Food and family often go hand in hand. So perhaps it’s not surprising that all three of the independent bakers The Metropreneur interviewed for this story have relatives who have passed down recipes and secrets or encouraged them to make their hobby a business, or both.
To learn how these bakers are building their businesses −and making Columbus a little sweeter in the process− keep reading.
For Tammi Mattson-Bailey and Melissa Linton, baking is in their blood.
Mattson-Bailey’s grandmother was a cook and sold baked goods on the side.
“I guess I’m following in her footsteps, except for the cook part,” she says smiling.
Linton’s mother was the baker in the family until her death in 2002.
“I’ve always been truly inspired by her and wanted to do something that kept her memory alive,” she says. “We would always bake together and I learned all my cookie recipes from her.”
Travis Sims and Roberto De Jesus got their start making desserts for holiday celebrations and loved ones’ birthday parties.
“After feedback from family and friends, we decided to pursue this endeavor,” Sims says.
Their business, Batch, launched about five months ago. Right now they primarily focus on cheesecakes baked in mason jars, but they plan to explore other dessert options down the road.
Mattson-Bailey and Linton have been in business a bit longer, founding PolkaDot Cupcakery in September 2012 and Yellow Duck Cookies in March 2011, respectively.
Mattson-Bailey makes cupcakes, small cakes, and “PolkaPops.”
“What sets me apart are the one-of-a-kind fondant toppers I make for my cupcakes to match themes for birthday parties, showers, weddings, or any type event you can imagine,” she says. “I also can print any picture as an ‘edible image,’ which really makes the sky the limit. In addition, we have the PolkaPops, which are a push-up cupcake. I also use only the freshest, natural ingredients. Everything I make is made from scratch.”
Linton makes chocolate chip, M&M, and butterscotch caramel cookies, but her specialty is custom cut-out cookies. After doing a little research, she discovered that not many companies top their cut-outs with buttercream icing, so she incorporated that into her recipes.
Though Linton says she tries to keep Yellow Duck’s cookies as “simple and basic” as possible, she enjoys coming up with unique icing flavors, such as Root Beer and Salt Water Taffy.
When it comes to drumming up business, Linton and Mattson-Bailey say word of mouth has been invaluable.
“If you make a great product and give great customer service, your customers will take about it with their friends,” Mattson-Bailey explains. “There is nothing better than that.”
A business website, networking, social media, and partnerships with other small business owners have also been helpful.
For instance, Batch held a tasting event at Tigertree in the Short North on March 3 during Gallery Hop.
“The event was very successful and we had a great turnout, and turns out one of our samplers was Anne Evans at Columbus Underground, who wrote an article on our cheesecake that day.”
Additionally, the owner of Mama Mimi’s Take and Bake Pizza invited Mattson-Bailey to sell cupcakes in four of her stores on Valentine’s Day.
“That was huge for me,” she says. “It was a great opportunity to have a place to sell individual cupcakes for those who wanted to try them without having to place a large order.”
The biggest challenges faced by the bakers interviewed for this story vary. For newcomer Batch, it’s simply getting a foot in the door. For the owners of PolkaDot and Yellow Duck, which are humming along, there just don’t seem to be enough hours in a day.
As a mother of six, balancing work and family has been a struggle for Mattson-Bailey.
“I am generally very busy on the weekends, so I really have to juggle my time,” she says. “I try to work after they all go to bed, so I can spend as much time with them during the day as possible. It makes for some very late nights, but it’s all worth it.”
Working full time as a nanny and getting Yellow Duck off the ground has sometimes been difficult for Linton.
“I want to give 110 percent to both jobs, which can wear you thin,” she says. “You have to truly love what you do and have a good support system, and that keeps you going and pushing you.”
At the moment, Linton isn’t sure whether she’d like to open a retail space of her own.
“I change my mind about this weekly,” she says. “I feel, as any business owner [does], having your own space is a dream…I wouldn’t say never, but I know right now Yellow Duck is still growing and finding its way, and I have no clue what the future holds.”
Mattson-Bailey and Sims are certain they want retail spaces, but the timing has to be right.
“At the moment, we are fine with our business model, but at some point we would like to expand,” Sims says.
Mattson-Bailey has started looking for a space, but has yet to find that “perfect fit.”
“There are so many factors and it’s a scary leap to take, especially with a family,” she says.
To learn more about Batch, visit BatchDesserts.tumblr.com.
To learn more about PolkaDot Cupcakery, visit PolkaDotCupcakery.com.
To learn more about Yellow Duck Cookies, visit YellowDuckCookies.weebly.com.