We started in 2010 – around the same time as many of our other food friends. We started at a single weekend fair and expanded to other markets, online shipping, and now a store! But when we first started, we worked all of the events ourselves and we made all of our friends at the markets. We brainstormed issues with our friends who were going through or just went through the same things. We lamented on the weather and how much it sucked for sales or high-fived each other over being mentioned in the same article. Our businesses were small enough that we had the free time, but not enough money to go on a vacation. We bonded over the many things we had in common.
Walking through markets now have a different feel. We see the names of our friends’ companies, but we often don’t recognize the person working there. Sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t get a chance to see my friend, but mostly, I am happy that it means that their business is doing well enough to not be there. We’ve all grown – some have stores now, some have cookbooks out, and more importantly, they all have staff to help them grow. I can’t think of a single friend we made who decided to quit his/her company. I’ve seen some start up companies appear at markets and disappear. I have shared kitchens with people who had bad attitudes and wasn’t surprised to see them close shop after a few rough weekends. I’ve watched stores under construction for 5 months, only to go out of business within 3 months of opening. So, I’m proud to say that the food friends we’ve made over the years are now stronger than ever. We can now afford vacations, but have the difficulty of planning them due to how busy we are. We’re quitting our corporate jobs to make our business our full time job. We’re navigating the world of payroll and healthcare for our staff and on the prowl for bigger and better opportunities. Our businesses have grown and we’re now proud business owners.
I think what really helped us was having each other to rely on. We were lucky to start around the same time as dozens of other businesses – people who found an opportunity to take a leap of faith at a time that the artisan food scene was exploding in NY. We met our friends by spending long hours with them, sharing stories about our struggles, and gossiping about where we felt the food scene was going next. We had late nights at our commissary kitchen during the holiday season where we chatted about how much we were looking forward to having a day off in January. We borrowed employees from each other and shared information about vendors and potential wholesale clients. It was important for us to make those friends and to have those friends to count on when we needed them. We got our first wholesale account through Scratchbread, and one of our biggest from Robicelli’s Cupcakes. Talking to Liddabit about their holiday plans two years ago made us realize that we were thinking too small and that got us to imagine the big picture. If these people weren’t so generous with their information, where would we be now?
It’s important to have a good attitude when you start up a project this big because there’s going to be a tough road ahead. That good attitude will lead you to other people who also have good attitudes. Having the strong network really helped us grow. Since I’m an introvert, it also really helped to have a friendly husband help make those ties. It’s hard to strike out on your own and not ask for help and it’s a mean thing to not help others when you can.
I had fantasized about opening a business for years. In college, I pictured myself owning a tiny bakery and just being happy. Back then, I didn’t know how to ask for help and I didn’t know what it would take for me to get there. As a reflection, my dream was small and probably too small to be sustainable. I was lucky to meet Simon at the verge of my career change – just 2 months before starting pastry school – because he had dreams about a bakery food truck so it made sense for us to work together as we fell in love with each other. He helped me make connections and grow my dream until it became sustainable. Today, Simon and I work far harder than I ever imagined and together, our business is greater than what I dreamed of when I was alone. I really believe having friends with big dreams has helped inspire us to push for more and to be bigger. We and our fellow business owners use each other to assess where we are and where we could be. Without realizing it, as all of us grow, we bring our friends with us through recommendations, good gossip, and by taking their lead. The success of our friends is a big win for us as a group and we all dream of being able to say about the other, “I remember when…” I truly believe that one day, we’ll be able to say that about one of our friends and I hope that they will be able to say that about us.