At 7:30 in the morning on the 4th of July Magdalena Randall is in her kitchen in Lancaster with mixing bowls, dough, a large baking oven and a dream...
Many people in the North Country couldn’t tell you her real name. To them she’s The Polish Princess, purveyor of European-style bread.
Randall started baking about six years ago. It was a way to supplement the family income and she missed the kind of bread she grew up eating in Poland.
She had zero experience but did some research and gave it a shot.
“The first farmer’s market was 18 loaves of bread and it took me all day to bake it.”
Every loaf sold. And she kept at it.
“I invested a lot of time into studying that. I took several courses with Jeffrey Hamelman at the King Arthur Bakery”
Her reputation spread and as did the demand at North Country farmers markets.
“Yesterday I baked to Berlin 160 loaves of bread. Today I will bake the same for Lancaster and very often it is not enough.”
About year ago she got serious about expanding. Working full-time. Working for herself.
New Hampshire has always had a lot of self-employed workers. The recession seems to have increased that.
“The study that I was looking at covered 2001 to 2012 and saw a nine percent increase in the proportion of people statewide that are self-employed,” said Carmen Lorentz is state’s director of economic development. “So, I do think there is a trend there.”
Last year, New Hampshire ranked sixth nationwide with 8.4 percent of workers being self-employed, according to a study by EMSI, which specializes in information about the labor market. That’s almost 58,000 people.
Stewart Gates is with the New Hampshire’s Small Business Development Center, which offers free advice to entrepreneurs. He says regardless of the kind of work they do, the self-employed tend to share a key trait.
“They characteristically have more than the average amount of self-confidence, not to the point where they are in your face or abusive but they believe in themselves. They believe in what they are about to do. There is a restlessness."
When Magdalena Randall decided she wanted to expand she knew how to bake bread. But she needed the recipe for a successful business. Gates helped out.
“She had a good product and she had customers for it. But she felt there were more customers out there and she couldn’t serve their needs because she didn’t have enough production capability.”
So, he helped her put together a business plan.
That plan now involves a shop on Lancaster’s Main Street, with a big sign that reads “The Polish Princess.”
Right now, there’s construction material everywhere. The previously-vacant shop is being renovated by the landlord.
But looking beyond the boxes and sheet rock Randall sees a place where she can sell all the bread she can bake along with some pastries and coffee.
She also sees one more thing: an employee.
It’s tricky trying to figure out the impact of such solo entrepreneurs on the state’s economy in a dollars-and-cents kind of way.
But Stewart Gates of the Small Business Development Center, says businesses such as The Polish Princess are very important.
“In these small towns one or two holes in Main Street can make a big difference. The way I look at the economy is it is sort of like a masonry project. It is one brick at a time. Is any one brick crucial? Well, no but you can’t take too many out or it will collapse.”
The Polish Princess is slated to open in October. In the meantime, Randall will continue to sell her bread at farmers markets.