Starting a Business After Age 50
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Owner and “Baby” have Birthdays a Day Apart
Cupcake and Things owner Herb DeAguiar outside his shop in Kapolei.
Photo: Lee Ann Bowman
Herb DeAguiar is a big, soft-spoken man whose dream to start his own business came true last year.
DeAguiar and his Kapolei bakery, Cupcake and Things, celebrated birthdays a day apart in early February. He celebrated his 53rd on Feb. 5 and the next day his “baby” turned one. These days he has three employees, but he’s the one who knows how to do it all after a lifetime of working in food production or service for large companies. He helps customers pick out or order cupcakes, parfaits, cakes and pies, runs the cash register or bakes in his own shop.
Before opening the bakery, DeAguiar tested his cupcakes at the Kapolei and Waianae Farmers Markets. In fact, it was at those farmers markets that he first answered customers’ questions. Yes, the bakery would have more than just cupcakes. Of course, he could bake birthday cakes. Yes, he could make them sugar free. Gluten free or egg free? No problem. DeAguiar, who is diabetic and has young grandchildren with allergies, knew he could make what customers needed. Turning out quality baked goods is his passion.
As a child, he and siblings and cousins (his ohana is another only-in-Hawaii mix of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese) were recruited to help tend and irrigate corn on his grandparents’ 50-acre Waimanalo farm. The keiki referred to their summer home affectionately as “prison farm for kids.” After corn was harvested they helped out at roadside stands that were set up and taken down each day along Kalanianaole Highway.
De Aguiar spent 26 years working for Safeway as a baker and in other roles, including stops at stores in Santa Rosa and San Jose, Calif. Eventually, he returned home to become field operations manager for Safeway Hawaii. Five years ago, he became bakery manager at Whole Foods Market in Kahala, but left that job with the dream of his own bakery.
That’s when he asked for help from the Small Business Development Center office on Kapiolani Boulevard. SBDC consultant Aaron Brown helped him make a business plan by asking questions like, “Who will you buy your equipment from?” “What location do you have in mind?” and “What sets your bakery apart from others in that area?”
When he discovered there was no independent bakery in Kapolei, he looked for a site. Today, Cupcake and Things is open seven days a week, at least 12 hours a day.
His wife, Joie, is a strong supporter. After she finishes her overnight shift at Safeway Kapolei, “She’ll often bring me breakfast,” and they’ll discuss what married people discuss: The kids (she has three, Herb has two, all grown but, of course with their own dreams and “dramas”). Then, after breakfast, and before she gets a chance to sleep, Joie often heads out to buy perishable supplies for the bakery.
Herb’s family is important to him and his customers are part of that extended family.
“My cupcakes are the kind I’m proud to serve my grandkids. Most of the cupcake shops on this island are geared toward adults. I said to myself: Mine are going to be cupcakes that kids like, and their parents, too!”
Herb DeAguiar’s Pointers
- Develop a three- to five-year plan that will tell you if your business will survive the first few years. It will also tell you if you have the capital to complete the build out.
- Know your limits: Don’t leverage your entire savings to open a business, as you will probably not see a return on your investment until you sell your business.
- Be prepared to work hard: Be prepared to work mostly by yourself, open to close, seven days a week. Labor is the most expensive part of opening a business.
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