Tina Kent didn’t grow up dreaming of owning her own restaurant one day, but she did grow up “on the floor” of her mom and dad’s restaurants, and she was all too familiar with the crazy hours, fast pace, and competitiveness in the industry. She decided a different line of work would be best for her, so after high school she went off to pursue her degree in business management. It would seem that destiny had another plan for her, though, and this is how her new dream found her.
When Tina finished college, she started working as an accountant, but she quickly realized that something was missing, and now she knows that she missed the daily gratification that came from working around people. On any given day now, you can catch her on the phone taking care of her wholesale accounts, working with one of her 30 employees, or greeting families in her restaurant. Many people have come to be involved at The Bread Box over the years, but the business had very private and small beginnings.
It all may have truly started from Tina’s loves of collecting cookbooks. She had stacks and stacks of bread cookbooks in her home when she began dating her now-husband, Lucas. Lucas took an interest in the recipes, and soon filled the home with “mothers and starters.” After some experimentation with recipes, Lucas asked if he could bake the bread for the restaurant he and Tina were both employed by at the time, and it wasn’t long before several other restaurants were buying his breads. Many wholesale account later, their garage was a full-scale commercial kitchen, and baking breads wasn’t just a hobby anymore. Once they reached 40 wholesale accounts, they started searching for the right space to house their growing business, which had now been named “The Bread Box” by their friends.
Once again, it would seem that destiny gave them a budge in the right direction. The Alley (formerly known as Artisans’ Alley) seemed like a great place to bake their breads, but the lease agreement required them to provide lunch for guests. Since both of them had a background in restaurant service, they happily agreed to the terms, expecting about 20 lunch guests a day—a breeze for them. But a lot more than 20 people started coming for lunch. “People were showing up, liking us, and wanting more. Next thing we knew, we were a full blown restaurant,” Tina says. “Now we have over 50 wholesale accounts, we provide bread to all the top hotels, and the restaurant business is gang busters. We could have never imagined it, but at this point we’re almost ½ & ½ with our business.”
Today, the Bread Box is baking up award-winning deliciousness every day and supporting other San Antonio businesses, by buying all their ingredients locally to hiring local AC repairmen. Tina is at the head of it all, using her background in the restaurant business and her degree in business management, while working with over 30 employees and hundreds of customers.
With both sides of this business flourishing, I sat down to talk to Tina about The Bread Box and how she balances work and home life.
Q: “Do you feel successful?”
A: “I am envisioning this being very similar to what my mentor from Cappy’s said to me. He taught me everything about this business, he taught me about people. He taught me to care about people. A happy and successful environment comes from happy people. Genuinely caring for people and their well-being, making sure that they can succeed—that is the pathway to success. We are two years in, our sales continue to increase, and we don’t have a high turnover. I think we have created a safe culture here. We want to help people learn and grow.”
Q: “That sounds like success to me! What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?”
A: “Believe in yourself, really push forward, and invest 200% in yourself. If you don’t, [your business] may not bear the fruit that it could. If I could do anything different, we should have said from the beginning, ‘Wow, we’re pretty awesome.’ Instead, we just considered it a hobby. We were in business before we had a name; we had 15 wholesale accounts. Invest in yourself, dream big, and make it happen.”
Q: “While growing your business, did you ever feel like giving up?”
A: “No, we couldn’t, because we had employees to think about and they had families. There was too much on the line. At this point, we have 30 employees—all with kids, moms and dads, or college students.”
Q: “What do you do for self-care?”
A: “Meditation, finding time to just do nothing. For me, baking is my happy place. I am a pastry baker, and I do the wedding cakes here. When I get an order for a wedding cake, I can come here at night when it’s dark and quiet, nobody is around, and I can spin that cake stand around and turn out that buttercream. I feel like that’s my yoga.”
Q: “How do you make time for family?”
A: “We made a promise to each other, that we were not going to be a business that would be open all day. We do breakfast and lunch and brunch on the weekends, but after 5:00 P.M. is family time. We believe that’s right for all of our families here. This industry is generally really hard on families. Our end goal is not to become millionaires. Live a simple life, provide jobs, have a safe place, and be your own boss.”
Q: “Has parenting taught you anything about running a business?”
A: “I am working with people much younger [than I am] and older [than I am]. We’re are all working together, learning together, and finding each individual’s special place, to help motivate them to be the most successful person they can be. So yes, parenting has taught me about running a business, and vice versa.”
Q: “What do you hope the takeaway is when people come to The Bread Box?”
A: “A safe environment for our employees, wholesome meal for families, and that the employees make decent living wages so that they can provide for their families.”
Q: “What is your favorite food, and what drink do you love with it?”
A: “There is a lot I like. It depends on the time of year! My ultimate comfort food is my mom’s curry chicken with fresh lemon grass, ginger, love, and care. That’s my go-to meal I make at home.”
Q: “What advice do you have for other mompreneurs?”
A: “Caring for your children is so important. It’s so easy to get caught up in the business, that we forget all those fleeting moments. Take the time to be in those moments. Read a story to them. Finding the best way to care for your child is so important. It doesn’t have to be the most convenient hours, or the closest drive—just find a place that is a blessing to you and your child.”
Tina, thank you for sharing your empowering story with me! I hope that our dear readers will feel inspired. Remember, always believe in yourself and don’t stop chasing your dreams!