We had the good fortune of connecting with Ana Burcroff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ana, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
We are in our second year of business as sourdough bakers and coffee roasters. My husband Brett and I run a cottage bakery from our home located on the very east end of Long Island called Jamesport Sourdough and Coffee. There isn’t much sourdough here and the response to our business has been extremely positive.
Our work life balance is getting better. In the beginning we didn’t think much about it and worked around the clock. We launched during the pandemic with a contactless pick up from our front porch. It was basically a proxy for socializing with others. This quickly led to wholesale partnerships at local gourmet markets and organic farmstands.
We have two young children and we originally structured everything around their schedule by doing a lot of our work very early or very late at night. Since then we’ve made changes to our process to get on a more predictable schedule and do the bulk of our work when the kids are at school, like using refrigeration to slow down our bread’s fermentation process. We also invested in equipment that allows us to work in bigger batches, like mixers and a bread oven. We find that with more capacity we are inclined to say yes to more business and currently struggle with knowing when to stop. We could pull back from where we are right now and probably have a more harmonious home life.
We know we’re in balance when we are getting enough sleep, have time to cook our own meals, and we can do fun things with our children, like go to the beach or play catch in the backyard. It’s rare that all of these things happen consistently in one week but we are constantly striving to prioritize everything so they can.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My husband and I co-founded our company together and I’m pretty sure we are the only professional sourdough bakers to have ever graduated from Columbia Business School! We both have a background in tech, I worked for Amazon on the product management side for their grocery business and I lead their buying team (aka vendor management team) for Amazon Pets. After business school Brett worked for Google for many years in finance and now he’s the CFO of a startup within the Alphabet umbrella.
When we had kids I really struggled with not seeing them enough and not having the right amount of flexibility in my schedule that parents need for all of the things that come up with little kids. Brett’s role was as inflexible as mine and I had to come to grips that I wasn’t “power couple” material. I wanted work that made my heart sing and I wanted to be with my kids much more than what my schedule allowed.
The pandemic gave us the opportunity to downsize and make big changes. We traded a home and double corporate life in New York City for a quieter life by the seaside at the very tip of Long Island in a small cottage that was originally intended to be our beach home. I resigned from Amazon and Brett shifted to a fully remote role.
Launching this sourdough business together was essentially a happy accident. We shared sourdough with the families of our childrens’ classmates and friends who we couldn’t see, as a proxy for hanging out together. A well respected local farmer encouraged us to sell the bread and before we knew it, we were in business.
The sourdough business has become mostly my endeavor on weekdays and my husband pitches in evenings and weekends. I’m really proud to be doing something that I love every single day, that is appreciated by our community and that teaches my children what it means to be an artisan and craftsman. The business side of it comes fairly easily thanks to my background before bread. The hardest part for me has been to come to grips with the fact that sourdough does not scale easily. Coming from the tech world, this is hard to swallow. And I’m reminded that that’s the point. Making sourdough is a slow, intentional process. Equipment helps but nothing can replace real human hands shaping dough and human senses tending to the processes through touch, feel and smell. It’s hard to train people to know what Brett and I know by living and breathing sourdough bread making, and for now it feels right to organize the business around what we can give to it without relying too heavily on others. In the future that might change.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The North Fork where I live is known for its farms, vineyards and a slow, low key lifestyle. Here’s a list of recommendations that I recently shared with a friend:
Anker in Greenport has an emphasis on seafood
Alpina next door for lunch or dinner (good pasta, focus is Northern Italian)
North Fork Table and Inn for group dinner or lunch, it’s elegant here for the North Fork Food is good, ambiance is pretty
Frisky Oyster is an oldie but goodie
Lunch/Dinner (everything below is in Greenport):
Bruce and Son, very cute and delicious, has an old school new school delicatessen vibe about it while remaining elegant
Little Creek Oyster Bar a cute outdoor shack situation selling oysters and other bites
Green Hill kitchen for BBQ
Stirling Sake for good Japanese
Croteaux for Rose
Mattebella – such pretty grounds, wine is good
The Old Field – LOVE this place, very rustic, Brett and I got engaged here. Full of chickens and beautiful views.
Macari Vineyard – the family is super nice and I enjoy their wine
Sang Lee Farms is the largest organic farm on the North Fork. Their farm stand is well stocked and our bread is sold there.
Deep Roots Farm has a super cute self service situation inside of their barn for veggies and meat
Browder’s Birds if you’re looking for poultry, eggs to take home and their property is amazing. You’re welcome to walk the whole thing and see their sheep, ducks and chickens.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Yes! Colin Beavan, an environmental activist, career coach and zen dharma master who wrote the life changing book “How to be Alive.” In it he talks about how to find your own personal version of a fulfilled and meaningful life and breaks down myths about external facing signs of success. I had the privilege of working directly with Colin and he really helped me get comfortable with the idea that my passions don’t need to be linked to my past; that I didn’t need to keep building on a career that wasn’t joyful for me. It was a big step for me to go in a completely different direction and do something that honestly many people in my life thought I was crazy for doing. My work with Colin gave me the confidence to trust myself and stick to my values, the values that had always been there with me, but that I ignored because I didn’t know how to connect them to “being successful.” It turns out the answer was to redefine what success means for me and to stop people-pleasing.