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!
On the eve of our 2nd birthday, I can't help bur reflect on the past year. They say new businesses rarely survive the first year. Especially food establishments. But here we are - celebrating our 2nd birthday! The 1st year was a wild ride, and I have to say, so was the 2nd.
In the past year we've grown more than we imagined we would. We were on CTV, Rogers, and CBC, bringing in customers from all over Ottawa Valley looking for a vegan cake or gluten free doughnut. We even get customers all the way from Montreal and Toronto to stock up on our granola and bread. But perhaps the most exciting thing to happen this year when it comes to our sweets is that you can now find a selection of them across the province! That's right! They're available on Farm Boy shelves as far as Whitby and London, Ontario. When we started this business it seemed like a distant dream to have our treats available for vegans, gluten-free goers, and those allergic to nuts in different cities. But within 2 years we've done it!
This past year has also brought about some major personal changes for the owners of SBB as well. If you've been following us on social media, or just coming into the shop and witnessing my belly get bigger and bigger, you'll know that I had a baby! My husband Dejan and I welcomed our little baby girl Ana Jade into the world on July 24. While it's definitely odd not to be at the bakery everyday, I am utterly grateful to my business partner Claire, our bakery manager Erin, and the entire Strawberry Blonde team for making sure that the shop not only runs smoothly while I'm gone, but that it continues to grow.
For Claire, this past year has also brought on some major changes. A growing cavernoma was discovered on her brain, which landed her in the hospital a couple times - the second time to have brain surgery to have it removed. While the surgery was successful, Claire is still recovering. She's a major trooper though and she still comes into work! Now that's devotion!
And yet, amongst all these major life events, SBB continues to thrive! For that we would like to thank our wonderfully brilliant bakery manager Erin and the entire team at Strawberry Blonde. Their creativity and passion for all things baking related (seriously, you should hear how long these ladies can talk about fancy shaped cookie cutters!) is what makes the bakery the amazing place that it is. We are incredibly lucky to have the team we do!
Finally SBB wouldn't be what it is without our customers! No matter how much we grow, there's nothing Claire and I love more than a customer telling us how much they love our treats. And most of all, we love when customers come in and we see the sparkle in their eye, knowing they can eat absolutely anything on offer, whether they're vegan, gluten-free, or allergic to nuts. Thank you Ottawa for your love of all things local and sweet! We're excited to see what the next year brings!
Here's to another year!
It's hard to believe a year has passed since we first opened our doors on Grange Ave in the heart of Wellington West.
Like any business starting up, you just hope that you'll survive. A month, six months, a year, five years! It's hard to know what to expect. When writing our business plan, one of the questions we had most difficulty answering was "Where do you see your business in a year from now? In five years?" Uh, I don't know. Still existing? "What direction do you see your business taking?" It's a challenging question since the growth we experienced in a year is more than we ever could have imagined. The direction we thought we would take three months ago is different from the direction we think we should take today. But what no business plan ever tells you is that that's okay. Being flexible with your expectations is absolutely crucial for survival, because if we were to hold onto the idea of what we thought Strawberry Blonde would be two years ago, we'd be stuck today. As a business owner, you have to roll with the punches, listen, and be open to change.
A year ago we were Claire and Jacqui and one part time employee. Today we are Claire and Jacqui and six employees! Just yesterday Claire and I were making the production list for the next day and we were having a mild panic attack looking at the amount of baking that needed to be accomplished because in our heads sometimes we still think that it's just the two of us that need to bake all those treats. Then we remember the absolutely amazing staff we have and breathe a sigh of relief. Not only are our staff incredibly hard workers, but they're nice people with creative ideas. Strawberry Blonde Bakery wouldn't be what it is today without each of them.
Then there are our husbands and friends and family - all of whom have lent their ear more than once to hear us complain about how stressful it can be running a business and then the next day laughing at us as we are overjoyed by the tremendous sense of accomplishment we feel from running a business. To these people in our lives: We thank you for your constant patience and support.
