Lessons Learned

by Melody DeLuca

Bread for Life. It has a catchy tune, doesn’t it? This was the name of the bread business where I was co-owner and partner with my older sister, Jennifer. We started this business when I was ten years old, and she was twelve. Little did we know we would spend the next six years making over 10,000 loaves of 100% whole wheat bread and earn close to $25,000 in the process.

In the late 1980s my parents were at a homeschooling convention in Arlington, Texas, where they learned about a Bosch bread machine and Magic Mill, two small appliances greatly desired by many homeschooling families at the time. For the first several months my dad, after coming home from work, would make a batch of bread. This included pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, and three loaves of bread. We had homemade pizza that night for dinner, cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next morning, and enough bread for the week. When my mom set out to make it, my sister and I, who were her right-hand kitchen help, were eager to learn alongside her. As we made more and more bread, we delighted in giving it away to our family friends. Happy as they were to receive it, their response sparked our business venture, “I’ll buy it from you!”

I will never forget our first “bread day” when we made a few batches, and it took all day long to make. As you can imagine, there is a bit of a learning curve to making bread, 100% whole wheat bread at that, and we had to get it right. We quickly learned that making whole wheat homemade bread is no easy task. For months our deep freezer was full of “reject” loaves that were not worthy of being sold. Within time we did get it right and along the way we learned life lessons that were a part of shaping and molding us into becoming highly capable adults and that continue to serve us well to this day.

Lesson one

The customer is always right

This is something my dad would always tell us when it came to serving our customers well. It didn’t matter if the mistake was on their end, you serve customers well having the mindset that they are always right.

Lesson two

Time management

The night before baking day we would call our regular customers asking if they would like to place an order. We made bread loaves, dinner rolls, cinnamon raisin swirl bread, cinnamon rolls, and pizza crust. Additionally, at Thanksgiving and Christmas time we made two specialty breads, a 15-inch Christmas tree or 13-inch braided loaf filled with your choice of butter pecan filling or cinnamon apple raisin filling. Based on how many orders we had, we calculated our starting hour, which was anywhere from 4:30am-6:15am. With utmost efficiency we could make 4 batches an hour. This meant we had to mill the wheat berries for the next batch so many minutes into the current batch while the dough was kneading. We knew how long the bread would take to rise and calculated rise and baking times. Don’t forget cooling times! And then there was the clean-up and shower. Pick up time was typically during 4-6pm. When our customers walked in the door to pick up their order you would never know the kitchen was covered in flour, oil, and wheat berries.

Lesson three

How to pick up the phone and make a call

My sister and I would take turns calling our customers. One week she would call. The next week I would call. We had a certain verbiage to use and had it down by heart. Some customers were friends, or friends of our parents. But plenty of customers were almost complete strangers. These customers came to us from craft shows we participated in twice in the spring and twice in the fall. At our booth we had a sign-up sheet for anyone interested in buying more bread from us in the future. This sign-up sheet was placed strategically right next to our sample plate. 🙂

Lesson four

People skills

We interacted with adults on a frequent basis. We learned to present ourselves well and to communicate clearly. Naturally, I am more on the introverted side but many people who know me today are surprised to learn this about me. This lesson developed and grew strengths in me at a young age that has led to more opportunities throughout my adult life.

Lesson five


My dad set up a spreadsheet for us where we penciled in our ingredients and had rows to calculate our costs. We learned about net and gross profit. We knew exactly how much our ingredients cost and how much money we had earned. From time to time, we used some of our profits to pay for summer camp, family vacations, and extracurricular activities, but we always left enough cash in the money box to buy ingredients from our profits.

Lesson six

A strong work ethic

I think this goes without saying! This bread business was hard work and took great effort to produce a sellable product. We were proud of our product and proud of our hard-working efforts.

Bonus lesson

Your sister can be your business partner and become your best friend

We started out as sisters who would fight and argue from time to time, but through working together we learned to depend and rely upon each other, how to get along and to work out our disagreements, and through this we became best of friends. This is the best lesson of all and to this day we are still best friends.We often recall our “bread days” with some fondness, laughing at some of the ridiculousness of it all: waking up before the crack of dawn, the long hard and tiring days standing on our feet, flour on our face, and oil-stained t-shirts. The crazy customers we would encounter from time to time, the time we forgot to put salt in a batch, and our matching homemade dresses we wore at the craft shows. Little did we know at the time how much of an impact our Bread for Life business would have upon us for the rest of our lives. While we were shaping and molding bread dough the life lessons we gained from our little business venture shaped and molded us into the highly capable adults that we are today. 

Reprinted by permission NACD Newsletter, May 2024 ©NACD

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