The answers to all your questions are here for the looking - that said, no one's ever gone from zero to bulk substrates the first time.
I certainly did.....went straight to bulk. But I did exactly as you stated though.....i did my own research. Topia is full of information but there are tons of of offsite resources that will drag you down the rabbit hole. I believe those who do there own research develop there own style of growing while developing their own theories along the why.
Now would i reccomend it jumping right into bulk? Not really but there are many individuals out here wired to have compulsive behavior such as myself and that's all i did was research and apply practical applications. I did this during any free time i had. For 6 months my family didn't even known I existed, i became a piece of Home Decor in the house sitting there silent reading on my phone or pc or was hunched over a SAB.
I literally jumped into agar first and learned that process before anything else, how to pour, how to germinate spores, how to transfer and yes i even isolated. Then i moved into grain prep. I would inoculate grain and most of the time i failed as i couldnt prep it right but when i had successful colonization, i dumped it out and did it again, and again, and again. And again, and again before i was confident that i could move on.
I began my research Novemeber of 2013 and i didnt spawn my first tub until may of 2014......that's how long it took me to develop each step leading up to spawning. Im not bragging but i think my first grow was above average. Check it out.....https://mycotopia.ne...-advice-please/
I dont think this would have been possible if it were not for all the information available on the internet including topia. I built upon the foundation already put in place by those long before me. I have said it a few times over the years and so has others.......we will see farther then they did because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.
In summary there a few who went straight to bulk and with success but i would agree you need to have you need to right the ship and shore it up or it will be a disaster. I never grew a cake in my life.....want to and I would reccomend anyone to start with cakes but will also support anyone who wants to go straight to bulk as long as they have demonstrated they have spent time doing their own research.