Linda Kindlon’s path to success wasn’t always straightforward yet celebrating her business Bake For You’s 11th anniversary was a sweet victory.
Today, the rewards for Linda and her co-owner Justin Cary’s hard work shine through this family-oriented business. You’ll see this in their treats named after grandchildren (plus nephews and nieces!), efforts to support small businesses in the community, and ability to help people get through the pandemic one cookie at a time.
Here’s how this baker and bass player created a successful business while building resiliency and learning six valuable lessons that helped them during reopening.
A Second Chance
After closing her first brick-and-mortar catering business that focused a lot on baking, Linda took a job at a hospital and waitressed at night to help pay off her debt, yet she didn’t have the same sense of fulfillment as when she owned her own business. Then, one Sunday morning as she was driving to church, Linda started thinking about all the people still asking her to bake for them.
“I started thinking, ‘well, I could go back to my old kitchen and just do cookies,’” Linda says, “And as I was driving, I thought, ‘people keep saying ‘Can you bake for me?’ And literally, that’s when I came up with Bake For You.”
With the support from a local church, Linda was able to move back into the kitchen where she first did her catering, a successful business she ran before opening her first brick-and-mortar bakery shop. Bit by bit, Linda found herself growing Bake For You. She started out doing strictly wholesale, bringing different businesses boxes of cookies. That’s when she received a small loan from The Community Loan Fund, which gave her a second chance at owning a brick-and-mortar space.
To her success, Linda paid off her loan 18 months later.
A Next Delicious Chapter: Family, a Bass Player, and Pursuit
With her daughter running Bake for You’s social media and her son working alongside of her, Linda’s family business was on track for success. Though, Linda never thought the bass player that walked into her life four years ago would make Bake For You even stronger.
“Justin came into it organically, and he said, ‘Hey you know, I’m not touring right now or on the road right now. I can come in and help you bake.’ And little by little, we realized how good we worked together,” says Linda.
With Justin running the finances and Linda taking over the brand and its creative aspects, they decided to figure out their next business move. So, they went back to The Community Loan Fund to discuss funding to find Bake For You a new location. That’s when Linda and Justin were referred to Pursuit.
Pursuit gave Linda and Justin a $50,000 microloan to fund their new location, and they had enough funding left over to help them during the pandemic. Their Pursuit contact Carol O’Connell took the time to listen to their capital needs while working through the numbers to make sure that they could comfortably afford the loan. She also helped grow their business by referring them to small business resources at the Albany Small Business Development Center at UAlbany and giving them access to specialized consulting services paid by Pursuit.
“Pursuit is proud to be part of a strong network of community partners in the Capital Region who are working hard to support small businesses. Linda and Justin and Bake For You are shining examples of how teamwork at every level pays off,” says Carol.
Linda and Justin’s Advice to Help You Pivot and Build Resilience
Though Bake For You’s journey wasn’t easy at first, Linda and Justin learned a lot of invaluable lessons along the way. Here are their six pieces of advice for business owners now:
1. Be kind to yourself
“Owning your own business has so many pluses, but you can also get beat down kind of easy. And you really have to be kind to yourself, or you’ll have a more difficult time,” says Linda.
2. Don’t second guess your vision
“It’s about having a distinct goal and following that, not getting distracted by trends or second-guessing your vision,” says Justin. “It’s very typical in the food industry to keep your finger on the pulse to current trends but keep an eye to that. You still have to focus on the fundamentals you believed in from the beginning.”
3. Be nimble with your business plan
“When [the pandemic] first started, we had to change our business plan every two weeks. That lasted about two months. It was very stressful, but it was very important. We managed to stay afloat,” says Justin. “We really were reacting to customers, to each other. You can’t stop and say ‘Oh, we got it figured out now.’”
4. Try to find a work-life balance
“Pre-COVID we were working about 110 hours per week. That is not something that you can sustain for a long period of time,” explains Linda. “It’s great to own your own business, but also, you realize you still have to have a life outside of working all those hours.”
5. Don’t be afraid of trial and error
“We tried [delivery], and we had people who helped us. But we realized at the end of that week that we never want to do that again,” says Linda. “Then we did [order ahead curbside pick-up], it was probably the main thing. We would post a menu on Sunday and people could order until Tuesday.”
Justin adds, “Kind of like a hybrid e-commerce, where people ordered online, we fulfilled it here.”
Linda nods and goes on to further explain, “We did really well. During the peak of everything with COVID, people really did not want to get out of their cars. They liked that convenience, and I think it became a fun thing for people like ‘What’s Bake For You going to do next week?’ We got to be creative, and it was fun.”
6. You don’t have to do it alone
“We had a group of four core people, and they were amazing. That’s the thing with [business], no one does it alone. It’s not just Linda and Justin. It’s friends. It’s even Pursuit. They checked in with us constantly, and Carol was amazing,” says Justin. “When you work hard you find other people.”