Tianna Gawlak of The Bakery Box on launching a modern and self-service bakery

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Describe your business in a few words?

The Bakery Box is a brand of dessert ATMs that offer luxurious mini cakes and macarons 24 hours a day.

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

COVID-19 hit traditional bakeries hard, I was really disappointed to see some of my favorite dessert spots close their doors. However, I saw it as the best time to launch a modern, self-service bakery.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I worked in healthcare for most of my professional career, my Master’s is in health administration.

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Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, I sorely lacked the confidence to believe I could start something from scratch and be solely responsible for its success. But now that I’m doing it- I can’t believe I waited this long!

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?

The Bakery Box launched in December of 2020. I worked with local magazines and newspapers to announce the grand opening. It went better than planned, I sold out for nearly two weeks straight.

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?

During the launch, I was not prepared for how many things could go wrong. Running out of inventory, technical and packaging issues, etc. I learned quickly how to power through problems efficiently. 

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

I am most proud of opening The Bakery Box with two small kids at my side. Plus knowing that the community loves the concept as much as I do!

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

I’m not hiring yet, but I will be searching for delivery drivers next year. I was responsible for hiring in my previous job, and it always amazed me that candidates could rock an interview, say all the right things, but show up for their first day as a completely different person. Hiring is hard, but hiring for a position that directly affects YOUR business is even harder.

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

As mentioned above, COVID-19 was a huge reason why I opened The Bakery Box when I did. Seeing traditional bakeries close doors due to imposed restrictions was disheartening, but I saw it as an opportunity to launch a new, non-traditional approach to fresh desserts.

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

This year, I’m beginning the first stage of expansion around the city of Chicago. Once things are running as efficient and smooth as possible, I can explore moving into other states. The idea of going nationwide in the future fuels my drive!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

You can have your cake and eat it, too.

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

There will be challenges and headaches at every stage of owning/operating a business.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

My kids keep me grounded, for sure. At the end of the day, it’s their slobbery kisses that recharge me for another day.

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

I still struggle with work/life balance. I often feel like I can either be a great mom & wife OR a great business owner, but being great at all of it requires magical superpowers I haven’t been granted yet!

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

Last year, I published a children’s picture book titled “When You Dream of Chocolate Cake”. During the release of the book, my kids and I were traveling to bookstores at all hours of the day. One evening, my 3-year-old had a total meltdown over wanting to stop at a bakery for chocolate cake. I explained to her that bakeries were closed, but it ultimately inspired the entire concept of The Bakery Box.

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

A perfect cup of coffee, having specific goals for the day, and scheduling downtime- even if it’s only a few minutes.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

When I hear the word “entreprenista” I think of a woman who operates a business like a total boss and looks good doing it.

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