Remember how it felt to host or volunteer at a bake sale or cakewalk event as a kid? Emily Dubner does. As a lifelong baking enthusiast and entrepreneur, she’s the founder of Baking for Good, described as a “modern-day bake sale reimagined for the web.” The online bakery does more than offer its share of delightfully delicious treats – everything from brownies to party favor cookies and even pancake mixes and tea – the company also works to do good and give back to the cause of your choice.
I got a chance to chat with Emily who gave me the lowdown on how donating to a cause while checking out with a cookie order works, what some of the biggest challenges to running your business are, and just what an “instagraham” cookie is!
Heather Taylor: From the looks of your website, it looks like you have quite the “flour thumb”! Have you always been a baker?
Emily Dubner: Yes! I’ve always loved to bake. My favorite memories from when I was younger are of the desserts I used to bake with my mom for my birthday. Even though my birthday is in July, I always chose really odd, non-traditional desserts: flan, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie.
HT: What inspired you to create Baking for Good?
ED: I was inspired by the bake sales I grew up with. I thought, “With everything existing online these days, what does the bake sale look like on the web?” Bake sales give people the opportunity to purchase delicious, handmade treats that support causes they care about. I wanted to create that opportunity online, in an e-commerce platform that would allow people to share delicious baked goods with friends and family far away, while also supporting causes close to their hearts.
HT: Explain the concept behind Baking for Good.
ED: Baking for Good is a bake sale reimagined for the web. It’s an online bakery that allows you to order delicious, gourmet baked goods, and each purchase includes a donation to a cause you choose.
HT: How does donating to a cause work?
ED: At checkout, customers have the chance to choose from a list of about fifteen causes ranging from arts to education to health. We also have a category for young philanthropy, which supports nonprofits started by young people. At the end of each month, we choose one nonprofit per category to receive that month’s donations. We have a nomination process that allows customers to recommend their favorite nonprofits to receive our donations.
HT: If you want to support a cause that isn’t listed, can you add it in?
ED: We always welcome recommendations! And for big orders like weddings and special events, customers can choose specific nonprofits that have special meaning for them.
HT: Is everything in the Baking for Good bakery homemade?
ED: Yes! Our instagraham cookies and other edible image cookies require a little professional equipment as well, but they too are mostly made by hand.
HT: Any gluten free or vegan options available?
HT: What are some of your best-selling treats?
ED: Our chocolate chip cookie brownies are super popular, and our instagraham cookies have been a big hit too! Customers can submit their favorite instagrams or other photos and we turn them into delicious cinnamon cookies.
HT: Can you place an order even if you don’t live in New York (say, if you’re on the West Coast like me?)
ED: Oh definitely! We ship nationwide.
HT: How long has Baking for Good been in business?
ED: It’s been just over three years. We launched in September 2009.
HT: As far as being an entrepreneur goes, what are some of the biggest challenges to running your own business and how can you get around those hurdles?
ED: One of the challenges is wanting to do everything yourself… and sometimes trying to! There can be a feeling of wanting to control every aspect of the business, but ultimately you can really benefit from getting other perspectives and letting other people lend a hand.
Another big challenge can be patience. You have big ideas and want them to take off immediately, but there are lots of steps to go through first in just getting something off the ground. After that, it usually takes some time before things catch on. Not everything can be an overnight sensation!
HT: What’s one of your favorite customer satisfaction stories to come out of Baking for Good?
ED: Two of our customers let us be part of one of the biggest events of their lives – they had us bake “gender reveal” cookies to announce if they were having a boy or a girl! We gave them an extra surprise by baking the cookies into adorable peanut shapes in honor of the mom-to-be’s obsession with peanut butter.
Another favorite customer satisfaction experience happened when we helped a woman send a thank you gift to a rental car company for finding her lost wedding ring in the back of the car she had rented. It’s so fun to get to be part of people’s memorable moments.
HT: What’s the five year plan for Baking for Good shaping up to be like – any plans to create a storefront?
ED: No storefront in the works, but we plan to continue our growth and undertake more and more fun projects. Our customers have the greatest ideas, and sometimes we’re just happy to be along for the ride!
HT: Are you hiring? (I had to ask!)
ED: We always welcome resumes from great people (preferably in NYC!).
HT: What would be your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to start up their own business?
ED: Try it out in small ways first. If you’re crafty, make a bunch of your hair clips or necklaces and see if friends and family want to buy them. More importantly, do friends of friends want to buy them? What about their friends? See how far you can get while bootstrapping your business idea and working on it in your spare time. If you’re still loving it, and there’s demand for it, then it’s time to consider going big(ger).
HT: Tell me what your favorite dessert to make is and why.
ED: I love baking pies. I find making pie crust to be very relaxing, and there’s a great feeling of satisfaction when a crust comes out just right. I also think a lattice-topped pie is just about the most beautiful dessert there is, especially if it has fresh, seasonal fruit underneath. I think I might just go bake one now!