5 Things Tech Startups Can Learn From the Small Business Owner of a Local Bakery


Running a small business is hard. Technology is supposed to make it easier. If a product or service doesn’t save time, money and is easy to use, a business owner won’t use it.

I know that first-hand from having worked at my family’s window manufacturing firm in Chicago as well as the many business owners I have met over the years.

Recently, venture capitalist and former Googler, Hunter Walk spoke with Emily Day, the owner of Flour & Co, a local bakery owner in San Francisco, about the technology she uses to run her business.

5 Things Tech Startups Can Learn From a Small Business Owner of a Local Bakery

1. Interoperability between store tech is still a mess:

Emily uses ShopKeep as her tablet point-of-sale system because it’s the easiest and most flexible in her opinion. Some of the other systems she tried had fatal flaws, such as an inability to print order tickets into the kitchen. She’s also really sensitive to minimizing the number of finger touches it takes to complete transactions. They’re a high volume business and during peak hours need to still provide quick service.

2. Enter once, re-enter everywhere:

Given POS as center of a retail store, you’d imagine that it would link seamlessly with all her other systems. Nope. Across the different providers there’s still a real lack of interop – sometimes because tools are new, sometimes because no API exists. Flour & Co wanted to use LevelUp but it doesn’t integrate with ShopKeep, so nope [edit – it does integrate but Emily tells me requires a keyboard which she doesn’t have room for on the counter]. Similarly there was a preferred vendor with an app which allows users to order ahead before they reach the store but no ShopKeep integration so, again, out of luck. There’s so much other work to do that once Emily’s made a system choice, she doesn’t want to go back and reevaluate so since POS came first, compatibility with ShopKeep drives a whole bunch of other decisions. Emily wants to find a loyalty program but so far none of them work well with her other platforms.

3. No one ever got fired for buying IBM:

The large well-known guys still have lots of customers. She knows about Xero accounting and the wave of online pay systems but uses Quickbooks and Paychex for now. It works for her and that’s good enough.

4. Startups, your competition is sometimes a spreadsheet:

At La Boulange they used shift scheduling software but for now at Flour & Co, Excel working just fine. Thankfully though, customer mailing lists have migrated out of the xls and MailChimp powers her communications.

5. Wants to do her own research before talking to a salesperson:

Technology recommendations come from her own research and other store owners. Easy, simple comparison charts and good clear sales marketing pieces are what Emily wants to see; not a salesperson trying to get on her calendar for a 30m demo. What comes next for Emily? Probably an online store via Shopify for some of her more popular items that can transport well.

Firmology Readers: What other insight do you have for tech startups that are focused on small business?

Image: Flour and Co

About The Author

Philip Nowak is the founder of Firmology, technology focused news and insight for small businesses and online startups. He honed his entrepreneurial chops while working for his family’s Chicago-based window manufacturing business. Philip graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Economics.