What’s in a cupcake? For Beatrice Tsang of Baby Bea’s Bakeshop it’s one way she’s built a loyal community. From butter to laser parties, Bea extracts her wisdom. Sugar and spice, and everything nice.
aka Baby Bea
Founder of Baby Bea’s Bakeshop
Strengths: Holding high standards, communicating her vision, and being sensitive to others
Unexpected conclusion: Loyalty is symbiotic and situational rather than a blanket do or die
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2:11 the impression someone makes on you/ top of mind
3:01 ppl get afraid of being loyal.
3:25 customers come to her first before they spread bad YELP
3:57 study at a bank
The impact of frontline emotional intelligence on the bottom line is clear (Exhibit 2). After a positive experience, more than 85 percent of customers increased their value to the bank by purchasing more products or investing more of their assets; just as tellingly, more than 70 percent reduced their commitment when things turned sour.
5:08 personal interactions trumps
5:38 customers will pay more for a better experience
86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations.
6:09 Loyalty is mutually beneficial
7:58 intro Beatrice
Baby Bea’s Bakeshop
8:13 Friends as critics
10:40 if you make things really pretty, nobody will care
11:21 Dessert is engrained in our culture
13:08 instagram raising taste level
14:26 God Complex
15:55 custom work is about trust and the relationship with the designer
16:39 having an audience you don’t have to educate
18:05 You build a community by asking for it
18:20 Asking in a way that’s mutually beneficial
19:27 Stick to your standards and follow through–lead by example
21:27 don’t look at help as a favor. Make it mutually beneficial
31:37 gourmet gift shop
Cut out the parts of the allergies until 34:27
22:22 hassles of running a business
24:02 restructuring to children instead of corporate
24:53 community is very vocal because they care!
25:31 Bea treats her customers as her friends
26:17 Don’t waste people’s time and take the advice they give you
28:55 Bea’s favorite gig
31:13 Children are more advanced these days
32:26 Staying alert to interpret the meaning of “Simple” from the customers
34:15 lessons from the price of butter
35:10 butter prices fluctuate, build in butter prices – having a cushion
36:51 budget for the whole year
38:08 figure out who your core circle to keep your cool
39:22 fighting for the ppl that are fighting for you
41:20 building loyalty
42:21 ask for help from ppl your respect, do your research
43:32 leverage your abilities
44:29 letting go of what you don’t have to do
46:40 came up around startups
47:25 paying attention to what’s going on around you to never stop learning
47:33 people look to go to a straight path
0:00 Helen Reddy – You and Me Against the World
0:06 Ides of March. [Motion Picture].
0:10 Jackson 5 – I’ll Be There
0:14 The Godfather. [Motion Film] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYnRBX2Trtk (1:58)
0:21 DMX – What’s My Name
0:24 Aladdin. Friend Like Me.
0:25 Washington Week. Webcast Extra. PBS.
0:32 CJ-Chan – Motivation Video Loyalty. Jay Baldwin.
0:34 Vickz & NSF Family – L.O.Y.A.L.T.Y. (feat. Yung C x Bizzy)
WELCOME TO THE NEXT EPISODE
1:38 Lauren Daigle – Loyal
7:58 The Archies – Sugar Sugar
11:05 Mindy Carson-Candy and Cake
13:44 Beyonce- Yonce
15:22 Spice Girls – Wannabe
11:51 Seinfeld. Season 5. Episode 14.
19:07 The Beatles – With a Little Help from My Friends
22:13 Charlie Phillips- Sugartime
24:07 Jaden Smith – First TIme
28:18 Dawin – Dessert
31:47 Clueless. [Motion Picture].
35:38 The foundations- Build Me Up Buttercup
40:45 Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
45:37 Barbra Streisand – People
50:01 Trick Daddy feat. Ludacris – Sugar
O: I’m ready.
NO: OK. Welcome!! to another episode of Chill + Ambitious. The podcast that points out shit you didn’t know was relevant.
O: I’m O.
NO: I’m NO.
ONO: And together we make ONO.
