This is an interview with Zandira, owner of Baked Dandies and Sweet Treats. She has lived in Georgia in the United States of America for her entire life and found a love of baking when she was just a child.
As she grew up and became a working professional, she found that her talent for baking sweet treats grew as did her passion for doing it. She continued to work in the professional arena for several years and made plans to open a bakery one day. At the time, the bakery that was based out of her home was merely a dream though she knew that it would one day become a reality if she kept her head down and continued striving towards what was in her heart.
Below are all of the details about her story, how she found her start, and what keeps her going even when the days get long and tiring.
What inspired you to start Baked Dandies and Sweet Treats out of your home?
"I remember being a single mom and wanting so badly to be able to get my child a custom birthday cake or the cookies and other desserts that all of the other kids were able to get for every special occasion that happened during the year."
"I hated that I would try to get him something special, get him the birthday cake that he wanted so badly from the store that had his name on it and all the cars or trucks. I always had to make his birthday cakes and all of our special desserts on my own from scratch."
"When I realized how good I was at it and decided to pursue baking professionally, I vowed that my prices would always be low enough that anyone could afford special cakes or desserts."
"If I had clients that came to me and said they could not pay much, I made it a point to make sure I would give them their order for free so that they could have their dignity and a delicious dessert to match."
When was the first time you remember baking something?
"I can't remember the first time I baked but I know I was a toddler, probably as young as two years old. My mom and my grandmother, I called her Nanny, both loved to bake as well.
"I specifically remember that anytime I went to my grandmother's house, it always smelled like freshly baked cookies or pie. There was never a time that I went there where she had not just finished baking or when she was in the middle of baking something."
"Though I loved baking with my mom on the weekends, I really remember being taught how to bake by my grandmother. She never used recipes, just created things from memory. It was as though she had magic from her hands anytime she touched flour and sugar. She taught me to bake everything without using recipes, just using my sense of touch and smell."
"Now, any time I use a recipe to bake it never turns out quite the right way and I have to start over using my own senses."
Did you ever get formal training or did you just jump right into the bakery?
"I never went to school for baking, heck I never went to college at all. Every technique I used was from what I had been taught and what I learned from online videos or through trial and error".
"One day I would love to go to a prestigious chef school to learn things at a more professional level, but since my business is a mom and pop bakery that I run out of my own home, I can really do things with the techniques I prefer and that work for me."
"I will say that the hardest thing I have had to learn is the finances. I had to learn how much money to take out of what I was paid to set aside and pay for supplies and new tools I needed and then I needed to know how much to pay myself so that I could eat and live a little (slight chuckle)."
"Right now I have friends that work with me on Saturdays when I am booked and they usually work for free because we have so much fun together, but the business is growing so quickly and I have so many orders going out every day now that pretty soon I will have to hire at least a part-time employee, so that will be a new learning curve as well. I'm sure I will go to an accountant and get professional advice when that time comes."
What is the hardest part about being now a professional baker and owning your own bakery right out of your home?
"The hours are by far the hardest part, tied with what this type of work will do to your hands. It has taken a long time for my body to get used too getting up at 2:00 in the morning and starting work while watching the sunrise in attempts to get all of the orders before clients started to come knocking on my door to get their things."
"It was difficult to get my body used to a tough schedule like that where I never went to bed or got up at the same time, and rarely had a day off to myself. Like most people who work. I still have days where I drag my feet and it feels like getting from my bedroom to the kitchen is the longest walk in the world, but for the most part I love it."
As hard as some days are to wake up and get to work, the other difficult part that just gets more difficult in time is what this job, unfortunately, does to my hands."
"This is not the most physically demanding job in the world, I know that, but it is really hard to stir things constantly, ice cakes and cupcakes over and over again. The constant motion makes my hands cramp up and they get seriously swollen by the end of the day".
"It has gotten so bad in the last couple of months that there have been a few instances where I needed cortisone injections into my hand and have been told by doctors to rest and do nothing but ice my hand. It can be a lot, but I still wouldn't trade it or stop doing what I love for all the money in the world."
Do you prefer decorating cakes or cupcakes?
"Most clients say that cakes are my forte, but if I had to be honest, I really love making cupcakes and decorating them. I feel like people expect so much out of cakes, and if one detail is wrong they get pretty upset and want a refund or they say the entire thing is ruined."
"There is definitely more that you can do with a cake and more creativity to be had there, but that also means that there is more that can easily go wrong. I have never felt as much pressure as I do when I have to make a huge wedding cake or birthday cake with layer after layer. I am good at cakes, but I certainly do not always enjoy it."
"Cupcakes, on the other hand, come with a layer of freedom that cakes do not have. I can arrange the cupcakes in any shape that I want too, I can play with the colors and make them look pretty much however I want to. Cupcakes are not quite as technical as cakes are, so while they still need to be properly decorated, they are still easier and I can get them done and pushed out at a much faster pace."
How do you market your bakery when it operates out of your home?
"Since my entire business depends on customers knowing about what I do, and creating a loyal customer base with people coming back for every order they have, I have to be really proactive about my marketing techniques."
"This is one thing that I really cannot clack off on. I have to make sure that my target audience stays engaged with me and interested in the products that I create."
"I typically do raffles and offer a free cake or a dozen cupcakes to people who like, comment, and share a specific post on social media. I found that this gets people interacting with my stuff, excited about the products I'm making, and when they share my post they are unknowingly getting my little business in front of more people's eyes."
"In the past, I went as far as to pay for ads on social media platforms trying to get more eyes on my business, but I found that that was more of a waste of money than anything and only got me maybe 4 extra customers a month than I would have gotten organically."
