Natalie Slevin of Sugar Bakeshop on how she defined her target market, learned to trust her instincts, and more!

Natalie Slevin_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

Sugar Bakeshop is an American classic bakery.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, so I think it was always on my radar that I would eventually start my own business. I was 24 years old when I started developing Sugar Bakeshop. I was at a point in my life where I was as ready as I was ever going to be to shift from dreaming about having a bakery to creating one.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I was fairly young when I began, so I didn’t have much life or work experience that was targeted directly to owning a bakery. During and after college, I worked in commercial kitchens to gather as much knowledge as I could around the food industry. Growing up, though, my parents threw large, involved dinner parties and watching hospitality through their example made me fall in love with it while also convincing me that it was something I wanted to do professionally.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur! It truly runs through the veins of my family, so it never felt out of reach. I wasn’t sure what kind of business I would own, but the drive and desire to have my own place has always been within me.

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?

I started Sugar Bakeshop at one of Denver’s busiest farmers markets. I would spend the whole day before baking well into the night and then my girlfriends and I would throw on aprons and sling cupcakes, menus, and stickers. I was on a complete shoestring budget, so directly speaking with customers was my best shot at getting the word out. Through that process I was able to meet other restaurant owners and caterers which helped me to develop my wholesale business. The farmers market helped me to recognize my target market and grow very organically in that direction.

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 have always said that my whole journey with Sugar Bakeshop has been me paying a steady tuition towards the school of hard knocks. It has been an amazing roller coaster of ups and downs and there has been massive value in all of it. I consistently undercharged for my services for years. A few years into owning Sugar, a huge national brand was coming to Denver to throw a party for a new product they were launching. I took the dessert catering order excitedly. It took my team of 7 and myself to complete it over the course of a week. We worked around the clock to get it all done, and when it was all said and done, I realized I had lost money on the whole deal. It was totally disappointing, but also a major lesson learned!

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I truly am the most proud of who I have become.

As a result of this business. I have learned how to value my work, trust my instincts, manage an amazing team of people, and still let myself grow and shift in the process. Owning this business has allowed a lot of becoming and I am so thankful for that.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Whenever I hire any new team member, I am most looking for willingness. Most skills can be taught, but when someone comes my way with excitement and eagerness to learn, then I invite them to join the team.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Prior to Covid, I was actually working with a real estate broker to find a warehouse for Sugar to move to. I had 3 different departments: weddings, retail, and wholesale and I was looking to amp us up big time. I couldn’t find a single location that felt right, and I am so thankful for that. I went from a staff of 16 to 5. We went from being open 7 days a week to 4. And we shrunk our menu to the things that I find most inspiring and exciting. Our revenues dropped by about 60% when Covid first began, but we have been able to pivot to a place that is so genuinely Sugar Bakeshop and I have never felt so fulfilled by the business as I do now.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

This last year has taught me to focus on myself and my desires for owning a business more than ever. I have an awesome team that runs the retail section so that I can focus on my next steps. I personally see a cookbook in my future as well as the possibility of branching Sugar into a new direction with classes and tutorials.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

2020 taught me that I am in control of far less than I think. The quicker I learn to pivot from a place of calm and confidence, the quicker I find success and peace in my day to day.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I wish I would have known that beating myself up for making mistakes doesn’t do any good. Owning a business is a continual series of facing peaks and valleys. There is value in it all, and the quicker I have chosen to learn from the mistake and move on, the more I am able to move forward with the next goal completely.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I honestly feel like this was one of the easiest years I have had to stay grounded. The forced pause really allowed me to meet myself for the first time in a long time. I had been going nonstop for 10 years and the shutdowns from Covid gave me time to reflect, look at cookbooks, exercise, write, and dream in a way that I hadn’t allowed myself since I started.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I absolutely believe in a work/life balance, although this took me a long time to figure out (and honestly I’m still learning!). Plan dinners with friends, rest when you are weary, and remember that inspiration often comes from stepping away from work.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t keep any sugar in my house! I absolutely love a good cookie and will always pause for a piece of cake, but when I am home, I eat a very clean vegetarian diet.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Start your day with a big glass of water and love your body to get the good vibes flowing!
  • Pause during the day when you need to for deep breathing. Oxygenating your cells and clearing your mind is a powerful practice
  • Create a gratitude list and when you’re feeling overwhelmed, write down a couple of things you’re thankful for to help you refocus and elevate your thinking.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It is an absolute honor to be an Entreprenista. I believe as women, we have an incredible set of skills that the world really needs right now. Being an Entreprenista means centering in with myself and my goals, following my gut, and knowing that I am capable of everything that I truly want.

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





8 Inspiring Latinx Entreprenistas that have launched groundbreaking companies

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve put together a list of 8 incredible Latinx women founders that have launched groundbreaking companies. Check it out: Jessica Alba: The Honest Company Founded in 2011, The Honest Company makes sustainable, well-designed products that work – built on transparency, trust, and a deep sense of purpose. In…

Susan Sarit of Operations-Made Easy on achieving your goals by getting organized

Describe your business in a few words: I am a mom, daughter, sister, business owner, and more! I started my business for both financial freedom and to be a work-at-home mom. I created Operations-Made Easy to help diverse women with the Operations of their business. Deliberative, disciplined, and detail-oriented are just a few words we…

Lisa Nutt of Make Every Minute Count on personal and professional growth

Describe your business in a few words? The Make Every Minute Count ecosystem encourages us to go (do that thing), grow (personally and professionally) and give (through a membership based family to family giving circle). What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is the third time…

Connection Coach Kristjana Hillberg on trusting your intuition and having an open mind

Describe your business in a few words: I’m a Connection Coach who helps women unearth their deepest desires, move from auto pilot to intentional action and prioritize their wellbeing. What was your background prior to starting your own business? I’m a multipotentialite – meaning, I have tried multiple things and tested multiple careers ranging from…

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: Finally Back to Delicious Meals For Everyone

Cuisine varies by culture, but no matter how societies segment and define themselves, certain foods show up in households across the globe — only differing in their forms. Some of a culture’s time-honored meals are created by its culinary icons.  Among America’s culinary icons, Martha Stewart is, without question, its most trusted. In 2014, Martha…

7 Entreprenista League Members share the biggest business challenge they overcame and what it taught them

Brand Photographer Brittney Guy-Atakpo of Brittney Jean Photography The biggest business challenge I have faced is sticking to a schedule that made me feel productive and good about my work ethic. What I have learned is that there is no right or wrong schedule or routine that produces success. I have been more grateful for…

Courtney Spritzer of WorkRobe on her “secret sauce” for a successful product launch

Describe WorkRobe in a few words? WorkRobes are designed to have you looking your best during any video meeting, so you can go from bedroom to boardroom in seconds and in comfort. My mission is to reimagine what you wear to work (from home).  Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to create…

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…