take advantage of inventors desperate to see their product hit the market. They want money up front and then usually produce nothing for the inventor in the long run.

An organization called Inventor's Workshop is the oldest and largest inventor's assistance organization in the country. It is nonprofit and it is legitimate. If anyone can help you find financial backing, this group can. You can reach it at (805) 962-5722.

--Robert M. Sperry,

patent attorney and former U.S. patent examiner,

Woodland Hills

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Q: I came to America from South Korea in 1991 and have been a home-based spa-parts exporter to Asia for the last four years. Now I would like to set up a portable spa-making factory in the Los Angeles area. How can I get a permit for spa-making? I have heard that some counties are not granting business licenses for spa-making due to the use of hazardous chemicals in the manufacturing process. How do I find out what regulations apply to this business?

--Matthew W. Shin,

Granada Hills

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A: Your questions can be answered by our agency's nonprofit business assistance center, which can help you find a location that will suit your manufacturing needs and help you navigate the environmental issues you are facing.

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