Once a marketing executive, I spent much of my time traveling the country. As I flew from city to city I noticed a rising trend of cupcakes -- they were making their way into mainstream America with a vengeance.
My interest was piqued, and my tastebuds wanted more. I began researching everything from blogs to books and videos, about baking and owning a bakery. And then I started baking. I let my creative side kick in and with each new recipe, my cupcakes got better and my excitement grew as my concept became more viable.
Assembling the ingredients
Then in 2008, in the worst economic time, in the worst hit city of Detroit, Michigan we took a gamble and signed a lease on a small bakery just outside of the city. It was tireless work in the beginning to build our business, but we were committed. We saw the joy that our products brought to peoples lives, we were becoming a part of peoples lives. We were part of their celebrations and their memories. And, we were fortunate to have a team of employees who saw that impact and were proud of their work.
Like most small businesses, we had almost no marketing funds. What we did have was a great product. We decided the best way to advertise was to get our cupcakes into people's mouths, and the most effective way to achieve that was to take on as many community events as we could handle. To this day Just Baked is seen as a staple in our community and the greater city of Detroit. The charity has become the core of who we are -- both within the company and the brand our customers know.
Letting it rise
In 2011 we were approached about bringing our Just Baked into the city of Detroit. My first inclination having grown up in the suburbs was that there would be few people to frequent our stores in the city. After all, Detroit has been losing residents for years and the news coming out of the city was historically bleak. But we sensed a renaissance developing in Detroit. Small business were starting to make a huge impact on revitalizing the city. We knew we needed to be a part of the rebirth of Detroit, so we took a leap of faith. It has paid off, our business has flourished, largely because of the support we feel from neighboring companies who are determined to support each other.
Practice makes perfect
We've encountered many challenges along the way, and learned through our mistakes and successes.
One, starting a business with little capital and needing funding is hard. One thing you can say about banks is that they will always be there for you, when you don't need them anymore. Growing a small business is a ton of work, and managing the cash requirements is a full time job by itself. Growing a business quickly with limited capital has continued to be our biggest challenge. We are careful everyday not to drown ourselves in opportunity, we have learned to use our limited funds wisely and to walk away from some opportunities that may not fit into our long term goals.
We have spent the last four years learning from our customers, employees and by our own mistakes. We're always pushing to extend our reach while remaining true to our core values of bringing our customers a premium product using premium ingredients. Our customers have a real connection to Just Baked and we respect that. We stay close to them through our social media efforts and work hard to live up to the expectations of the Detroit community. Having recently added two stores to Downtown Detroit cemented our commitment to see Detroit return to the great city it once was and it has been a gamble that has paid off big! The city is booming and Just Baked has been all in for the ride.
Starting a business has a lot of ups and downs, you must learn to listen to the business and be open to move in the direction the business takes you. We knew our decision to join the Detroit resurgence may have been risky but it is also rewarding to be a part of something bigger. We rejoice in the positive movement in a city we all love and look forward to seeing Detroit rise again as one of the greatest cities in the world.
This blog post is part of a series produced by Square as part of Let's Talk, an event series bringing local business owners together to collaborate and connect within their communities. For more information about Square, click here.