O: So do you want to tell us what we’re doing our Chill + Ambitious spin on today NO?
NO: YAS O!. Today we’re talking about loyalty and the great impact it can have on the different kinds of relationships we have in life. And we will be interviewing today’s life innovator and show you how she has leveraged loyalty to create successful, lasting relationships with her customers.
O: Cool! So NO, what do you think makes someone loyal? What does loyalty mean to you, NO?
NO: Loyalty means to me… funny enough it doesn’t really mean to me like, you know “we’re gonna be together forever and ever and ever till we diiieee.”
O: It doesn’t sound appealing to you?
NO: No. I mean, marriage, whatever. But, like loyalty
O: It’s cool.
NO: That’s fine. If you do that, that’s fine. But loyalty for me is more like this idea of the impression somebody makes on you, that’s kind of the first thing you think of. For me it’s like, ok every time I go my nails done, the first thing I think about is if I forgot my nail polish because I’m loyal to Floss Gloss. I love Floss Gloss. I love, you guys have heard (hopefully) our last episode, that I love the product so much and also I love my girls so much, that it’s literally the first thing I think of. And that’s actually what loyalty means to me, it’s that that person or thing is top of mind when you need something.
O: Exactly. And yeah we did have them on our podcast last because, yeah when you thought of LIFE INNOVATORS, you thought of Floss Gloss. And they’re top of mind and you guys should check out Episode 2 if you didn’t check it out yet.
NO: Yes. But that’s true because there’s like this sense of loyalty that we have towards each other and it’s a really beautiful thing.
O: People get afraid of being loyal sometimes because it has this connotation that you’re gonna be a doormat.
NO: You ain’t gotta be a doormat.
O: No, and actually that doesn’t breed loyalty.
NO: Actually, yeah. It breeds resentment.
O: It breeds resentment for the person who’s being a doormat, and then for the person who is getting all the benefits, it can eventually feel like a one-sided relationship.
NO: Yeah, and that’s how you get bad Yelp reviews guys.
O: Yeah. It’s true. And I feel like the reason we want to talk about Yelp reviews is because our guest who’s coming on later on, she has really good Yelp reviews.
NO: Yeah. She does, but the power with that, though is that if there’s a problem, customers come to her directly, first because they have such a good relationship, that they talk to her first.
Actually, there was a study done at a bank. So after a positive experience, 85% of customers increased their value to the bank by purchasing more products, or investing more of their assets. So they actually gave more than they intended to just by having a good interaction. And then, also, more than 70% reduced their commitment when they had an interaction that they found unpleasant.
O: That makes sense.
NO: Yeah. It makes total sense. People don’t think about it but it can, in the long run, really impact a business. If you think about it this way, let’s say you have a local burger joint that you go to once a week, right? And you know you spend money there once a week. And then you have a really bad experience and you, for whatever reason, never want to go back there ever again. That might seem negligible, but if you and several other people have that same poor interaction, then over time that’s $20 from each person every week they’re not getting.
O: Right. And people talk.
NO: People talk.
O: And it’s true and I think what’s interesting about that study is, it’s about those personal interactions. Maybe the brand has always been consistent with their message, with their advertising, but at the end of the day it’s about that one-on-one interaction they had with their customer service. And I think the most successful customer service ones, like Bea, is where they’re able to actually be like a friend.
NO: So actually, another study said that 86% of buyers will pay more for a better experience, but only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations.
O: Wow, 1%.
NO: That’s really impactful. People are willing to spend MORE money for you to just interact with them in a better way.
O: People are even willing to take less salary in a job if they have a better relationship with their boss and the people around them.
NO: And that equates to loyalty. That there’s a mutually beneficial relationship there.
O: Yeah, actually at my current job, I had some personal extenuating circumstances and my boss was actually really chill about working with me in terms of taking time off or working from home, & things like that, that you know not every company would do for you. So yeah, I definitely have more loyalty now and will think twice about other offers.
