In the realm of Internet friendships, the one I forged with Bombshell Bake Shop’s KT Jackson is the truest and bluest. For years KT has watched me turn a little blog into whatever the heck Bake and Destroy is nowadays and I’ve been watching her turn her homegrown baking business into a fully-fledged dessert dynamo. A little over a year ago we turned our Interweb friendship into a real-life friendship when she came for a visit, dropping off a box of treats so yumz even Tony had nothing but praise to give.
And really, what’s not to love about a soft and sparkly cookie named after Tina Fey’s 30 Rock character Liz Lemon, or a Hawaiian Punch-flavored vegan Twinkie? (Vinkies!) KT and I have been planning this post since the day we met “in real life” but a little thing called “having a baby” held things up a bit on KT’s end. Not to worry, though, because she’s back in action with some great advice for those of you thinking about trading in your business casual for an apron. Plus, she’s offering a Bombshell Bake Shop t-shirt and a package of a dozen assorted sweets to one lucky winner! Stay tuned for entry details at the end of this post!
Have you always been a baker? How and when did you start baking?
In a word, no, but I have always loved food. When I started a diary in elementary school the only thing I ever wrote about was food – what I had for every meal and snack was carefully explained. No matter how many times I ate mac & cheese I felt it necessary to make detailed notes of its texture, appearance, and taste. I was a weird little kid.
I have always loved baking but never considered myself a baker. My husband, Sam, bought me a refurbished stand mixer awhile back from the Kitchenaid Experience Center in Greenville, OH (that place is my mecca.) I was so happy I cried. I guess you could consider that the real beginning.
When did you first realize you could start selling what you baked?
I think I started selling to figure out whether I was ready start selling. In June 2008, we set-up a booth at a local street fair. Friends and family had been great critics but strangers willing to fork over cash after a sample were the real test. We got a ton of constructive feedback that day. It was enough to know I wanted to push the business farther.
Why vegan baked goods?
I dig the surprise factor when I tell people the buttery cookie they just ate has no butter or the moist cupcakes they love have no eggs. Most of our customers are not vegan and I like that, I much prefer to sneak attack people with vegan goodies rather than make it obvious. I know there are lots of people who want to know my opinions about veganism or animal rights but when it comes down to it, I like vegan baking better and I am damn good at it. I make it my mission to veganize as many recipes as I can, I will have it “regular” first then try to match it as close as I can vegan-style!
Do you have help, or are you a one-woman show?
My husband Sam is the tater to my tot. Bombshell would not exist without him. He takes care of all the stuff I hate doing, which is pretty much everything besides baking! We have some great friends who lend a hand when things get crazy and an intern (Kate) who we do not take advantage of nearly enough!
What made you decide to turn your favorite pastime into a real business? Did you get too busy baking to do other things?
I tried my best to care about the security of a stable paycheck, health care, and all the stuff that comes with a 9-5 but at the end of the day that is not what makes me happy. I watched my mom start and grow her own business and I want the same for myself. When I found out the funding for my position was being cut in 2009 I decided to take it as a sign to try something new. My pastime became more of a real business when Sam lost his job too. Then we found out we were pregnant!! That was when we decided to turn my Bombshell dream into a family venture.
What’s involved in making the transition?
Balls. Starting a business is scary! I was 7 years into the social services field and in the middle of a master’s degree in counseling when I realized I would rather be in the kitchen. I then switched my degree and took some business classes. But most of the knowledge I acquired has been from my parents and asking questions of everyone I meet in the field. I guess the biggest thing involved in making the transition is the willingness to make mistakes and actually learn from them. Success is great but personally I learn more from my failures.
Tell us about your line of goodies. What are your best sellers?
We make everything from scratch in small batches, using as many organic ingredients as we can. Ever since we started making Vinkies they have been our best sellers; apparently there is something irresistible about those little icing filled logs. People also love our Liz Lemon and Saturday Night Lime cookies, but I often wonder if they sell so well just because of their names!
Where can people buy Bombshell goods?
We are working towards having a shop on our website until then people buy our treats at any one of the wholesale locations listed on the website. To place private orders folks call or e-mail. We ship everything too, except the cupcakes.
Tell me about your packaging – you have some of the most professional packaging I’ve seen. Who does your design work?
