Meet Brittney Ledford, the fabulous baker whose Instagram feed makes me smile every time I see it. Brittney has such a great story of taking her business full-time after spending 3+ years putting work and energy into One Sweet Kitchen. B also blogs about cool people and topics here.
What is the business you own + how long have you owned it?
I own One Sweet Kitchen and bake cookies and pies in Des Moines. I started baking as a side hustle three and a half years ago, but really started focusing on growing it as an actual business in fall 2017.
When did you start side-hustling + why?
I started side-hustling in the spring of 2015 as an outlet for what I love to do. I had previously worked at a bakery and really, really missed getting to bake and be creative when I switched to a corporate desk job. I’d take treats to work as an excuse to bake, so my co-workers started asking if they could place orders with me.
At first I felt terrible charging them, but when word started to spread to people I hadn’t yet met, I figured I should get some sort of pricing figured out! I don’t think my side hustle was making me much money at all back then– it was a hobby that paid for itself, in terms of ingredients. As it grew, I was still working a full-time job that I loved and paid well, but knowing I could rely on an extra couple hundred bucks a month for the fun incidentals of single life downtown was pretty great!
How + when did this transition to full-time?
I became self-employed full-time on Friday, May 5th, 2018. The “how” is a bit more complicated — a mix of existential stuff like turning dreams into achievable goals and figuring out how I was going to tell my boss I was quitting, as well as concrete action steps like becoming licensed as a bakery with the state, getting business insurance, and running the financial numbers of our household with my partner.
What else have you done to make some extra money?
This summer, I’ve worked four hours a week covering the front desk phone at Integer Group in the East Village. A friend who worked there knew they needed someone from 8-12 on Mondays, a day that’s typically not too filled with baking orders, and that I might appreciate the extra income as I figured out self-employment. By the end of August when I’m done, it will have added up to cover more than a plane ticket for the next time I travel (or a summer’s worth of Exile pints?!).
What the hardest part of the transition?
Learning how to say no and realizing my own limitations. Turning down orders feels terrible, but so does not prioritizing anything else in my life (myself, time with loved ones, the laundry) to the point of burn out. Setting boundaries sounded terrifying and counterintuitive at first. I believed that if I was solely responsible for my own income, I’d be a fool to turn down any business, but it’s something that’s become imperative to my sanity and very comforting to have in place when making business decisions.
What was the easiest (most exciting) part of being your own boss?
Wearing leggings all the time + not wearing make up most days! I’ve loved getting to meet others who are self-employed and growing in my confidence as a business owner. One Sweet Kitchen went from being something I downplayed as a side thing to being MY business and MY income. I’ve learned so much, yet know it’s still just the tip of the iceberg, and that’s very exciting to me.
What would you say to others interested in starting their own food business?
Believe in your product 1,000% and make sure you still love what you do long after anyone else would have quit. There’s a big difference between, “I liked baking cookies with my grandma, and my friends tell me they taste great!” to “What are my ingredient costs? Is what I’m selling out of my kitchen legal per the state’s food code? How much will I be paying in self-employment taxes this year? Do I cancel this celebratory dinner with my friends or wake up before dawn to finish decorating these cookies that are taking much longer than I’d planned?”
Any dreams of growing beyond Des Moines?
I’ve gotta work on some of my control freak tendencies and my inability to ask for help if I want to grow in Des Moines, let alone beyond it, but as Marc said to me the other day, “This dream is bigger than your baby steps.” I’ve got a better community of support than I ever knew could exist, so when it’s time, we’ll all go there together!