Monday, July 19, 2010

Interview Series: Handmade Business Owners

Interview 2:  Sweet Cheeks Baking Co.
It's been way too long since I did an interview post and I've been meaning to do this one for a while because the owners of this amazing bakery helped make our wedding so spectacular.  I chose their bakery for our cake because they were so creative in person and their cake/icing flavors tasted amazing.  So many people at our wedding went back for seconds on the cake!   Elaine of Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. was nice enough to answer my interview questions below on how she and her partner started such a successful baking company.  

Name:  Elaine Palminteri Ardizzone & Donna Cellere
Business: Sweet Cheeks Baking Co.
Year business launched: 2007
Short description of what your business is: Specialty Cake Design and Wholesale Desserts

1.  What was the most important thing you did in the first year to establish yourself and gain enough momentum to persist?  We did NOT take out a loan but started with very limited capital and worked with what we had.  So we never had huge overhead.  We spent minimal money but lots of facetime so that people learned who we were.  We literally talked a lot (or I did, The Mouth) and talked our way into situations that would help us.  We sought help from people with similar experience and took their advice when it seemed appropriate and deviated when it seemed better for us.  In other words, we used our gut and ate PB&J a lot...

2.   Of the following things, which has been the most important to your business and why? ALL OF THEM:
a.  networking - Possibly the #1 thing here, absolutely, especially for the wedding industry.  There are so many vendors out there, people will buy from whomever they LIKE more than  whose product they like.  You can find a decent product anywhere.

b.  putting in many, many hours - Key to success is not being afraid to work long hours when necessary, but sometimes taking time away is just as important.
c.  coming up with innovative ideas - This is very important when getting attention from the public eye, or else you sit stagnant with other established businesses. We offer our cake tastings in a unique way that separates us and cake ingredients and health that no other top quality cake designers offer.
d.  something else please describe:  Customer Service!!!

3.   What were you doing before you launched your business and why did you want to leave?  Working for someone else...never again if we can help it.  It's either in your blood or it's not to work for yourself.   You must be willing to take a pay cut or a complete lop-off of income for a while if you intend to open your own business.  Income is not happiness, but it is critical to survival's a balance. 

4.  What has been the most unexpected challenge that you’ve faced so far?  Being asked to be on FOOD Network out of the blue...for something that we did not already do (sell online for shipping).  We had to fabricate packaging, a new website, online shopping cart, and speed of production for an item - all within 3 weeks!  It was totally NUTS.  But do you say "no" to the FOOD Network?  Uh, duh...
6.  How long did it take before you felt like your business was successful in terms of having a strong, recognized brand, and in feeling financially comfortable?  About 2 years into business, when we had already hired 2 employees and felt we actually had some flexibility with our own time, we felt a bit more "settled."  The biggest deal to me was hearing fellow industry leaders saying, "Wow, Sweet Cheeks Baking is all the rage!  Everyone says such great things about you girls!"  That means a lot. 

What helped you mentally persevere to get to that point?  Our husbands.  Thank goodness for the "team" mentality of a very strong relationship.  They have helped us financially as well as emotionally and mentally, it's a gift.

7.  Name 3 things that you think a creative business must have to be successful.  

*Positive working relationship between owners (and staff, if you have employees).
*Fun and open flow of ideas
   *Finances to offer the tools to your employees to do their jobs properly.

Thanks to Elaine and Donna for some great insight into their business!


aeb. said...

Your wedding was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

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