NO: Yeah, that’s true and if you want to take it to even just personal interactions, what you can do is like, do you ever think of your local barista that you see every single day? And sometimes you become friendly and you get a free coffee? That’s because of the loyalty factor. They come to know you, there becomes a relationship. Just being kind to people in these small ways, just really making an impression, asking someone what their name is, that actually becomes a relationship they start to think about. “Oh, it’s my favorite customer to see. Oh, it’s my favorite..” And it’s a benefit to you. And today with the power of social media, and user review sites like Yelp, customers’ voices have the ability to directly impact a business by influencing other customers towards or away from any business. This is such a powerful tool that you can really, honestly leverage in every aspect of your life. Yeah, so our guest today has built an amazing business that is rooted in her dedication to her customers and vice versa. This comes naturally for Bea, who holds really high standards and is invested in the outcome of not just her projects, but her relationships. So welcome Beatrice Tsang of Baby Bea’s Bakeshop. We’re recording live in her studio in LA actually, or her bakery in LA. Please welcome.
O: Why do you think your bakeshop separates you from all the other bakeshops?
B: I think we’re more of a one-stop shop in the sense that we have a full experience tied in with our place. You know there’s places you go if you want a cupcake, and then there’s places you go when you need something fully designed, and then there’s another place you go if you want to be hands-on and decorate yourself. The nice thing about our shop is we offer all 3. So if you just want a snack, you can come visit the retail store, if you want a full custom princess dessert table, we’ll take care of that, or if you want to learn, you can come in and do some workshops with us.
O: That’s awesome. We’re actually sitting right now where people learn and it’s a pretty nice space.
NO: Yes, it’s very fun and whimsical.
B: Yeah. We wanted to keep it really intimate, so that everybody gets to be hands-on. You don’t feel like you’re in a classroom. So we set it up like a little kitchen.
O: That’s pretty cool. And I’m sure you’re baked goods are also pretty bangin.
B: Yeah, because I’m a big foodie. I came from San Francisco and we don’t play there. If you serve something bad, people will let you know right away. I used to bake cupcakes and cakes for my coworkers on their birthday. They would straight up be like “Bea, this is not your best”. Or they’d throw a rock on the floor and go “did you hear that? I just dropped your cupcake”. They were brutal. So at this point, if it gets past my friends and my family, I know it’s good.
O: That’s freakin awesome though. So you had a real
NO: a testing ground.
B: And my boyfriend is French and all of his friends are french.
O: Oh yeah, they’ve really high standards.
B: So they’re huge, huge dessert critics and if they like something, I know it’s gold.
NO: If he says it is flaky, you know it is good.
O: Would you say it was pretty critical for you actually in some ways to getting your product where it needs to be?
B: It is, because I feel like my palette is pretty good, but I’m not the one buying it. You need to make sure everybody else is on the same page with you and really loves it. And when I started getting unanimous feedback for everything, that’s when I put it on the menu.
NO: Yeah. Actually, I forgot that, I’ve known Bea for al long time, and I forgot that you used to bake for everyone all the time. It was a natural progression, but I never really thought about the fact that it was kind of your testing ground. Like you got to fail on a small scale before being like, “oh, I’m opening up a business”.
B: Well I never saw it coming either. It was never my intent to have a bakery or to bake every day.
O: So tell us how it happened.
NO: Yeah, tell us how it started.
B: So I was working in marketing and finance and then I came to LA for acting because I had always been studying musical theater, so I thought I’d test the waters out here while I was still young. And I ended up spending most of my time bartending at night to get by and auditioning during the day, and then I just got really tired of it. I’m such a control freak and I did everything properly though my life, that I wasn’t used to not having a schedule, not having immediate returns for my hard work. Everything was just kinda up-in-the-air and random. Even my work shifts- you never knew when you were going to get one next.
