Path: From the corporate world to the bakery entrepreneur: the story of Alan Goodman

In 2019, Alan Goodman won the MKE Rev-Up Pitch Competition. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

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A few years ago, Alan Goodman attended a barbecue at a friend’s house. He brought bread pudding – one of his specialties – for dessert.

Party host Dr. Bruce Hamilton and his friend took it aside during.

“You should sell that,” Goodman recalls, telling him Hamilton. At the time, Goodman was working in the corporate world, but Hamilton’s words and seeing other guests enjoying his dessert inspired Goodman to do just that.

In October 2018, Goodman launched his business, A Goodman’s Desserts, which offers cookies, bread pudding, cakes and other baked goods.

From punishment to reward

“My approach is to break something and rebuild it,” says Alan Goodman. “I want to be able to change something on the fly.” (Photo provided by Alan Goodman)

Goodman’s first foray into the baking world began when his parents caught him playing basketball instead of studying in the library. As punishment, Goodman cooked and baked alongside his mother.

“After I started doing it, I liked it and became the family baker,” he said.

Before starting his own business, Goodman researched what it would take to be an entrepreneur and spoke with other entrepreneurs.

“The Milwaukee entrepreneurial community, especially the young African American community, has been a source of inspiration,” he said.

He reflected on how his business skills could help him as an entrepreneur, what he could produce on a large scale and what the market needed. In doing so, Goodman landed on cookies – because they’re easier to wrap and store – and bread pudding, which is also easy to store and a rare dessert in the Midwest.

Goodman sold shares he had for his seed money. He then contacted Caitlin Cullen, the former owner of Tandem, about the use of the restaurant’s commercial kitchen.

He walked into the restaurant as a customer, Cullen said, and one day he brought his bread pudding and asked if he could bake his pastries here. The answer was yes.

Goodman is a nice, cool guy, said Cullen, he brings his humanity to his business with his honesty and vulnerability.

“He’s always been someone I was rooted for,” she said. “To see him continually succeed is really great.”

Elmer Moore, executive director of Scale Up Milwaukee, an initiative that works with and supports local entrepreneurs, met Goodman a few years ago after joining the alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Milwaukee. Goodman also participated in Scale Up’s SPARC Growth Training Program.

Goodman was as much a resource for his SPARC program peers as he was a student, Moore said, adding that Goodman’s interest and desire to continue learning is important to everyone, but especially entrepreneurs.

“What I love and admire about him are also the things that make him a good businessman,” Moore said, noting that he is unmistakably thoughtful, focuses on serving people and is detail-oriented.

“Be nimble of mind”

Treats from A Goodman’s Desserts were served at the Fiserv Forum during the NBA Playoffs and Finals after Goodman hooked up with Milwaukee Bucks owner Peter Feigin. (Photo provided by Alan Goodman)

Goodman learned early on to decide what he wanted to do and what he didn’t want to do. For example, most bakers aspire to be brick and mortar, but Goodman decided it wasn’t for him.

“My approach is to break something and rebuild it,” he said. “I want to be able to change something on the fly.”

Entrepreneurs need to do what’s best for them, Goodman said, and their choices may not always follow the general pattern.

“It’s about being nimble and not getting stuck in one direction,” he said. “You are able to change. You are the captain of the ship; you want a 360 degree view of your business.

In addition to his business, Goodman is a quality engineering and technology instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and he plans to launch a webinar series. It’s smart to have multiple sources of income, he says.

“You are your business”

His advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to learn to pitch.

“You are your business,” he said. “Being able to communicate this effectively is important. “

His second tip is not to compare your business to the success of others. Success is different for everyone, he said, and every business model is different. For some it is a secondary activity, for others it is their main activity and for others it is their retirement plan.

Goodman’s success is in part due to his connections.

“Relationships are based on how you treat people,” Goodman said. “And I was always brought up to treat people well.”

Doors that may not be open to him directly are open to others who can vouch for him, he said. As such, it is important to him that his companies give back.

“You should want to do it because people have helped you,” he said. “It is important for a business to give back. Whatever you choose, be sincere.

Another key to his success is his self-confidence to make big changes with his business. That’s why he applied for and won local and national competitions such as Rev-Up MKE; met Daymond John of “Shark Tank”; and connected with Peter Feigen, the president of the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum.

Goodman’s conversation with Feigen led to A Goodman’s Desserts served at the Fiserv Forum during games and the NBA Playoff Finals.

“Getting out of my comfort zone with my business is probably the thing I’m most proud of,” Goodman said. “The worst anybody can say is ‘no’ and that’s good. But it won’t happen if you don’t ask.

In case you missed it: As a teenager, he was forced to bake. It is now his passion (and his business).