Micro-Bakery Transformed Into A Sweet Digital Kitchen
Looking for cookies, macarons or cupcakes? Jennifer Arnold offers it all at her micro-bakery in Lindsay, Ontario. After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down outdoor markets and catering for restaurants, Jen knew she had to pivot the distribution of her delicious treats and take her kitchen online. The ShopHERE Powered by Google Program was the answer to the e-commerce challenge as Jen became a tech-savvy baker with curbside and delivery options!
The Sweet Kitchen is a home-based micro-bakery, currently in its 13th year of operation. The business was born out of Jen’s basement when she moved to Lindsay from Ottawa, and decided to share her love for desserts with the local community. Jen has been a pastry chef for more than 25 years, ever since she was making desserts with Easy Bake Oven. She completed the Pastry and Baking program at Algonquin College and worked in pastry kitchens such as the Ritz Carlton and Movenpick until landing a full-time role at the Westin Hotel.
“I love that there is always something new to explore and develop as customers’ tastes and trends change. Baking brings people happiness and it's an honour to be part of that,” says Jen.
Before joining ShopHERE, Jen relied on Facebook and Instagram to generate clients, but with not everyone using social media she decided to launch an online store to give The Sweet Kitchen more reach. Jen explains: “I feel like the opportunities and possibilities are wide open and down to me to figure out how best to take advantage of them. Customers are open to new ways of getting their products and that can be very exciting and creative.”
The website allows customers to easily place orders online, while Jen can have a coherent overview of all her orders and their fulfillment. The entrepreneur also loves the simple and clean template of her website that makes navigation easy for her customers, and herself whenever she needs to make changes. For extra functionalities, Jen found the necessary apps to perform the exact things she needed. Now you can find everything from brownies to cookies to scones on the online store, and the special subscription box offers new treats every month.
For Jen, the process of setting up the online store became very stress-free as her Coordinator was very responsive and available for any questions, even on weekends! Jen comments:
“I kept track of questions along the way and what I couldn't figure out myself, I was able to ask my coordinator either through emails or web calls. It was an absolute pleasure to work with her.”
After completing the ShopHERE Program, Jen feels more confident with the technical aspect of running an online store and empowered to generate and sustain a thriving year-round business. The smooth operations come as a relief after difficult pandemic-hit months. Jen says: “It's been a stressful, emotional roller coaster mitigated by working on the online store. It forced me to put one foot in front of the other and to focus on the one thing that I had control over.” However, the Sweet Kitchen also understands that it’s challenging to keep people interested, engaged and committed to their products.
Nevertheless. Jen encourages every small businesses to apply for the program to get a better understanding of how online marketing and sales work to see immediate benefits. The entrepreneur explains: “The team is there to bounce ideas off and point out new opportunities that you had no idea existed. As a sole proprietor, we're used to making all decisions by ourselves and having a second opinion is incredibly valuable.”
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.