We’re excited to launch a new series here at Spiced! We’ll be periodically interviewing owners of bakeries so you can learn more about how they got started, what it takes to run a bakery, and a few other fun facts about the bakery business! Have a bakery you want to learn more about, let us know!
First up, we’re excited to share our interview with Lisa Gundersen, owner of Polka Dot Pound Cake!
1. WHEN DID YOU FIRST START BAKING?
My parents came from Norway in 1951, and mom baked almost every day. I was next to her watching and helping from a young age. I continued the tradition with my daughters as a fun afternoon activity and tradition.
2. DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO BAKE FOR A LIVING?
No, although I do remember my dad trying to convince that my mother should do so. She was the “original” Martha, like so many women of her generation, she cooked, baked, sewed, gardened, painted, wallpapered… I even remember returning home from school one day and she was rewiring all of the living room lamps with gold cords so that they looked “Prettier”. I did know that after closing my dance studio after 12 years, that I would be a business owner again. Baking with my daughters was a connection to my mother. I am grateful that prior to her passing, she knew that I was starting the bakery. She was so supportive and my cake taste tester! The company name and signature polka dot ribbons are a tribute to my mother. A sweet reminder of the decorative ribbons that she sewed onto my childhood dresses she made for me.
3. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF STARTING YOUR OWN BAKERY?
After figuring out all the legalities, specifically, the Board of Health regulations, and the Department of Agriculture and Markets permits required, my head was spinning! The hardest part was finding a commercial kitchen that was not only affordable but clean.
4. WHAT IS YOUR BEST-SELLING BAKED GOOD?
The Chocolate Chip Banana bread has always sold out first at most markets, and this summer the blueberry pound cake has done equally well.
5. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE ITCHING TO START THEIR OWN BAKERY?
Take your time developing a niche product. When I was thinking of a bakery business almost 5 years ago, I researched the competition for almost a year to get a feel for what other bakers were producing, and the current trends. I knew what I did not want to bake, and I wanted the products to reflect my personality.
Also, you need to realize that this is a serious business, not a school bake sale. Ask yourself if you are willing to spend long hours on your feet in a hot kitchen!
6. WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
I’m up at 5:30 on baking days to answer email and update social media, then after breakfast, I plan which varieties need to be baked. I typically bake 70-100 cakes 4 days/week. That means I need 500 eggs, 20 lbs of sour cream, 40 lbs of butter….
On Farmers Market days my husband and I are awake at 5 to pack the car/s and we are off to set up by 6am. The markets are open from 7-12. I absolutely love meeting my customers at the markets! It is very rewarding.
Then home, unpack, clean the bins, plan the baking schedule for the next day, paperwork,…and spend time with my 2 wonderful and supportive teenage daughters.
Currently my “time off” is Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.
I try to be in bed by 10, and I usually fall asleep reading.
7. HOW HAVE YOU GOTTEN THE “WORD OUT” ABOUT YOUR BAKERY?
Initially I donated a lot…to local schools, houses of worship charities and fundraising events. The past year and ½ I was a vendor at local craft fairs. This year, adding 5 Farmers Markets has been a tremendous leap forward. Like a pop up shop, my customers know where they can find me 4 days a week at 5 locations. One step closer to my own shop! Networking online using social media has been a wonderful way to advertise and meet other entrepreneurs. I belong to local chamber of commerce and business association groups. Also, Savor the Success, a networking organization for women entrepreneurs has been extremely helpful.
8. FOR FUN, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BAKED GOOD?
In addition to a slice of pound cake with a cup of tea,..nothing over the top…a chocolate chip cookie with a glass of milk will always make me happy!
ABOUT POLKA DOT POUND CAKE
At Polka Dot Pound Cake, all of our classic cakes are baked to order using the freshest ingredients and no added preservatives. Available in three sizes, our delicious varieties change seasonally. Wholesome, timeless and nostalgic, our cakes are perfect for any occasion and remind you to slow down and enjoy a slice of life!
ABOUT LISA GUNDERSEN
After owning a dance studio for 12 years, I decided to hang up my tutu so I could be home with my 2 year old daughter Emily. A year later, Hannah arrived and soon a favorite afternoon for the three of us was baking. Fast forward 10 years and as flour flew around the kitchen, I found myself thinking of creating a new business and the answer was on the kitchen counter, Banana Bread! & Pound Cake! My passion for baking is inspired by my childhood memories of the heavenly aromas of my Norwegian mother’s daily baking. Her influence is found in my traditional American classics, & all with a gourmet twist.