Our customer base has grown tremendously. We want to thank each and everyone of you for helping spread the word about our bakery. Each compliment, no matter how little it may seem, is incredibly dear to us. Claire and I still take so much pride and joy when someone tells us they love the "feel" of our bakery. Having a cute bakeshop was always as important to us as providing yummy treats. And believe us, transforming that space into something "cute" was not an easy task!
We want to thank each and every one of you (staff, customers, family, and friends) for being patient while we figure out how to run a business, figure out how not to get holes in our bread, and how to make the fritters not gummy. The world of allergen-friendly baking is still very much uncharted territory, but that is also what makes it so exciting! And when we see someone bite into a fritter and say it's the best thing they've eaten in 10 years, we're reminded what Strawberry Blonde is all about: to create a place where the growing number of people with food allergies and "alternative" diets can have a treat and not have to worry about cross-contamination, while also not having to compromise on taste or aesthetics.
So back to that pesky question: Where do you see yourself in a year from now? We have a lot of ideas and hopes and dreams (and only so many hours in a day!) Ultimately the answer is, we don't know, but we're excited to find out.
Spring is finally here and with that comes BBQs, parties, weddings, and just straight up fun times! We've been getting a lot of requests for special event cakes so we decided to hire a master cake decorator so you can get the best lookin' cake in town. Meet Shannon! She's passionate about fancying up cakes to make 'em just how you want 'em. Tiered? No problem. Pretty flowers? You bet. You want monkeys? But of course! Shannon can make it happen.
Another thrilling bit of news is that we're having the exterior of our shop painted! Here's a before photo. Can you see the colour of what it will be? There's a little hint on the wall beside the door.
And coming soon - a sign! We can't believe how far we've come in a little over half a year. Thanks everyone for your support and enthusiasm! We're excited to see what the next 6 months has in store for us (and you!)
We've got a couple of announcements for all you lovely ladies and gents. So let's get this show on the road!
NEW STORE HOURS! You heard right, folks! As of April 1st (and we swear this isn't a prank), Strawberry Blonde Bakery will be open 7 days a week to better serve y'all. Our new hours are:
• Monday to Saturday: 10 am - 5 pm
• Sunday: 11 am - 4 pm
NEW PRODUCTS! Boy, Ottawa sure loves its donuts! We did not know what we were getting ourselves into when we started doing fritters, but we're glad we're helping everyone get their fritter fix. We also started making cookie sandwiches, which has been a rampant success. Our work days are filled with so many temptations. Gah!
• NEW EMPLOYEES! Well, sorta. Our marketing dude, Jose, will soon be a full-time fixture at Strawberry Blonde. He's the guy responsible for making us look good, so we're super thankful to have him here full-time!
• GROUPON! We need to thank you for supporting us through our Groupon offer. We sold a whopping 275 packages of 6 - 12 cupcakes, which we did not expect. It's been a mad dash around here lately - we'll all be happy when we don't have to look at a cupcake ever again.
• SIGNAGE! We're getting a "big girl" sign put up out front in time for spring (if it ever comes!). Hopefully, we'll be more visible from Wellington Street. Stay tuned for updates.
Alright, Well, guess that's it! Keep an eye on our FB page for some more exciting happenings!
The SBB Crew
Happy New Year to all you wonderful people! Hope your holidays were merry (and bright?)
Sorry that there hasn't been a post in while - we've been quite busy learning the ropes of the business (ugh… accounting) and baking off all your holiday orders! My NY's resolution is to post more - let's see if I can make good on that commitment, eh?
If you've been by the shop recently, you will have noticed that Strawberry Blonde Bakery rang in the New Year by hirin' Katie and Erin, who have been aptly dubbed as the super duo! So if you haven't been by lately, come on in to say "hi"!
Since our pizza buns were such a hit earlier in the year, we're pretty excited to announce that we plan to release a whole new line of take away meals and savoury goodies for people on the go! Also on the docket - puff pastry, choux paste, and doughnuts oh my! Stay tuned for more info later in the month.
