Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kimberly Cuthbert, owner of Sweet Jazmines Pastry Shop, located in Berwyn, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Sweet Jazmines Pastry Shop is an all scratch bakery dedicated to offering a variety of dessert items from cupcakes to specialty cakes. We like to say that we offer a nice balance between the desserts looking delicious and tasting equally delicious. The notion of starting my own business probably began brewing when I had a dessert stand, not just a lemonade stand, with my brother and friends. We sold homemade lemonade, homemade caramel corn, and milkshakes. The entrepreneurial spirit was set early.
My customers are truly of all races, ages, and gender, which I love. Our bakery sits at the end of a residential area, so some younger children will stop in on their way home. I just think how great it would have been to be their age coming home from school but stopping into a bakery before going home to settle into homework. We love being a part of wonderful celebrations such as birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers, graduations, anniversaries, retirements, weddings, and so many other joyous occasions.
Tell us about yourself
I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and so many other facets to me who have received such tremendous support on this 23-year journey of my entrepreneurial life. I have been blessed with incredible parents who supported me on my path to follow my passion when I told them that I did not see myself being an accountant as I was entering my fourth and last year of college at James Madison University. And when I started dating Chris, who is now my husband, he continued to encourage me to follow my dream, no matter what. He insisted that he didn't want to have any regrets, no "would have, could have, should have," and that there can be no failure in trying, and if it didn't work, we'd move on. The unconditional support of family and friends is immeasurable. I am aware every day that this is one of the greatest gifts that I could have been given.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is not a specific award or title, even though we have received many through the 23 years of business. This past holiday, my son Jordan was working for me during his break from his first semester in college. I found myself looking at him with such pride as he handled the customers with my other colleagues. There was such confidence in his voice and how he interacted with the customers. And when I got home, if we had a chance to sit down for dinner, he would discuss work and ask me how the rest of my day was. He would also give unsolicited suggestions on how to make things run smoother. The fact that he was taking "ownership" in his time at work meant the world to me.
There have been many days that I have had to be away from him with very long hours, and often tears came with my time away. I prayed that all of the sacrifices that I have made were not in vain. He is now 19 years old, and I could not be more proud of who he is, and if Sweet Jazmines played even a small part of the young man that he is, I wouldn't change it for the world. I hope that the work I have put into the shop has shown him to take "ownership" in all that he does, being kind to people even when they are not always being kind to you, always trying to do his best, ask someone how their day is and know how to be empathetic. He had his traditional school, but he has also had the school of Sweet Jazmines. It is not an award that I can hang on the wall, but he is my biggest accomplishment as a business owner with the lessons that this journey has brought to our family.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Time and boundaries are the hardest part of being a business owner. When I first started my business, I would only ask for 48 hours to place an order. As the business and dessert offerings grew, I had to change my timeframe, and it took a while for people to adjust to it. I now ask for a week's notice. Sometimes customers don't understand or think that it may be ridiculous to need that much time. I spent too much time explaining the process, almost apologizing. I had to learn that the customers do not necessarily have to understand it, but they need to respect it if they want to do business with us. Time is a precious resource, and the balance of running a business and getting to spend time with family can be like walking a tight rope, but it is important to find a better balance. Not a perfect balance, but a better balance. And what I found was if they love your product and respect your business, they will find time to order on time. I always told my son, even was he was only 5, to ask the question but respect the answer. I figure if I can get a child to understand this, I should be able to get an adult to do the same. When I didn't set boundaries, the business was running me; I was not running the business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- I would recommend reading The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It is a great book for anyone starting out on this journey.
- No matter how small you are, have a Board of Directors. It doesn't have to be formal; just get people willing to give you advice for free who specialize in areas that are not your business strength (i.e., marketing, advertising, accounting, finance, etc.).
- Ask for help, as it takes a village to do so many things.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
As Maya Angelou said, " Do your best until you know better and when you know better, do better" I have tried never to beat myself up for mistakes, but simply learn from them and move forward. The stuff that comes easy is easy; it is the struggles that we learn from and are better for if we are willing to accept the failures and turn them into something positive.
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 email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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