I went thru a phase in my 20’s where I wanted to open a bakery. A little neighborhood shop with perfect cupcakes and my someday little ones running around in pink tutus. Then I realized that I was crazy. Because opening a bakery is hard business. So today the lovely Kara, founder of The Sweet Side, is here to give us a real (and yummy) look at opening your own bakery with photos from Katie Parra.
SMP: So I may be alone here, but I feel like it’d be SUCH a dream to run a bakery. How did you get your start in the industry?
TSW: You are actually not alone; it is a dream to own a bakery! I have always been around baking and decorating. As a kid I would sit in our kitchen for hours watch my mom decorate tiers and tiers of cake. She took so much pride in the work she was doing and I just loved seeing the final product setup as the centerpiece at weddings….fast forward 20 years and I had a great job in public relations and advertising, but just never felt the pride in my work that she had. I knew that a change had to be made. I started selling my cakes to family and friends ( I think I sold my first 3 tiered cake for $30!) and by the fall of 2011 quit my job and enrolled at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto.
SMP: What’s the very best part of your job?
TSW: I love my job as a bakery owner; I get to be creative in design, strategic in business and eat cake whenever I want! But I would have to say that the best part about it is when I step back and think what an honor it is to have my work revolve around helping others celebrate their life’s milestones. Their wedding, baby showers, gender reveal cakes, 40th, 50th, 60th birthdays, I love it all!!!
SMP: The worst?
TSW: Temptation is definitely the worst part of my job. I have a MAJOR sweet tooth and when we have cookies, rice krispy treats or biscotti in the kitchen, it is GAME OVER. I just have to eat one, two…three??
SMP: What’s the greatest lesson in business you’ve ever learnt?
TSW: “Comparison is the thief of joy” –Theodore Roosevelt. In the world of constant online “inspiration”, it is easy for all of us to let our admiration for others accomplishments turn a little south. Stopping to appreciate your own accomplishments is truly the secret to keeping the creative entrepreneurial spirit alive.
SMP: The best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
TSW: I am a huge fan of the show Shark Tank and once stumbled upon a video on YouTube of Barbara Corcoran speaking to a group of entrepreneurs on the importance of hiring those with your opposite strengths. I felt like she was sitting in my office speaking directly to me. I stepped back and looked at my areas of weakness and since hiring an uber organized baker and a decorator that majored in art history, I am thrilled to say that we are a much stronger cake shop!
SMP: What’s the creative process like when it comes to your work? How do you dream up such beautiful pieces?!
TSW: I have what I call “cake brain”… I see a pillow in a store and immediately wonder how the texture could be brought onto a cake… I go to a museum and see amazing brush strokes, I wonder how we could replicate it on a cake, I see a monogram on a napkin and I think how amazing it would look on a top tier. My brain (and iphone photos) are full of inspirational images just waiting to be turned into cake!
SMP: I hate to do this to you, but what’s your favourite recipe of all time? You have to choose! People’s lives are counting on it!
TSW: The best recipe I have ever gotten my hands on is my mom’s carrot cake! So often we have couples tell us that they don’t like carrot cake before the tasting appointment, but end up choosing it for one of their wedding cake flavors! I would share this recipe with you, but my mom would kill me!
SMP: One kitchen item you absolutely cannot live without?
TSW: I cannot live without my 6 quart Kitchen Aid Mixer. I love that little powerhouse! When my husband and I got engaged, it was the very first item on our gift registry. It is perfect for a batch of cookies or cake and has so many capabilities through it’s attachments! Love.
SMP: The one baked good you’d happily sustain yourself on until the end of time (yes, you can only choose one! I know… I’m so mean today…)
TSW: I would happily live off of my family’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for the rest of my life. They are so chewy and soft with a good amount of brown sugar to bring the sweetness into the deeper tones. They are perfect just out of the oven with a big mug of milk.
SMP: And lastly, for those of us just getting started, the biggest mistake people make in the kitchen is…
TSW: When it comes baking, I think the biggest mistake is not trying a recipe from scratch. There are so many mixes out there that it seems like you can make anything from a box. Hop online and find a recipe with great reviews. If you are unfamiliar with a term, look it up! A one point I remember thinking “what in the world does ‘stiff peaks’ mean?!” but once I knew, it wasn’t hard at all! The internet is an amazing tool, don’t be afraid to try something new with its help!