A Day in the Life of…Kate Bakes
11 01 by Stephanie Gibney
Most of the previous businesses I decided to work with for the blog I kind of went in to blind. I knew of the business or product but didn’t really know anything about the people behind it. Kate from Kate Bakes was a little different in that we’d had lunch once when I was trying to pull together some ideas for a speaking panel I’d been asked to participate in. At the time of the lunch, I didn’t know much about her but had been hearing a positive buzz around her vegan protein bars. I felt she would give great feedback on my topic startups. One Saturday, after a conversation with my husband about how I didn’t think that Kickstarters were a great way for startups to raise money, I noticed that Kate has a link to her Kickstarter project. Having met and liked her I clicked the link to find she was looking for donations to help her fund the development of two new bars. Without thinking about the conversation I had just had with my husband, I happily contributed, because I had liked her business approach and wanted her to be successful. Minutes later, I proudly told the hubs about what I had done and how excited I was for her. He looked at me smugly and said, “Seriously, but I thought Kickstarters don’t work”. Yup, that’s right folks. I clearly just like to hear myself talk.
Going into the day I spent with Kate, my expectations were pretty much that we would be baking bars well into the night, all while developing the most phenomenal vegan flavors the world had long been awaiting. When explaining to someone what I was doing, it went something like, “Remember when you didn’t have any idea about salted caramel and now it’s everywhere? Well, we are coming up with that!”
Kate’s situation is different from the other business owners I’ve spent days with in that she still has a full time day job. Unlike many business owners, her business didn’t come from a desire to leave her old job behind but from absolute necessity….she got sick. In 2007 Kate became ill; she had developed several ulcers and could not figure out what was going on. Through speaking with doctors and undergoing testing it became apparent that it was food that was making her sick. Suddenly, her body had become intolerant of eggs and dairy. It was a long process to determine that it was those two ingredients that were the source of her illness, and during the process of cleaning up her diet she eliminated both gluten and meat. If you slowly remove everything you’d typically eat from your diet, by the time you’ve reached the point of not getting sick it leaves you with very little to eat. This is how Kate Bakes was born: simply put, by 2011 Kate wanted something she could eat.
That still holds true. I was excited to spend the day with her as she was testing the first batch of the new “salty and sweet” bar that the Kickstarter will help fund. I asked Kate how she came up with the bar flavors, expecting some great mind blowing revelation behind the flavors, but her answer was simple: “It’s what I feel like eating at the time”.
The day was pretty enjoyable, informative and eye opening. I think Kate represents her product well. While I’m not a vegan (or honestly interested in becoming one), something about being around Kate makes you want to hang out with her more, and something about her bars makes me want to consider how what I eat impacts how I feel.
Kate is also a business owner in the midst of growth. She is doing her best to grow at a pace that she is comfortable with while admitting she is running a successful business…seven days a week. My time with her, speaking about her marketing and branding, issues with the labels (she’s on her 4th iteration with her 4th printing/design company), and what it means to own a growing business while still trying to remember this is happening for you, not to you, was a great reminder for me. When it’s a Saturday and you’re on day six of a seven day work week, and there are 400 packages that need labeling, it would be easy to throw yourself a pity party. Or you could take Kate’s approach and think about how a year ago you would have loved to have 400 packages to label because that means someone had ordered 400 bars!
Another great thing that Kate does is writing a personal handwritten note to thank you for believing in her business for all 50 people (including myself) who donated to her Kickstarter. When I asked her why she didn’t just print the note and sign it she seemed shocked. She told me, “I have always put a handwritten note in each order and don’t want to stop doing that. It means something that someone wanted to buy it”.
I learned a lot while working with Kate. While it may not have been on how to develop the next best “salted caramel” flavor, it was definitely worth spending A Day in the Life with Kate. It reminded me that while everyone else may say a business’s goals should be to “get bigger, hire more people, and service more customers”, my desire to stay small, initially meet every client myself, and do the work in the beginning is true to what I want my business to be. It may not make us the biggest firm, but it will hopefully show my clients that I, like Kate, want them to know that it means something to me that they believe in Accounting 4 DC.