Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in baking, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jenna Hutchinson, the founder of Jenna Rae Cakes, a baked goods and apparel company, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Tell us all about your business...
Jenna Rae Cakes opened in 2014 by twin sisters Jenna (a cake designer) and Ashley (a designer and photo stylist). Together, they’ve built their company with a focus on a love for celebration and quality, and have expanded to three bakery locations, an online store and a lifestyle line that includes apparel, party goods and more. In October 2020, they published their first cookbook Jenna Rae Cakes and Sweet Treats with Penguin Random House, which quickly became a best-seller. They have another 2 cookbooks in the works. They will make their debut on the Food Network in 2023. Their business and beautiful baked goods have been featured in The Globe and Mail, Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, The Social, The Food Network, and more. You can see their work as food stylists on the Hallmark Channel, and they’ve collaborated with brands like Coach, Amex, Mercedes Benz, Sugarfina and more. Jenna Rae Cakes sells freshly baked sweet treats (Macarons, Cookie Sandwiches, Cupcakes, Snack Cakes, Custom Cakes) and their very own, designed in-house sweet gifts (Liquid Flavours, Perfume, Apparel, Cookbooks, Party Candles, Candles, Sprinkles and more).
What's your background and motivation to grow as a business owner?
I started our bakery because I loved making cakes, plain and simple. Fast forward to today though, and we do much more than that! We’ve been able to follow the path that our business has taken us on, not standing too rigid in our ideas for the bakery and goals. We followed where it took us! I think that an important thing to do when starting a business, is to be open to change and follow what seems to be working even if it wasn't what you initially had planned. I’m motivated every day to get up and just do what I love to do, and continue building this business with my best friend and sister! I can’t wait to see where it takes us next.
As an entrepreneur, what does success ultimately mean to you?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner would be to be able to employ over 100+ employees over the course of our business. When I first started, I had hoped that maybe I would need to hire a couple staff, but never thought I’d be able to hire this many! Being able to employ members of our community has been a huge blessing. Another thing I’m really proud of is our Community Initiative of the Month. Every month, we choose a local charity and donate a portion of our cupcake sales to them. I’m proud to say that we have donated over $30,000 to local charities since we started this initiative in late 2019. It feels so great to give back to a community that has been so supportive of us.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being an entrepreneur?
The hardest thing would have to be dealing with people’s criticisms, whether it’s constructive criticism (which we value) or just downright hate. It was something I wasn’t prepared for when we opened the bakery, and although my skin has gotten a lot tougher over the years, the harsh words still sting. When you pour your heart and soul into your business, it’s crushing to hear sometimes. Now of course you can’t please everyone, it’s a fools errand, but doesn’t make it any easier in the end.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?
The number one tip I would give someone looking to start a business, is to make sure you are really good at whatever you do! You have to make sure you are offering something that isn’t in your area, or it’s better than what’s currently being offered. Having the self awareness of what your strengths are is very important.
Another thing I would recommend is to be ready to work. I wanted to make cakes, but I also had to bake, do the dishes, grocery shop, clean the toilets, deal with customers, answer all the emails, do the taxes, etc… there’s so much more to running a business than just the part that you love. Eventually you can get help for those things so that you can focus on what you love, but when you first start you have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work for sometimes years.
The last thing I would say is to have a really solid business plan, an be prepared to be said “no” to countless times. It’s a good start to entrepreneurship, nothing comes easily!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I feel so very fortunate to have started this little bakery, and then to have had it grow to what it is today. I am so lucky to have my twin sister as co-owner and CEO of the business. She has really taken it to where it is today. I can’t imagine going through this journey alone, I’d imagine it would feel very isolating at times. One thing I’ll never take for granted is knowing she’s always there to lean on, and always has my back no matter what. I think that has been invaluable!
Where can people find you online?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as an entrepreneur or business coach 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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