An interview with Kelly Childs, Co-Founder of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe
You cannot mistake the inviting pink sign of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe in downtown Burlington. Owned by mother/daughter duo, Kelly Childs and Erinn Weatherbie, Kelly’s is a haven for scrumptious, vegan, non-dairy, egg-free, nut-free treats. Ranked third on BuzzFeed’s list of The Top 25 Cupcake Shops in the World You Must Visit Before You Die, Kelly’s Bake Shoppe has become an iconic piece of Burlington. On top of running a successful business, these local entrepreneurs are on a mission to change the way people think about food (one cupcake at a time).
Over a Lemon Meringue Coconut-Milk Latte, Kelly shared with us her insight and motivation for starting Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.
What was your inspiration to start Kelly’s Bake Shoppe?
My inspiration was really how I was raised. I grew up in an extraordinarily healthy household, no white sugar, white flour or processed foods. My dad was known as the “health-freak” of the family. Instead of typical Christmas presents, he would buy other family members supplements, delicious food and other health stuff. This was cutting edge for 1970.
When I had Erinn, I discovered that there were very few places to eat healthy at. I was inspired greatly by California. There were healthy options at every corner. You were able to eat food the way it’s supposed to be and not processed!
It was really frustrating seeing what our society was turning into. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, it is expected that 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. I opened Kindfood (now Lettuce Love) as a healthy option choice for eating. It morphed quickly. We had vegan groceries, a produce department, a juice and smoothie bar, and then our baked goods started to become popular and so was our food. I was starting at three o’clock in the morning going, “Where do I start first, soups? cakes? cupcakes? order produce?” It was nuts! We realized we had to eliminate groceries and produce as the demand for our prepared food increased. We couldn’t be this little grocery store. We would have to make the food for them! We transformed Kindfood to a café and bake shop.
At the time, we were making baked goods with spelt and whole grain flours, I saw a huge interest for gluten free products, and I went “gluten free, what is that?” I don’t have allergies myself, but there were so many dietary requests, we decided to become completely peanut and gluten free. After thousands of hours doing recipe development, I realized gluten free can be really unhealthy too! We decided to use high protein and high fiber flours, which are bean based. It was difficult, because you don’t want your baked goods to taste “beany”, so we began adding sweet potato puree, pumpkin and real organic fair trade cocoa, which costs three times what normal cocoa does.
We took a leap of faith, staying true to who we are, using high end ingredients that don’t hurt people’s bodies. That was my inspiration!
What advice would you give to someone starting a business today?
Do your due diligence and research what it is you really want to do. You have to be completely honest with yourself that it is not a walk in the park. It is a twenty-four hour a day job that you live, breathe, eat and sleep. People don’t jump into being an entrepreneur or self-employed with that kind of reality. They think they can do it five days a week. They think it’s something cushy, something you can turn on or off, and I guess it depends on how successful or how busy you want to be. After six years we now have a staff of forty between Kelly’s Bake Shoppe and Lettuce Love. Which is incredible, right? Forty people make a living through these businesses and we get to help so many people. So to not sugar coat it… It’s hard work!
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
I wish that I had known how hard it was to be a boss.To me, that is one of the hardest things. Because I always just put it all out there. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I care about each and every person who works for me. When they want to leave or when they start “misbehaving” and I don’t know where it comes from, I take it all personally. But there’s a beautiful way to ‘parent’, as I call it, and be this employer that makes people feel valued, included and part of the team. There’s no school for it. That’s what I wish I had known. There are some great Richard Branson books and Entrepreneur blogs. I’m doing it now, and touch wood, I hope our staff are very happy. That means the world to me and is more important than anything else. But there is always one that falls between the cracks and that’s the one that’s hard for me to swallow. I have a hard time when people aren’t happy. I want that contentment and I want everyone to be as euphoric and passionate about their life as possible. So it would be about being a better boss.
Where would you like to be in five years?
That goes by so fast! We have our cookbook coming out in April 2016. “Made With Love” published by Penguin Random House and available for pre-release purchase now! In five years’ time, I want to have two or three more books, but I also want to have ten locations of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe in five years’ time. We think it can be done, including one in California!
Kelly and Erinn will launch their first cookbook, featuring over 100 recipes from Kelly’s Bake Shoppe and Lettuce Love Cafe in April 2016! Click here to learn more about Kelly’s Bake Shoppe .