If you come by the store, you'll notice the absence of Jacqui O. Don't worry, she'll be back (darn)… she's just one lucky ducky who has taken some time off to spend a few weeks in Mexico to get hitched! Though I'm incredibly jealous that she's basking in the sun while I'm left behind to brave Ottawa's wacky weather, I hope she and her lovely husband are havin' the time of their lives!
Well, that's enough about us. How are you?
There is so much to blog about. We should be bloggin' more often but there are only so many hours in the day and we spend most of them baking and setting up shop.
First things first. We only have 11 days to go on our Kickstarter page and we're still a long way from our goal! Please take a look and pledge, even if it's just $10! Every little bit helps. www.kickstarter.com/projects/1437339688/strawberry-blonde-bakery-allergen-free-baking-in-o
Starting a bakery is risky business and we'd like to reduce that risk with your support! And you'll get some sweet treats out of it plus satisfaction knowing that you're helping build a strong local community and suppporting two gals follow their dream. It's a win-win all around!!!
The 2nd piece of news is that we've finally moved out of Rainbow's kitchen and into our new space! Our commercial oven has yet to be installed. That has been a learning process, let us tell you! Here's the lesson in a nut-free nut shell: Always get at least 2 different quotes from different contractors when you need any sort of work like this done. One company quoted us $3400 for the work and the other $1290! That's still $1290 we weren't expecting to pay, but that's one whole heck of a lot better than $3400!
Our 3rd bit of news is that we've finally decided on a day for our Grand Opening. We'll be throwing a party on November 2nd from 11am-3pm. We'll be announcing more details about the event soon so keep your little peepers peeled! The excitement! The suspense! Hope to see you there!!!
♥ Jacqui O and Cee
So, because of the RIDICULOUS number of people inquiring about the address of our future location, we've decided to let the cat outta the bag!
Stop by 114B Grange Avenue, just off of Wellington West, to take a peek in our new space and watch us meltdown as we try (the key word is try) to assemble our furniture.
In other news, we just launched our kickstarter cause, so feel free to check it out here! Help spread the word so we can reach our goal!
Also, if you haven't noticed - we've got a new business logo designed by the talented Katie Tomchishen (Cee's very own sister) She's a recent grad of Belleville's television, Film & New Media Production program, and has an obvious flair for graphic design!
We'll be slowly changing up our marketing materials to reflect the new logo in the next couple of weeks!
I guess that's all for now. Thanks for listenin' (err, readin')
Jacqui O & Cee
It has been an incredibly busy few weeks here at Strawberry Blonde. When we're not bakin' away to keep our customer's tummies happy, we're at our new space cleanin', paintin', and dreamin' about what the space could be. There are so many surprises and hurdles at every turn. The most difficult part is dealing with the unknown. Do we need a permit for that? What do you mean it takes 6 weeks? Wait, I have to call who? They told me to call YOU. It can be very overwhelming at times but the most wonderful part is the amazing support and generosity of our friends and family who are willing to lend a hand at every turn. Whether it's scrubbing the floor, painting a wall, putting up the mailbox, or just telling us they believe in us, this process would be near impossible, and a lot less fun, without them. We're so lucky to have so many great people in our lives.
The space is coming along nicely. There's still a lot to be done, but we'll hopefully be up and running in our new space soon!
Our soon-to-be bakery!
We've got some exciting news over here at Strawberry Blonde headquarters today! After months and months of bakin' out of a small (oh so small) kitchen in Rainbow Foods, we have FINALLY settled on a location for our larger/more glamorous retail bakery!
Located in Wellington West, this bakery will be better equipped to serve the dietary needs of all of our lovely customers. Isn't that swell?
We've got a lot of work in store for us to get this space up and runnin', but never fear! You will still be able to get your gluten-free/vegan/nut-free treats at any of our wholesale vendors!
Keep tuned for updates & our grand opening date!
♥ Jacqui O and Cee