In Conversation with Julie Waxman of Baked in Color
Describe Baked in Color in a few words?
Baked in Color is a rainbow and custom colored chocolate chip cookie company that provides happy and delicious treats for a broad demographic of customers throughout the USA. Color customization, and customer service is what sets us apart from the competition.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I was always on the hunt to launch my own business, but I wanted to learn and develop my abilities in a big company first. In this environment, I would have exposure to all aspects of running a business and working with a diverse team. Working corporate retail for 20 years did just that. By 2016, I was ready to apply all of my skills and knowledge to my own business. After all, I had been searching for years to determine what that business would be. However, it was one grocery store shopping experience that brought me to the aha moment! One day, my daughter and I were shopping at Stew Leonards and stumbled upon the Rainbow bagel. How could we miss it? We both thought it was the most inventive creation to land in the aisle and had a ‘cool factor’ that social media was growing to love. I immediately thought of RAINBOW CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES, rushed home to do my homework and quickly realized I needed to execute this concept.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Prior to starting Baked in Color, I worked several jobs in retail. This included Macy’s as a Merchandise Manager and Consultant and Saks Fifth Avenue as a Planner and Buyer. Through these years, I was able to hone my skills in merchandising, negotiation and business development.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes. As a child, I was always starting up a new business venture. From belts to barrettes, I had an undeniable entrepreneurial spirit. My mom was always taking me to craft shows where I could sell my products too. I loved the idea of creating innovative products, and selling them to a potential customer. My passion for business always came through. During my time at Cornell, I had the opportunity to take an incredible class titled “Entrepreneurship and Enterprise” in the business school, where my partners and I had to develop a business plan (financials, sales and marketing, etc.) and pitch it to executives in the community. We were awarded the best business plan and given the funds to launch our cookie business. Twenty years later, I have come full circle with Baked in Color!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
At the time of launch, there were a lot of exciting things happening in the dessert space, especially with color. We saw colorful cupcakes, cakes and macarons all hitting shelves but nothing in the chocolate chip cookie space — America’s #1 dessert. Even a quick Google search resulted in only brown or beige chocolate chip cookies. Sadly, no color. At that point, I knew I had a strong idea but needed proof of concept. We developed a product that we were confident in and had the delicious and beautiful elements we strived for. So we decided to target 500 friends and friends of friends, within NYC, Scarsdale and throughout Westchester County for sampling.
Over a period of two-three months, we delivered FREE Baked in Color cookie bags along with a marketing postcard and menu for orders. Recipients needed to simply circle a treat of choice and text in their order. We didn’t have a website at the time and this method served as a seamless and successful customer shopping experience. Within our first year of operation, we received orders from 75% of those that we had targeted with our initial test. This proved we had a loyal following and repeat customer. It was so exciting to hear the feedback firsthand and capture the results.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I make mistakes all of the time. It is a simple fact of entrepreneurship. My leadership skill is “driver” which means I like to move things forward and I don’t overly obsess before executing a decision. After a considerable amount of research and consideration, I prefer to act. Though sometimes plans don’t work out, and as a business leader you just have to move forward. This can happen with hiring the wrong people. I see a resume that lights me up and have a vision for what this person will do for the brand which isn’t always the case. So much training and time goes into developing people so it’s critical to assess if they are the right one pretty early on. I think it’s best to cut your losses vs. making excuses. Another example is with a product. Some products don’t perform as well as you hope. The more products you have, the more complicated one’s production system becomes. So in the interest of efficiency, it’s best to eliminate products that don’t perform well – even though so much time was invested in its development.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
In spite of so many challenges during this pandemic, including the shutdown of our NYC location, the cancellations of all our events and having our social media following hacked, we, at Baked in Color ®, have persevered to execute our vision and achieve big success. Back in February, in anticipation of a supply chain shortage, we stocked up on all baking and shipping supplies, including ice packs, tins, boxes, chocolate chips, etc. This proved to be a very wise strategy for us as the supply chain was broken for so much of our competition. This, coupled with the huge demand for rainbow and specialty ‘feel good’ online food products, has driven record breaking sales months, our largest since the launch of May 2016.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We plan to launch an exciting new product early in 2021. This new product will bring us a brand new distribution channel. It’s a natural evolution of our existing products and we are super excited!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
So many things are out of your control. You can’t always control what happens but you can control your reaction. You need to be nimble and pivot when necessary.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I was super conservative initially and we were fortunate to be profitable from the start. Based on saturation in the market, I might’ve been able to scale at a faster rate with more capital invested at the onset.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
This has been a very challenging year and it’s difficult not to get distracted with the world events, politics and the pandemic. That said, I am extremely focussed on the day to day building of the Baked in Color brand. In addition to work, I try to have meaningful time with my family and friends and carve out moments to exercise.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
This is tough for me. I am an “all in” kind of person and put work first. I love what I do so it comes naturally to me and often doesn’t feel like work at all. That said, I have three kids and it’s critical to invest in them as well. This includes supporting their passions and showing them the unconditional love, pride and confidence that I have in each of them. Also, it is critical to invest time into my marriage and myself.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I LOVE CUPCAKES!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
First, exercise is essential for the mind and body. Secondly, make a list at the start of the day of what you want to accomplish and what you have to accomplish and stick to it. Finally, make at least one new contact each day to expand your network.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It is FEMALE POWER! It means the ability to make things happen, create, innovate and challenge the status quo!