Why thank you! There was a lot of trial and error to get the right packages and labels. We package and seal everything ourselves. Investing in a heat sealer was one of our best business moves. As for the design work, we have some friends (Frank and Steve of Run Rocket Run) who did all it all and the website. Sam then used their theme to make our labels, stickers, and other promo items.
Baking is pretty cut-throat these days – how do you differentiate your business from other local bake shops?
Locally there are a lot of “mainstream” bakeries and we are anything but, so that definitely helps; along with being a vegan bake shop. Even though we mostly wholesale we try to be at a pile of events so we can meet people who buy our treats on a regular basis. We seriously love our customers. I am not just saying that either, sure I need to make money to pay our electric bill, but we absolutely could not have more awesome customers and we are super grateful for them. Also, our name helps, people very much dig it.
Let’s be honest, most people don’t get rich being bakers. Good ingredients are expensive, packaging is expensive – how do you come out ahead?
The chief financial bombshell aka Sam aka the hubbie thankfully is really good with all the number mumbo jumbo. He calculates costs down to the penny which is quite helpful when starting a business, especially a baking business. I am pretty sure he knows how much every grain of sugar costs…and he calls me OCD!
Any plans for a retail location in the near future?
Retail frightens me! I pride myself in being a generally pleasant person with a pretty decent attitude. I think retail would turn me into a beast. We do plan to have bigger and better space in the very near future but I think at least for now we will stick with being web-based and wholesale. The best part of my mom having her own business was that she always had time for me. Retail would be too constraining for the type of mama I want to be to Oliver.
Man cannot live on Vinkies alone – where are your favorite places to eat and snack in your hood?
This is such a loaded question, I love food! The short list of my favorites: Tank’s- My Way Grilled Cheese, Meadowlark- Fried Green Tomato sandwich, Pasha’s- hummus, Thacker’s Donuts- all of them, Siam Pad Thai- summer rolls and sweet potato sushi.
Do you have a particular baking jam?
This is where I tell you my dirty little secret…I flipping love Motown! The Marvelettes, Gladys Knight, The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Contours, Stevie Wonder, and the list goes on and on. Seriously, I cannot get enough Motown, especially when I bake, I absolutely love it! When I am feeling a little disco feverish I listen to Boogie Shoes by KC and the Sunshine band!
How do you develop your products? What inspires new flavors and new creations?
Mostly by happy accident, the other night I was drinking a Shirley Temple when I realized it would make an awesome Vinkie flavor. Then other times, I think of a name for something before I make the treat. I love Liz Lemon from 30 Rock so I made a cookie to fit the name.
Any advice for other gals looking to bake their way out of a cubical?
Grab your junk and do it! From the baking perspective: play around with weird flavors or ideas to come up with something eye catching and delicious. People like chocolate chip cookies but they can get those anywhere, get recognized for something new or re-vamped. Business perspective: Cookies and accounting are very different. Take some basic business classes, you won’t regret it. There are small business development centers everywhere that have free or super cheap classes, take advantage of them.
How has being a mama changed operations?
I’d like to say I am the queen of multi-tasking and everything runs super smooth but I would be hardcore lying. Time is precious beyond words now. I had this vision of wearing him around the kitchen with nothing really different except he was on the outside. This sometimes happens but mostly I was very wrong! Oliver has some health issues which changed my daily priorities and my sense of what needs to be accomplished every day. Although, the business supports us it definitely comes second to him. Thank goodness Sam has stepped up to take on a lot of what I used to do. Single moms are my new heroes, I don’t have a damn clue how they do it!
Are you stoked for the day Oliver can hold a whisk? Free labor! (Well, free minus the million dollars you spend raising him.)
I am absolutely stoked, that boy needs to earn his keep! He spends so much time in the kitchen already I actually asked the pediatrician if flour dust could harm his little lungs!
…and now for the giveaway!
KT and the Bombshell crew has generously offered a t-shirt and package of goodies to one of my lucky readers. For shipping and freshness reasons, this contest is open to continental US residents only, please.
To enter, do any or each of the following, and leave a comment below when you’ve completed the entry. Each comment will count as a separate entry. I’ll choose a random winner on 8/29/11.
- “Like” Bombshell Bake Shop on Facebook
- Check out the menu and comment about the treat you want the most
- Tweet about this giveaway! Either include @bakeanddestroy in your tweet, or link to your tweet in your comment below
- Bonus entry: Watch this video. I think you’ll like it. That’s all.
This contest has ended – congrats to Tara O!