If there’s one thing we love as much as desserts, it’s writing about them! Tessa Sam, owner of Sweet Bake Shop, shares our enthusiasm for both. In fact, she’s a former contributor to Best Friends For Frosting–our kind of girl! From training with Peggy Porchen Cakes to owning the wildly popular Sweet Bakeshop (all while rounding up 80k followers on Instagram!) Tessa knows how to make things happen! A real go-getter, Tessa’s commitment to living her dreams is inspiring! We are beyond ecstatic to share with you her story and valuable advice on entrepreneurship and successful blogging. Here is our exclusive interview with Tessa:
What’s your best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs? What should everyone who is thinking about starting a business know?
I would say, to be sure that you are incredibly passionate about what you’re doing is the most important thing to start with. You’ll be working long days and be doing a lot of the work yourself, especially in the beginning, so absolutely loving what you do is a great place to begin. I eat, sleep, and breathe my business–it’s my baby–and sometimes the long days and crazy amounts of work that needs to be done can be truly exhausting. However, my love of frosting and sprinkles is what keeps me going!
Has baking always been a passion for you? What were you doing prior to owning Sweet Bake Shop, and what journey did you take to get to where you are today?
When my best friend and I were ten, we started our own little pop-up baking stand during the summers. She would come over to my house and we’d bake all day, then wake up the next morning, drag our little stand to the end of my driveway, and be open for business. I loved that so much, and it was definitely that first summer that I knew baking was something I absolutely wanted to do in my spare time, always.
The thought of getting paid to do something I loved was foreign to me, so after high school I went to broadcasting school and got a job as a morning radio co-host. I’m pretty chatty, so at the time, it made sense to be paid to talk. Just a few months into my new job, I started to feel like something wasn’t right. I was unhappy, and I was bored–so I left. I went back to my waitressing job that I’d worked at previously while going to school, and basically spent the next year and a half reading baking books, trying out recipes, and soaking in every little bit of information that I could in my spare time. When I met my boyfriend in 2010, he helped me set up a website and get my little home-based business started. I began baking for friends, bringing cakes to neighbours and parties, and eventually, I was taking orders and baking full-time. In 2013 I knew that I needed to move my business to a proper kitchen (ahem, one where friends, my dog, and my boyfriend wouldn’t be able to sneak off with a cookie or 3), and I wanted it to be open to the everyday dessert lover. Last spring, I found the perfect little spot and I opened my shop this past July! It was a surreal first month full of sleepless nights, but even during all of the chaos, I remember thinking, “Oh, okay…this is where I’m supposed to be.” It just felt right!
Before opening Sweet Bake Shop, you were a blogger. What was that transition like for you, from online to storefront?
It was definitely difficult to get used to! I loved blogging and I absolutely adore my storefront shop, but they are two totally different things. When I was blogging, I set my own schedule. Now, the shop makes the rules. We open at 10AM, so baking starts very early and everything is on a schedule. Customers’ orders need to be filled by certain times; baking for the shop needs to completed before we open, not to mention juggling keeping up with social media, emails, and meetings. There’s definitely less down-time, but I love it!
We know you’re based in Vancouver, which is definitely one of our favorite cities! Tell us about your favorite places to see, shop, eat, etc. Where do you go to daydream when you’re not at the bakery?
I love lunches at Acme Cafe in Gastown, browsing for books at Chapters (like a Barnes & Noble), buying fun bakeware at Gourmet Warehouse, and walking my dog on the seawall, all while drinking an earl grey tea.
We know you have filled your shop with plenty of adorable pieces. What’s your favorite inspirational quote to hang on the wall?
I love Julia Child’s “A party without cake is just a meeting,” because we truly do believe that. All of our meetings involve cake, always!
We were thrilled to have once had you as a contributor for Best Friends For Frosting, sharing fabulous recipes. Are you still sharing your recipes anywhere now that your shop has opened, or keeping them between you and your team?
We share some recipes, and others, we keep to ourselves–at least until our first baking book is released!
You have such an engaged audience on Facebook and Instagram, and we can definitely see why! Do you have any advice for others hoping to grow an engaged social media following?
I just photograph things that I think are pretty and make sure that the area I’m taking the photo in is well-lit. Also, I try to answer as many baking questions as possible, as I think communicating with your followers is really important. Why not help someone out with their frosting problem? Asking questions is a great way to learn new things!
You’ve collaborated with big brands like Benefit Cosmetics. What do you feel is the best part about collaborating with other brands and businesses? How does it help your own business?
My team and I love to collaborate because it means that we get to take on something new and different than the everyday. Our favorite part is where we get to be really creative and come up with a new design or special flavors, which is great because it brings us together as a team, and that’s great for the business!
Sweet Bake Shop combines femininity, sweets, and the color pink to create the perfect little shop in Yaletown. Where did you find inspiration for the direction of your shop’s aesthetic?
Well, painting the walls pink was an easy decision–it’s always been my favorite color! Pinterest was a really great resource, and I’m pretty sure that my boyfriend spent more time browsing through photos than I did (which is where he got the idea to create a whisk chandelier for the shop). My love of vintage led me to purchase milk glass cake stands for our sweets counter, as well as 1950s-inspired lighting. I had been collecting dessert-inspired prints and didn’t have anywhere to hang them in my house, so as soon as the shop walls were painted, we hung them up there and they fit in perfectly!