B: So, I was talking to another bartender one night and I was saying that I got to think of something I can offer myself and I mentioned I like baking. She’s like, “well why don’t you just post a bunch of stuff on Etsy?” I’m like, “well what about permits and I don’t even know how to start,” she says “trust me, if you make things really pretty, nobody will care”. And I said “ok”. So I started blogging and I learned about all of this design work, and I learned how to start decorating some cookies and stuff, and I put it online and then my friends started ordering and I just picked up from there, and I realized I was really good at it. So I just kept learning more and more and practicing more and more and I was lucky enough to have friends who kept, you know, giving me purchases, so I had a reason to keep training myself. And then it took off from there.
NO: Everyone loves desserts, right? Like, most people, whenever it’s someone’s birthday, even if they’re not a big dessert person, will always get a cake.
B: It’s engrained in our culture, so there’s always going to be a time you need one.
NO: A lot of cultures.
B: You know, a lot of Middle Eastern cultures, they need a full table of desserts for everything.
No: Oh yeah. You don’t go to someone’s house without dessert. Like if you’re going to visit someone’s house, you don’t go without dessert.
B: There’s always an excuse for it.
O: Unless you’re George Costanza, of course. But for the Elaine Benes out there, they wanna stand out. They want their dessert game on point.
B: Yeah, I think that’s where it really helps. Because yes, you always need it, but how do you keep doing it differently? You know, we have lunch and dinner every day, but how are you gonna make that final bite different? And then you can only do so many flavors so people start coming to us to do different designs.
O: Do they usually come to you with their ideas or is it a collaborative process?
B: That’s where it’s changing for us because we used to be purely a design service, we weren’t retail so people were really seeking me out, they wanted some custom work done, they wanted us to fulfill it. But now that we have the store, people come in a lot and say, “do you have a book I can just pick [from]?” They want a menu. They don’t know what they want, they don’t know what the design process is, they’re hoping we’ll just show them and tell them. That’s something we’re working on now to kind of create a simplified line that people can just point and choose and be done.
NO: Also, people are very visual. We’re in a very visual time in our culture. We’ve grown into Instagram being this thing where people constantly have imagery in their face, and it actually… what I think is really cool about things like Instagram is that you’re learning about taste, about visual taste, without really realizing that you’re learning. So you know, some people find that they’re great at taking photos but it’s because they’re always looking at photos and they can kind of maybe subconsciously pick up on a common thread of…
O: So you feel that Instagram is raising everyone’s taste levels?
NO: I think that Instagram IS raising everyone’s taste level, people who are using it.
O: It also makes it more accessible and kinda more, going back to how you need a menu, how they have all those filters that are preset in some way so it kinda gives people some boundaries, so that they can’t mess up too much.
B: It has some good and bad. I think on the design level, for the retail store, it’s going to be great when we have a full menu for them to choose [from], but on the custom side, I feel like people have gotten too dependent on photos. Like, you can’t do it unless it has already been done. Which for an artist is really restrictive.
O: They’re buyers.
NO: They’re all buyers! No, it’s true. God Complexes.
O: Side story.
B: Fill me in. What’s the god complex?
NO: We know this guy.
O: He grew up in India…
NO: And Australia and Sweden or something. He’s like Swedish and Australian and grew up in India.
O: Yeah, and the first time he came to the US, he was here with his girlfriend, and they went to Starucks. He was like “oh look at this place. It’s so interesting.” And she orders her double macchiato with like this much cream…
NO: …Half/caf latte.
O: …Yeah, and it’s like a 10 piece order for one thing and he was just “that’s part of the menu! I thought she was gonna get kicked out when she was telling her order. Who does that? Who has such a specific order catered to you?” And he’s like, “I figured out, that’s just how it is. I love this place. I love America. Everyone has a God Complex and it’s ok.”
NO: But yeah, it’s kinda like that. Maybe because people are so inundated with imagery, they just kind of lose their taste. They don’e know exactly what they’re looking for.
B: They don’t have their own taste. Because I’m actually ok with God Complex. I’m ok with you coming in and telling me all the different things that you want. But then the issue is you have to trust us to do it. Because we do have a lot of clients who come in and they’ll tell us what they want and we say “OK.” And they say, “well how do we know you’re going to do it?” (16:48) I said, “you don’t.”
NO: You just have to trust.
