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October 24, 2008


Wow, what an evening it was!

We had the best time with Erin McKenna of
BabyCakes NYC on Thursday night at our second event in the IGC Conversations Series.

Erin was simultaneously hilarious, sassy, inspirational, and SMART in sharing the BabyCakes story. I thought people might start rolling on the floor they were laughing so hard. And did I mention the desserts? Who knew that good-for-you could be SO GOOD!!! Honestly, with the list of things that isn’t in the desserts it is hard to imagine what is, but it should suffice to say that there wasn’t even a crumb left over by the end of the night.

In all seriousness, we really learned a lot and are so grateful to Erin for generously sharing her time and wisdom. Erin story reflected many of themes that we so often hear from those entrepreneurs that we admire.

Though I will never be able to accurately recapture the evening, I do want to share some of the key points!

In addition to her funning and enlightening stories, Erin talked with us about:

Staying True to What You Know.

More specifically, Erin discussed the importance of believing in yourself and the integrity of your concept. We all know that everyone we talk to has opinions (for better or for worse) and it is sometimes hard to know what advice to take and what to leave. This is easier when you are very clear about what your goals and mission are! Erin knew what she wanted to accomplish and what elements would be critical to her success and so she refused to compromise on those. She aspired to create more than just a bakery but also a missing and needed experience for those with food allergies. By keeping that in sight, she was able to deflect unhelpful advice, suggestions, and nay-sayers.

Acknowledging What You Don’t Know.

Erin also talked with us about the importance of identifying the areas where, as an entrepreneur, you need help and assistance. She leveraged many resources to help fill functional gaps in her knowledge – such as the SBA, SCORE, friends, family, professional services, etc. She also talked about how she was able to adopt some key ideas from others and integrate them into her business: such as the idea to partner with like-minded/branded designers to create different uniforms for each season at BabyCakes. It is important to be flexible and open to ideas from the outside in order to make your business as successful as it can be! We are all just one person!

What’s Next?

Erin’s genius has sparked a MOVEMENT and there is lots of opportunity and interest for expansion. She discussed how to be smart about growth and all the things that need to change in order to make room for growth – namely her own role! Like many entrepreneurs, Erin was involved in many of the operating details when BabyCakes first opened (read: frosting), however this type and level of involvement turned out to not only be unsustainable for her as a person but also for BabyCakes as a business. In order to focus on the entity, Erin had to change her role and put systems in place to make BabyCakes more autonomous. She did this successfully and thereby freed up time and energy to focus on the exciting next steps of the business. (Preview: The West Hollywood bakery is opening soon and her CookBook is due out in April and is available for pre-order on Amazon).

Model Businesses.

Erin shared with us some of the businesses that have had the biggest impact on her and how their influence has shown up in Erin’s business.

In particular she mentioned:

1. how Julia Childs validates for her the importance of originality and ingenuity. Julia Childs was always comfortable being herself, even if it was not exactly what you might expect.

2. Also Erin pointed to a restaurant, Chez Panisse, that she worked for in Berkeley, created by Alice Waters. The experience there influenced Erin’s thinking on the cultivation of work atmosphere/culture. Erin discussed how proud each employee was to work at this particular restaurant and what Alice Waters did to encourage and foster that feeling. Erin has worked hard to cultivate a similarly strong and warm culture at BabyCakes. Erin also noted that Alice Water’s personality was so infused with the brand and feeling of the restaurant that even after Alice didn’t spend as much time there, you could tell it was hers.

3. This trait, using the brand as a strong extension of self, is also what inspires Erin about Built by Wendy, Brooklyn based designer extraordinaire, who was the first external designer to collaborate with BabyCakes on their uniforms. Built by Wendy is another business that reflects many of the same qualities that we love about Erin and BabyCakes: innovation, integrity, vision, and authenticity…it should be no wonder that they are so compatible and collaborative!

Another big THANK YOU to Erin! And, all, seriously, you have got to try her goods! They are great.

posted by Adelaide

1 comment:

Unknown said...

thanks for the re-cap of the evening. I really wanted to be there and i look forward to your next guest!