If you have never been into Pure Bliss in downtown Bellingham, you need to go. Now. Go to their adorable little shop, order yourself a gigantic slice (or an adorable cupcake) of the best cake you have ever tasted, have a seat, and then read on.
Got your cake? Good!
Now let me introduce you to the owner of this amazing place, Andi. This is the creator, baker extraordinaire, and business mastermind behind the adorable dessert shop known as Pure Bliss. Whenever we have a shoot or meeting downtown, we always magically end up here. It's like Andi has enchanted the shop to suck people in, again and again! The cake would be enough of a draw, but they also have cookies, creme brulee, cheesecake, wine, beer, COFFEE... pretty much anything to turn a good day into a really good day.
As small business owners, reading through what Andi sent us was full of light bulb moments and new life goals. There are vast amounts of wisdom into the thought process of simultaneously running life and a successful business here! What a gift!
Please tell us a little about your company and what you do!
We are a from scratch, all natural bakery, specializing in layered cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes, torte, gourmet dessert wedges & cookies. We live closely to our philosophy of only using the best ingredients possible, locally sourcing those ingredients when possible, and creating all our delectable desserts in small batches to ensure the highest quality.
How and when did your business take shape?
In January 2007 my husband and I got married. We were living in Kirkland at the time, but both knew that Bellingham was calling us back (we both graduated from WWU and had an incredible community of friends who still lived in town). By Spring of that same year, we packed up our lives and moved back to Bellingham. During this same time, my heart had been feeling the tug to change careers. I had learned a tremendous amount of life skills while working in the corporate world, but I felt like it was time to follow my passion and dream of baking for a living. Baking has always been in my bones; a true passion I was ready to live out. Our relocation was the perfect segway to do just that. While working with a local and beyond gifted wedding designer, I poured myself into R&D for recipe development, read books on starting your own business and grew in my understanding of the Bellingham Market. By January of 2008, Pure Bliss Desserts was born. We were an off-site dessert catering business at that time, and stuck to that model for two and a half years, gaining experience and refining our dessert menu.
I will never forget the very first day we opened. I walked into the shop at 5am to begin baking for the day and looked at what our friends, family and professionals created together as a team. I sat down in awe and wonder and cried with joy. It was our dream come true!
What do you feel is unique about your business?
Our leadership and hospitality team work together on a daily basis to ensure that each one of these pillars are met so our customers can get the very best experience possible when they enter our shop. From start to finish, we really want our customers to walk in the shop and feel special both by the décor and by how they are treated by our team. We want them to love every bite of their dessert and leave feeling like their experience at Pure Bliss was unique and special.
In addition to that, we are absolutely a destination. We offer incredible beverages that compliment our desserts. From organic, fair trade coffee…to locally blended tea…to fine wines, craft beer, port, mead and champagne, our beverage menu fits the needs of all our customers. And since we are open late (closing at 10pm Tuesday through Saturday), we are the perfect destination for the happy hour crowd (dessert before dinner…you bet!), the post dinner crowd or the “I need a special treat right now” people.
What are some big trends you are seeing right now and how can we get more of this type of goodness is our everyday lives?
We have really striven to be consistent with our menu and provide our customers incredible desserts that stay on our menu year round, in addition to seasonal offerings that show off local ingredients. With that being said, the need for Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free and Vegan (individually or in combination of those dietary specifics) options are on the rise. So, when we have time, we head back to the kitchen for more R&D to see just how we can expand our menu and broaden our dietary specific offerings that ANY one would enjoy…not just those that HAVE to eat them.
What is a hardship or challenge you have had to overcome and how did you handle that?
My degree is in Psychology…so I like people. My passion is in baking…so I can produce the product. But I had little to no business running experience when we started up. Off site catering was the low-risk route. All I had to do was manage myself, my ingredients and my customers. Once the store front opened, my learning curve spiked. I had to hire employees, train them in both the skill set and the philosophy we stand on, create systems and procedures, monitor email & expenses, file taxes, strategize advertising and promotion…PLUS bake, frost cake, get supplies and work behind the counter. There were so many days when I said to my husband…”All I want to do is BAKE!” because my life was overwhelmed with all the other responsibilities. I felt confused and discouraged…I knew running a business was going to be hard, but it felt like every day I had to dig into more things I knew very little about or that pulled me away from what I wanted to be doing. Gradually…day by day, I learned more and more, and the business running became a lot more natural. Systems Management has turned into one of my favorite parts of my job. I love figuring out ways to make things more efficient and have embraced the art of delegating. I enjoy collaborating with my team leaders and growing the business for the better…both for our customers and for our team.
How do you balance being a #bosslady with having a family/life?
Oh it’s hard. It is SO hard. We love our business. Nick, my husband, and I call it our “first child”…we birthed this gorgeous business and have poured all that we have to make it better and better as each day passes. We also are in love with our incredible 2 year old daughter (our REAL first child) and naturally desire to spend as much time with her as possible. These young formative years are incredible to watch. She is developing so much and learning so quickly…we want to be a part of all of that. We also enjoy being together outside of the walls of Pure Bliss, doing the things that we love Bellingham for: hiking, biking, walking through town, utilizing the parks, and on and on.
So…loving two things, your business and your family, I often feel pulled and guilty for having to choose one over the other at different times. However, we really do strive for balance. I try not to work on weekends (as in…not be physically present at the shop) and on Wednesdays we have a designated family day. Nick is a fire fighter so his schedule is irregular and we often don’t get full weekends together, so we make time for each other and stick to it.
I really do the best I can and am striving to rid any guilt I have and rather embrace our family needs and wants in conjunction with the shop. We hire smart and capable people who excel in their role and that gives me a lot more freedom. Nick and I have set our family goals and business goals and with a lot of planning and communication we are able to execute both with minimal bumps.
If you could give someone starting their own business any advice what would it be?
Make sure you LOVE it. Passion is what gets you through those long days and all nighters. Passion overrides fatigue, frustration, temporary burnout, confusion, loss, and deliriousness. If I only kinda liked baking or sort of thought it would be fun, I would have never made it through the first year and a half of 100 hour work weeks. When it is in your bones…you have what it takes to push through the tough times.
Know your market. Make sure people out there are interested in what you are offering and that they are willing to open up their wallets and buy it.
Financial backing: Save save save…then start. Business cost a lot of money…Insurance, Rent, Employees, Inventory, Supplies, and on. Cash flow is hugely important and making sure you have enough savings to help carry you through slow times will help you be less stressed and give you a higher likelihood of long term success.
Strong Community and Support: Running a business is time consuming. Having people around you who understand your passion and who share your burden with you will help you be successful. I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I was for our community of friends and family who helped make Pure Bliss what it is today. You need those people.
Know your personal goals and your business goals. This is tough…Work/Life balance can feel virtually impossible most of the time. Your work can take all of you, leaving you nothing for your spouse, family, friends and community. Not to mention time alone, enjoying hobbies. But when you have goals in place and take action towards them, then you begin to have a stronger work/life balance.
Thank you to Andi for agreeing to be our May #BossLady and sharing her wisdom with us! And thank you to Lj Shepherd Photography for the beautiful photos!