B: If you come to me, you have to be prepared for some of my artistic input and to know that your design is not going to be cookie cutter. Halfway through we might decide to add and extra little element. And custom work is not something you can just go around and price shop. It’s really about your relationship with the designer because they’re the ones understanding everything you want and everything you’re not saying.
NO: They just have to trust your taste level.
B: Yeah and so far most of my clients or, I think all of my clients have been very understanding of that. Most of them come here having purchased a custom cake before. That’s one of the nice things. We took over the location from Rosebuds, which was very established for years and years and I’ve been fortunate enough where the old owners have been sending all of their old clients to us for any future work. And they come in already with the right attitude because they’ve worked with other companies that did this before. They have the proper expectations in terms of budget and of timing and also that they will be surprised and are just trusting you to create something nice for them.
O: That’s awesome. That’s another huge thing, too. To be able to already have an audience that you don’t have to educate too much in terms of… doing a custom cake there’s certain things, like you said, your creative process and being respectful of that.
NO: What about, well I think this important because we’re all about community and the community of all these really creative people we know who are doing their own thing, our LIFE INNOVATORS. But it sounds like you have a really great community between your friends and then even moving to LA, you obviously didn’t necessarily know that many people when you moved here. So how do you think that you ended up with such a supportive community? What was the key?
B: I think that’s something really cool to talk about because I’ve been very, very lucky and so much of what I’ve created is because I’ve had a lot of help. I think you build a community by asking for it. I was very vocal all the time about what I was doing, I wasn’t shy about asking for help. If I met somebody who I knew would be a good resource, I would just ask. There’s a balance there, because you have to ask in a way where it’s mutually beneficial.
O: Right. That’s a really good point to make.
B: And I think a lot of people forget that part. You know, I’ve done mixers where I’ve seen some of my contacts just go up to another contact and straight up ask for things. First of all, they don’t know who you are, they don’t know what you’re doing- they need to believe in your cause. So, I’m very expressive about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and If I can see a good fit for both parties. I have a photographer that I work with a lot(19:36), she takes great pictures, so I give her access to my clientele, I promote her everywhere I go, and in return she takes photos for me and does the same. It’s more than just being professionally helpful, we’re friends. I work with people that I like. I work with people that I’m gonna have dinner with and that I can just call up on a rainy day.
NO: I will say the other thing I think is, aside from your being very passionate, because every project you do, you’re very passionate about, I’ve seen you work on other things and people really respond well to you and I’m like, “how are all these people…?” There was one project Bea worked on where I was like how are all these people helping you for free?” And I could just tell that’s it’s because when she talked, they were like sold on this idea and they kinda had this feeling you would get it done. But you’re also big on follow-through. Bea’s kind of a perfectionist and she holds people to very high standards. As a friend, she sometimes… Actually she’s the only friend where if I do something she doesn’t really agree with, I remember one time you were like “I’m disappointed in you.” And it really moved me. I was like “no one’s ever said that to me before.” And I didn’t take it offensively… you held me to a higher standard and it made me really think about that thing, which is funny. I think that’s part of it, you have a good sense of follow-through and you’re very… you stick to your morals.
O: And you lead by example, too. If you’re like a total slob and you’re like “I’m disappointed in you,” it’s like “fuck you.”
B: I don’t even remember saying that to you.
NO: I know, but it really made me think about the thing and I was like, “oh, she’s holding me to this really high standard.”
B: That’s because I love you Noel.
NO: I love you too.
B: You don’t get mad about things with people you don’t care about. You brush it off. You only get mad if that person is somebody you really care about and you want them to do better.
NO: Oh yeah. Totally. I didn’t take offense to it.
B: Ok. Good.
NO: I just thought that it was an example of your high standards.
O: And doing it in a way that wasn’t offensive. Which is … why I like what you said about putting everything out there, you do follow through and you also put your mission out there and you make it very mutually beneficial. Because I think that a lot of times, only half the message gets across in a lot of these “you can do it!” things. It’s like “yeah, just put yourself out there!”
B: But how?
