Lost Your Job? Don't Panic!

From spread sheets to cookie sheets how to switch careers and succeed

In these tough economic times, many are looking for a silver lining. NBCSanDiego will be profiling San Diegans who have changed their professions and are starting over. In some cases, their journeys may provide a road map for others to follow. Our series "New Beginnings" will be featured throughout the month of August. -- Ed.

Have you ever yearned for a good loaf of bread? A slice so tasty that you want every last crumb? That desire is what launched Catherine Perez into her new career as artisan baker.

But wait.

Perez was a successful financial analyst with a computer company. Building spread sheets is a far cry from a cookie sheet.

But Perez had this yearning for a long time. And she figured that after 10 years in her finance job, it was time to make a change. She had always wanted to have her own business. So she made the big break and launched a new career of owning her own bakery. 

  "I started writing up a business plan during my last year with the company, " says Perez. "I had accumulated a savings, so I quit to focus on getting the bakery off the ground."  Today, Con Pane in Point Loma is a thriving business. It offers nearly two dozen kinds of bread from the traditional French baguette to Gruyere & Chive Boule. Cinammon Rolls, Rustic Apricot Scones, or a Turkey Cobb including smoky bacon , Gorgonzola, roasted Roma tomatoes on Rosemary Olive bread. And don't forget the espresso. Yum.

To do it, Perez went back to school to study baking at the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis. She learned her craft under Master baker Didier Rosada, sort of the  Julia Child of the baking world.  "He' s the perfect mix of scientist and artist, " referring to his talent and ability to invent bread formulas and his expertise in design.   "It's a fallacy, that careers in business don't involve creativity, running the bakery I get to use both sides of my brain. In the morning I work with the bakers developing new recipes and in the afternoon I analyze and see if there are ways to cut costs."

At a time when people are getting layed off from their jobs and money is tight, Perez' bakery is thriving. "People may not be buying cars, or new homes or taking long vacations or paying a hundred dollars for dinner but they still need their latte and they're willing to treat themselves to a $6 sandwich or reward themselves with a cinnamon roll. We provide quality and value."

When asked what surprised her the most about opening up the bakery in Point Loma, she said, a lot of people figured it would fail, because she rented an old bank space that had been vacant for seven years.  "People really wanted to know about me. Customers would ask for me (the owner) wanting to know 'Who's this new person?' "When you connect with people on that level, they'll go out of their way, to the extent that some customers bought more bread than they actually needed to make sure I would stick around."  

And what advice does she have for those who want to switch careers? Research, research, research.  "When people lose their job, they tend to panic, don't panic. Think about what you want to do. Go back to school. If you are doing something for the money that won't carry you. You have to have desire which will carry you through when you're feeling tired at the end of the night."  Perez definitely followed her own advice and you can see it and  taste it at Con Pane.

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