Today we celebrate our 3rd birthday!!! 3 years! Where does the time go? I still remember humming and hawing with Claire like it was yesterday about whether or not we should take the plunge and open up our own bakery. And we're so so glad we did! If I have one piece of advice to all you lovely people reading this is that if you have a dream, just go for it. Time passes too quickly to wait.
A lot has happened this past year. I was "off" on maternity leave for a good part of it. I officially came back at the end of July. I am so fortunate to have a business partner like Claire who understands the importance of work/life balance and always supported me taking a year to be with my baby. And I'm so fortunate for the incredible staff we have to keep the bakery going strong in my absence. I truly can not thank Claire and the team enough.
When I came back, I was blown away by how much busier the bakery had become since when I left. Not only in terms of in-store customers, but it was incredible to see the volume of baked goods we produce to head around Ottawa, as well as out of town. We now sell in all Farm Boys, including Pickering, Cambridge, and Kitchener (my hometown!) We also started selling our treats to some amazing cafes around our great city of Ottawa, like Black Squirrel, Cafe Gaia Java, and Caffeine 1UP. All this growth has meant we've had to hire more staff and I can't say enough about how great each and every one of them is! Their enthusiasm for what we do is remarkable.
One of the craziest things we did this past year was purchase a soft serve ice cream machine. This has been something Claire and I have been talking about pretty much since we opened 3 years ago. We saved and saved and finally we were able to afford to purchase the machine. (To give you some perspective, the soft serve machine cost more than what we spent on all equipment combined to open the bakery 3 years ago.) Like everything at Strawberry Blonde, it was a lot of trial and error to get the ice cream the flavour and consistency we wanted. Ice cream machines in general are temperamental, we learned. And although a very select few companies offer a vegan "mix" to make soft serve, none of them worked as they claimed or tasted any good. We want to thank you for your patience while we tested and tested, and the machine broke down a few times. It was definitely a headache to deal with, but Claire and I just kept reminding ourselves that the whole purpose of Strawberry Blonde Bakery, from the get go, was to offer those with alternative diets (regardless of the reason) all the treats they thought they'd never have again. And soft serve ice cream is a big love of ours. We've got some plans for that bad boy next summer so stay tuned!
Another purpose of Strawberry Blonde Bakery, from the get go, was to build and foster community and help support causes we believe in. We often support events throughout the year, but this year we decided to also make our 3rd Birthday Bash a fundraising event in itself. Today, on our 3rd birthday, we are holding a Donut Eating Competition Fundraiser in support of the animal sanctuary Refuge-RR. They are one of Canada's longest running and largest sanctuaries. They rescue, rehabilitate, and provide permanent homes for abused, neglected and/or abandoned horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, cats, rodents and domestic birds. They are a no kill shelter and never say no to an animal in need. If they can't house them, they find somewhere that will. As you can imagine, running a place like this takes a lot of money and they need all the help they can get. All the money we raise through our competition today will go directly to Refuge-RR. Even if you're not participating in the competition, we urge you to donate, either at our shop on Saturday, or directly to them. Visit http://refugerr.org/How-to-help/ for details. We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the people at Refuge-RR for the incredible and hard work they do to help all creatures.
We also want to take this moment and thank you lovelies for supporting us in all we do. It seriously warms our heart when we think of our treats being part of your celebrations, be it a birthday, a holiday, or just because you want to make your day tastier. As we enter our 4th year at Strawberry Blonde Bakery, we don't know what the future holds, but we know one thing - we're going to eat a lot of doughnuts while it unfolds and enjoy the ride!