Layer owner using skills grandmother taught her to build bakery business

Paula Katz discovered a love for baking at the tender age of six, when her maternal grandmother, Juliet, began letting her help out in the kitchen.

Juliet never wrote her recipes down and her granddaughter is the only family member she ever taught to bake. To this day, Katz is trying to get Juliet’s scrumptious streudel just right.

“There are times I will wake up at 3 a.m. thinking, ‘I got it’ and go down and start baking before I forget,” she says.

Katz began making wedding cakes in 2002, but gave that up four years later when the work became too much to handle while holding down a  full-time job. She continued whipping up desserts for friends and family, though, and in July 2011 she decided it was finally time to open her own bakery− Layer.

Read our interview with Katz to learn what she likes most about owning Layer, where she’d like to open a retail space, and who has been “invaluable” when it comes to business development.

The Metropreneur: You spent 12 years working in corporate retail. Has that experience influenced the way you do business at Layer?

Paula Katz: Yes, definitely. My experience influenced the way I approached creating the brand Layer. From the logo to the website it has, I hope, a cohesive brand voice. I also keep on top of trends to create the latest flavor combinations or product form, like the Sweet Stax.

[M]: What gave you the confidence to make baking a full-time job?

PK: It wasn’t so much about my confidence as it is passion and following my dream. I like to say, “Life is short and you should make it sweet.”

[M]: It seems you make every dessert imaginable− cakes, cake pops, cookies, pies, tarts, cupcakes. What sells especially well?

PK: My specialty really is cakes and cake-like items: cupcakes, Sweet Stax. I am most known for my pistachio cake. I like to take classic flavors and favorites, and put a modern twist on them. I think people find that comforting. Everything I do is made from scratch and I use local ingredients when possible. Krema nuts, Lynds Fruit Farm, Snowville Creamery… The ice box cookies are becoming very popular as well.

[M]: You work out of a licensed home bakery. When you were in the process of obtaining that license, was there any agency, organization, or individual who was especially helpful?

PK: I acquired my first in-home license ten years ago. At that time, I didn’t know anyone else who was doing this, so I did all my research online and received all my information from the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety division. I got my second license when I moved four-and-a-half years ago. That process was so much easier since I knew what I was doing.

[M]: Are you interested in opening your own retail space one day?

PK: Yes, that’s the second part to the dream. Right now I am taking it day by day, but if the perfect spot appeared in the Short North…

[M]: How have you gotten the word out about Layer?

PK: Never underestimate the power of Facebook, Pinterest, and word of mouth. I was also very fortunate to be asked to create all the holiday treats for Twig Garden & Home events and parties and the holiday corporate gifts for Portfolio Creative clients. Both of these projects reached a pretty broad audience and gave Layer a lot of exposure.

[M]: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner and how did you overcome it?

PK: I am sure my biggest challenge is still ahead of me. So far, I would say playing the part of everyone: creator, baker, purchasing, finance, and shipping. It is very challenging, especially during peak times. Luckily I am very organized and I make lots of lists.

[M]: In your opinion, what is the best part about being a business owner?

PK: The best thing about owning Layer is that, in a small way, I am part of every customer’s special celebrations and life events.

[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?

PK: When I first started developing Layer, I established a small group of friends to give me their insight for the name, logo, and assortment. This same group also taste tests new recipes for me each season. They have been invaluable.

To learn more about Layer, visit LayerCakery.com.