Emily Dubner is the founder of New York startup Baking for Good. Baking for Good sells all natural cakes, cookies and other treats, giving away 15% of each purchase to a non-profit organization of the customers’ choice. Emily has made great strides at Baking for Good over the past year, even though she never had any intention of starting her own business while at Harvard in college.
Baking for Good is expected to donate over $20,000 to nonprofits across the country this year alone. Along with a recent entry in Entrepreneur Magazine, Emily is well on her way to making a big difference in the business world, but in a good way. Read the interview with Emily below…
Emily Dubner Plows
Where did the idea for “Baking for Good” come from?
I grew up and continued baking through college and when I came to New York for my first job. I don’t think I ever saw myself running my own company (I’m pretty sure the word “entrepreneur” wasn’t in my vocabulary), but looking back, I’ve always started a small business selling bags or greeting cards. or organizing dinners for friends and family. After college, I joined a management consulting firm that was very enterprising and it showed me that it was possible to turn what I loved into a business. When my mom received cookies as a thank you last winter, it got me thinking about baking as an alternative to flowers, and I decided to recreate the idea of a bake sale online. I came up with the concept of Baking for Good: an online bake sale that supports great causes with delicious, all-natural gourmet treats that include a 15% donation to a cause of the client’s choice.
You said that you had a job before you started your business. What made you take the leap and leave? Was it a terrible process?
I worked for a management consulting firm that gave me great opportunities right out of college. It was definitely hard to leave the first couple of years, even when I had other things I wanted to do, because the firm had a really compelling value proposition with a lot of room to move forward. But just around the time I started working on Baking for Good, my job became less reliable due to the economy. Now the risk of leaving and starting my own company seemed less daunting, so I took the opportunity to get into Baking for Good. For me, the timing was perfect. I am sure that with a better economy or a more secure job, leaving would not be so easy.
How do you think the idea of giving 15% of sales to charity helped the business compared to keeping all the money?
By giving 15% of every purchase to the cause the customer chooses, we help our customers feel good about the purchases they make. Customers can not only send cakes to a friend who is sick, but also support a cause they know their friend cares about. People want to feel connected to the brands they support, and with Baking for Good, we really connect by supporting our customers’ interests.
Have you turned to anyone for help in starting a business? Was there any particular source of help that pointed the way? those. family, friends, advisors
Until now, I’ve funded the business myself, but there are so many people—friends, relatives, interns—who have been a huge source of help in other ways, from browsing website content to brainstorming marketing ideas to tasting products (I really don’t have to twist people hands for the last one!).
You mentioned that the business just started in September 2009 and it seems to have grown a lot. On the way to donating $20,000 this year and a recent article in Entrepreneur Mag. What obstacles did you face because of this rapid growth and how did you overcome them?
There were definitely some hurdles in getting the website and operations up and running in a timely manner to meet early demand. The very first week we were really just in a soft launch for friends and family, DailyCandy picked us up and placed us in their national edition. During this first week we saw over 10 orders a day and some things weren’t ready yet. Some buyers received free shipping simply because the items they ordered were not yet linked to the shipping calculator. Luckily, I’m fortunate to have built a great team of my web developers and my baker to be able to handle whatever comes up, make changes as needed, and make sure we can keep up with demand.
What are your future plans for yourself and Baking for Good?
Ultimately, I view Baking for Good as an online bakery and online gift ordering site. We are currently using twitter and Facebook to build a strong fan base, and we are starting to run “bake sale” promotions and promotions to give more people the opportunity to try our products. I would also like to expand our corporate gifts and events program. We love to fulfill individual orders for companies and people arranging events such as weddings and children’s parties.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
I think it’s important to test big ideas on a small scale whenever possible. Self-funding Baking for Good meant I had to think very carefully about every decision and every investment, and it helped me focus the concept on something manageable. When I first met with web developers to create Baking for Good, I had in mind a much larger project than what we ended up creating, but I think Baking for Good is better for it. We’ve reduced the concept to its most important features, and the result is a very clean site. Because companies often change and transform in many ways as they grow, starting with a solid, clear focus can achieve much smoother growth without having to go back and “fix” aspects of the company while trying to move forward.