"I stay active and post high-quality pictures of every single thing that I make and sell, I have fun promotions that get people excited to buy more of my products, and I do special desserts for every holiday so people have somewhere to go for their party needs."
"I really rely a lot on word of mouth from customers creating new customers, but I make sure to stay on top stuff and do my part by posting as much content as I can."
You work all by yourself for the most part, what happens if you get overbooked and have too many orders going at one time
"I may be working at home, but that doesn't mean my small kitchen doesn't get crowded. I am not set up like a normal bakery which means I have very limited counter space, open space, refrigerator space, and table stuff."
"This means that I can only do so many orders at one time! It is also just me working in my kitchen except for the occasional help when my friends come over on a Saturday and do some things to help get the orders done, all out of the goodness of their hearts of course."
"Since it is just me and I only have so much space, I have to be really careful about how many orders I can take."
"I stay very organized by using a planner every day. Any time someone makes an order, I immediately write down what day they need it by, and the details of what they want. This helps me stay on top of everything and ensures that I do not schedule more than I can handle or get done at one time."
"This can be hard because I have to turn people away a lot of times so that I don't get overwhelmed, but for the most part, the system works and continues to keep me from overextending myself."
"I guess this is going to work until I decide to expand the business into an actual bakery establishment...if I ever decide to expand that is (small chuckle), I really like how it is going now so I don't know if the expansion will ever come."
What happens when you get a customer who is rude to you or demands that they get something for free because they did not love your work?
"So, one reason I opened my own business was that I got really tired of being treated poorly by customers when I worked a regular job and I was not able to do anything about it or stand up for myself."
"I wanted the freedom of knowing that if someone treated me poorly or was rude to me, I didn't have to put up with it or just take it. A lot of times now, if someone is rude and demands that they get their cake, cupcake, or whatever pastry they get, for free I usually oblige and do not charge them."
"However, I let them know that their name is going into my notebook and I will not do business with them any time in the future. If they are just way out of line and extremely rude to me, I send them a message stating that they can get their baked goods from someone else because I do not tolerate being treated in a bad manner."
"I hate that some people have to be ugly and unnecessarily rude over just a cake or a cupcake, but I love having the freedom to be able to say no, and demand more respect for myself."
How do you think you are able to stand out among your competition?
"To be honest I don't really compare myself to the competition around me, is that horrible (pause to laugh here)?"
"I just feel like if I keep looking at the same and things that other bakeries are able to do then I will get either jealous or start to doubt my abilities. I know that nothing good comes from me doing comparisons, so I just try to stay happy for everyone and keep working hard on the things I can control."
"I will say that I did visit several of our local bakeries just to get a feel for how they do things; I was able to learn how other people market their brands, what their hours looked like, how they price their special made orders and their stocked goods, etc."
"I found that research helped me do better and improve my own business so it thrived, whereas if I worried about comparing my business to theirs I know I would get consumed by how well or poorly I was doing and would be more focused on numbers than I would be on the people I was serving and the quality of the products I was putting out."
What is the most rewarding thing that you get out of owning your own bakery in your home?
"This is going to sound really corny and cliché, but I really love baking amazing birthday cakes or cupcakes for a kid's birthday or doing desserts of weddings."
"I love knowing that I have a small role in someone's special day. When they come back and tell me that what I made for them made everyone's eyes pop out and mouth's drool, I get so much satisfaction."
"I feel proud of myself, sure, but more than that I just really love seeing happy faces and full stomachs and know that I played a part in making people happy."
What skill would you say is most important for you to have in your line of work?
"To be honest, I really think this answer would be different for every baker that you talked too."
"Everyone has their own set of skills that they rely on to make their desserts. For me, I really rely on my identic memory. I can honestly say that I can look at a picture once and remember the details so I can transfer what I saw in a picture and make it a reality on a cake."
"I also will say that I am a control freak and obsessed with perfection which is annoying in some ways as it takes me forever to finish one project, but it also pays off in the end; since I am so obsessed with perfection nothing goes out of my kitchen and into a client's hands unless the details look absolutely perfect."
"You also have to be a very determined person who can keep going even when you are tired. Owning a bakery, small or large, requires you to put in a lot of work and a lot of hours. Endurance and persistence is a vital skill that you have to have to make it through these long hours and get things done."
"I'm really proud of all of the cool baking skills I have picked up and learned over the last couple of years, but the skills I was born with that have carried me and pushed me to get where I am now really make me feel unstoppable."
What was the worst baking disaster you ever had, that you still just cannot get over?
"I will probably turn red and get flustered and angry when I tell you this story, even though it happened almost two years ago it feels like it happened just last week and I get so upset."
"So, I made a huge beautiful cake for a wedding. If I am remembering correctly, the cake was about 16 layers tall, and the icing was incredibly ornate. It made the cake incredibly heavy, at least 30 pounds, which meant there would be no way I could carry it on my own to deliver to the wedding venue."
"I hired my son and his friend, both were 21 at the time, to come to get the cake and take it to the venue. They made it all the way there and even got it out of the car."
"It was when they were in the elevator that the disaster happened; they had to go up several floors and their arms started shaking since the cake was so heavy. Somehow, the elevator lurched and it caused them to drop the entire cake."
"The elevator door opened to the wedding venue and the wife saw her precious cake completely smashed all over the elevator. It was no one's fault but I am still mortified to this day!"
Any last thoughts you have for our readers?
If you order a cake or other baked goods from someone who owns a bakery out of their home, don't take that lightly. We put a lot of hard work and heart into everything we make and our only concern is that you are happy. Treat your local bakery owner with respect and tell them how much you appreciate all of the tasty goods that they make with love for you to enjoy!