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Dessert Entrepreneurs On Marketing & Advertising Strategies

(This article appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

In this edition of Business Bites, we asked dessert entrepreneurs what their initial marketing and advertising strategies were, and one thing they’d do differently if they were opening the same type of place today.

Jemal Edwards & Brad DolesJemal Edwards & Brad Doles
Owners, CHOCnyc Bakery
New York, NY

Initial Marketing & Advertising Strategies 

When we opened CHOCnyc, we were so overwhelmed (as I’m sure many small business owners are) with the task of just getting our doors open to the public, that we really didn’t have a market plan in place, and had not really even contemplated that. We are a small local/neighborhood bakery in a “suburban-esque” community in Northern Manhattan – word of mouth started to spread pretty quickly for us, and we were quite busy from the opening weekend. There was no paid marketing or advertising that we engaged in – and still to this day, three years after opening, we have not paid for any marketing or advertising. Since we are in a very residential area, connection with the community was – and continues to be – an important part of our presence. We are frequently solicited for local schools and neighborhood programs for contributions for their respective fund-raising projects, and we continue to support these endeavors whenever possible.

If We Started From Scratch Today

In the last three years, the one thing we have learned is that social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, are very powerful tools in promoting our brand and product. We have frequent, usually daily, postings to keep our followers in the loop on new items and special projects and events that we are involved in. The social media platforms have proven to be a very effective and sometimes “instant” channel to drive customers into the bakery – if we post a new menu item in the morning, we have customers coming in within hours (or even sooner) to purchase the product that we have ‘advertised’ on these networks.

Keith Schroeder & Nicki SchroederKeith Schroeder & Nicki Schroeder
CEO & CMO, High Road Craft
Brands and Ciao Bella Gelato and Sorbetto

Initial Marketing & Advertising Strategies 

Keith: Out of the gate, we invested zero dollars in traditional marketing or advertising. We knew that our core customers were in the culinary community, so we aggressively sampled our products by knocking on doors, asking chefs what they’d like to see from a craft ice cream company, and prioritizing radical levels of hospitality. We said yes to almost everything the chef asked.

And on the social media side — it was nascent at the time (2010) — so we materially refused to look or seem ‘commercial’ in that space. We simply treated High Road like it was an extension of our lives, and were very serendipitous about what we posted – ensuring that we used our own voices and not some over-positioned brand voice. It was a great time to be starting a food business.High Road Craft Brands and Ciao Bella Gelato and Sorbetto

Nicki: We showed up for literally – everything. Charity food event? We were there. Childrens’ sports teams needed ice cream? Count us in. Pet rescue workers needed a treat? Got it. Everyone – industry or community – felt the hospitality of our business, and it was in a very authentic way. We could very easily align with our chef partners, because we spoke that language, understood their needs and would always deliver.

Social media was a sneak peek into our kitchens, behind our desks, onto our futon (yes, we slept at the facility many times in the early years) to help folks see and understand what we were building – in real time. It was a very authentic way to share, and when we’d meet people at events, they would always say, “We love the way you share so many intimate moments, we feel like we’re part of your team!”

If We Started From Scratch Today

Keith: I wouldn’t change a thing. I think that companies are born from the heart – with a purpose for existing, and that shouldn’t be lost in the start-up phase. It’s important to launch with open eyes and ears, with the primary focus being: kindling the relationship with customers. The dialogue between the brand and the customer is far more important than the number of likes and followers, etc. Quality of customer feedback trumps all, and the company’s response to that will determine the effectiveness of Phase II of the company’s life-cycle.

Will Hand

Will Hand
Director of Sales & Marketing,
District Doughnut
Washington, D.C.

Initial Marketing & Advertising Strategies 

To get our name out, we constantly did events around the city. Usually, these were food-centric events where we handed out mini versions of our doughnuts and educated people about our business, doughnuts, and upcoming store opening. Our team is very personable and energetic, and we were able to build fantastic relationships. By serving at high attendance events, we were exposed to thousands of D.C. residents who were able to try our product. It’s one thing to hear about a new restaurant, but hearing about it means nothing if you can’t try the product. At these events, we captured emails and handed out free doughnut cards with our store address on them. We built a newsletter list so that our future customers would stay in the loop about our openings. To help build this newsletter list, we collected business cards and entered people to win doughnuts. A win-win!District Doughnut

As we got closer to fully opening, we held soft opening events at our store. Every Friday night, we released two flavors from our menu. Customers could swing by, enjoy a doughnut on us, check out our new store, and learn about our business. By offering them for free, we removed the barrier to entry to trying our doughnuts. By limiting the menu, we enticed people to visit us the following week to try new flavors, and the lines got longer and longer. Overall, we did little paid advertising. Instead, we used these free doughnut events to market our product.

If We Started From Scratch Today

In Washington, D.C., there has been an incredible restaurant boom over the last few years, so it is more difficult to get customers through doors. It’s also more difficult to get the word out about your opening. If I did this again, I would hire a PR firm or consultant to assist in our media pitching, press release content, and opening announcements. This could mean an investment of several thousand dollars, but you only open once.

Danielle O’Day
Danielle O’Day
Co-Owner & Head Chef,
Sweet Dee’s Bakeshop
Scottsdale, AZ

Initial Marketing & Advertising Strategies 

When we first opened, I relied heavily on social media, posting content on all media outlets to attract a following. Creating novelty products that customers want to take photos of and post to their accounts has been fantastic for our internet presence, and it’s essentially free advertising at that point! Community outreach is another great way to get the word out, social networking, getting to know all of the businesses in your city, even those that you deem your competition! Making those connections and establishing relationships will get you far in your local business community. Sweet Dee’s Bakeshop

If We Started From Scratch Today

If I were to open the same business today, I would make sure to have a larger budget set aside strictly for marketing, or even hire a PR company that specializes in restaurants. Our location, while in the middle of the downtown entertainment district of Scottsdale, Arizona, is still quite off the beaten path, making it very difficult to be seen.

There are so many unseen challenges and emotions when it comes to starting your own business – hurdles, greatness, excitement, fear, you name it. Therefore, having that marketing budget and handing that task to someone else is truly one of the best investments in your business. I would do that 10 times over again if I had the opportunity to start again. knowing what I know now.

Pastry Arts Magazine is the new resource for pastry & baking professionals designed to inspire, educate and connect the pastry community as an informational conduit spotlighting the trade.