Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mai Xong, owner of MN Sweet Comforts, located in Maplewood, MN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are MN Sweet Comforts, and we specialize in crepe cakes! For anyone who may not be familiar, crepes are very thin pancakes made with flour, milk, eggs, and butter. Our crepes are made by hand, one crepe at a time, and stacked with filling in between the layers to form a crepe cake. Crepes are common in France and can be made sweet or savory.
We chose to focus on crepe cakes because they are not commonly available to the general public. It is delicious to eat with the many layers of crepes. Our motto is “we make fancy desserts for everyday people,” with the thought that people don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant for a fancy dessert. We offer six standard flavors (Strawberry, Triple Berry Cheese-crepe, Salted Caramel Apple, Rainbow, Unicorn, and Chocolate Lover) on our main menu and sell “by-the-slice” at our shop in Maplewood, Minnesota. Whole crepe cakes are available by pre-order, as well.
We have a very diverse customer base from all over Minnesota and neighboring states like Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and even Canada! Our customers range from neighbors down the block to everyone of all ages and backgrounds. Our dedication to using the finest ingredients and recipes for a tasty and not overly sweet cake has been received well by customers of all ages. We also have a lot of customers who have never had crepe cakes and are curious to try a new dessert. Crepe cakes are not a new concept but are not widely available in the Midwest. We are working hard to share this delicious cake with our customers.
Tell us about yourself
We are a small family-owned crepe and dessert shop located in Maplewood, Minnesota. We started our business initially as a hobby that was based on our strengths: responsible and strong work ethic. Although it may sound comical to some people, we thought about what we were really good at doing. My husband, Chance, and I are both very reliable and responsible people, so that’s how we started the business. We were not afraid to work hard and needed to capitalize on our strengths! We are long-time Minnesotans who love the Midwest, and starting our crepe shop was a great way to connect and give back to our community.
In business, we wanted to ensure we responded timely to our customers and that they always received their orders on time with no hassle or problems. We follow the golden rule of treating others the way we want to be treated ourselves.
We are motivated by our customers to continue making delicious cakes. The majority of our customers are happy, smiling and excited when they walk into our shop. Most are excited they found us on the internet or social media (Facebook and Instagram). Our priority is to ensure our customers are satisfied
with their purchases and will be a returning customer. We implement strong quality control and continuous improvement to ensure our cakes are consistent in taste and design. At the end of the day, we look to feedback from our customers. We are continuously working with an open mind to meet the needs of our very diverse customer base.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been building our customer base and following on Facebook from zero to over 4,000 followers in a year. It is apparent our customers like the content we are sharing and have an interest in our crepe cakes. More than anything, the tangible results are seeing returning customers at our shop and returning cake orders. This has given us confidence that we are doing some things right and customers are happy with our products.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is there is no manual for your business. We have learned that even with the best intentions, a lot of planning, and careful decisions, things may not go as planned, and it helps to have a flexible mindset. At times, it may feel like there is no one you can talk to for help. That is the reality of being an entrepreneur, so be prepared to self-educate often, network, and learn from your mistakes. It is also very helpful to always be proactive.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Our top three tips for any budding entrepreneur would be to know and care about your customers, start out at a level proportionate to your available capital/investments, and don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends for help.
From the get-go, we always made our customers our priority. Our customers’ first impressions are important to us, and we want them to feel good about their purchases. Secondly, we started our business with very low capital, as a couple of hundred dollars. In the beginning, we did not have the equipment we needed to handle a lot of orders and refrigerators for our cakes. We also could not afford a high-end and high-traffic location. We are still growing and hope that we can move into a nicer facility one day. Lastly, we have asked our family and friends for help as needed.
Mostly, our children have stepped up to the plate and helped us tremendously with ideas and labor. As parents, it was important to change our mindset by giving our children more credit for their contributions and viewing them as “business partners” in order to navigate through difficult and challenging times. Everyone operates more efficiently when there is good communication and mutual respect for one another.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
It is not easy to start and run a business that requires multiple people to operate the business. With our crepe shop, we need people to make our cakes, manage orders, purchase supplies, market our cakes, sell our goods, and the list goes on. If you started the business, it is very important to learn to be a good leader. That may mean letting go of control and trusting that others that you hired can get the job done. It is helpful and important to build strong and healthy relationships with the people who are there to help support your vision and business goals. Be empathetic and always keep an open mind as a leader of your business.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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