O: Right. And it’s the fact that you’re giving something and seeing it not as a favor, I think that’s really common for people who are just starting and things like that. Especially when you care so much about it, you can’t imagine why anyone else would care about it nearly as much as you do. It seems counter-productive, and at least with the way you’ve done it, it’s a lot more like “this is my vision,” but it’s also like, “this is how you can support this vision.” You seem to look out for people as well.
B: Let’s be honest, I have cupcakes. Who doesn’t want to come here and lend a hand for a cupcake.
O: And they’re pretty freakin good.
NO: They’re really good.
O: I was totally like, taking one and being like, “I’m chill” and like 5 minutes later I was like, “I’ll try this one.”
B: I think you tried the full menu.
O: I tried a good… yeah I did. I liked all of it.
B: You don’t know when you’re coming back, eat what you can.
O: You were telling us a little bit about some of the daily things you didn’t realize were gonna be such a big hassle in terms of actually running a business. Could you talk a little bit about that?
B: You know, when you speak about them after the fact, they don’t seem like that big of a deal but at that time when all of those little things are piled together… like let’s say hiring has always been a big issue for me, finding people who will even just show up to their interviews. You think you’re helping people out, you know you’re giving them a job, they need a job, you think it’s going to be a great relationship and most of them don’t even show up to the interview. Or they’ll show up half an hour late. So that’s the first challenge. Then, you know I had a dishwasher who altered his paycheck. So when you do finally find somebody, they can come up to you and thank you every day- he was the sweetest and he had a lot of potential, he was actually starting to learn some of the design work and he was catching everything on so quickly that I was thinking as we expand, we can definitely get him out of the kitchen from doing dishes and maybe help us on the baking side, but halfway through, one day he altered his paycheck and I had to fire him. So you never know. You get hit with surprises all of the time. I just had another girl, she’s been with me pretty much full time since day one. I get a text message at 10pm one night, no warning, “today was my last day.” So hiring is probably one of the biggest headaches. And even when they are good and they do work out, there’s a big learning curve in our field because we are doing something very specialized. Permits. Insurance. All of the legal aspect takes a lot out of you because it’s your first time. It’s new. You’re still researching what the words mean, let alone how to make your next decision. (24:53) And then learning upper clientele once you set up shop, you don’t know who’s coming in, you don’t know what to expect. We realized most of the people walking in were children and we realized there were a few schools in the neighborhood, so we had to restructure a little bit. Before, our market was very heavily corporate- corporate gift-giving, we worked with a lot of fashion companies. Now we’re promoting more heavily with children and we had an extra room for the bakery so we turned it into a playroom where we do decorating classes and parties for the kids now. And we’re starting to group some party packages. But what’s been helpful is the community’s been very vocal. Especially when you’re new, they like to come in and tell you what to do. I think our first two weeks, all I heard were people coming in saying, “oh how cute. You know what you should do?” That was the phrase that ran through my head literally 24/7 for 2 weeks. “You know what you should do?” “Have you thought about this?” And you know what? It’s sweet. At the end of the day, they care enough.
O: It’s free advice.
B: Yeah. And they want you to succeed and they want you to stay around so they’re trying to help you. And we took some of the feedback. We really structured some things for the children in the neighborhood. We changed our display here and there a little bit. We added some products. So at least we feel like we are welcome here.
O: I hear that you know all of your customers’ names.
B: Yes, I know them all. I make sure they know I know them. I know them by name and it’s important not to treat them just as a customer, but I kind of treat everybody as my friend. I know their kids’ name, I know their birthday, I know what they’re doing in school. It’s important to establish those relationships, especially if you’re going to be a small business in a very family-centered community. This whole neighborhood is full of families and moms and their kids walking by, so you have to change your approach with them and if they appreciate it, you restructure your business a little bit. They’re not going to be coming in just because they want a cupcake, sometimes they come in just because the kid wanted to say “hi.”
NO: That’s sweet. I love it.
B: And I think that goes back to your question about community. Take the advice people give you. If you’re going to ask for help, you have to use it, otherwise they just wasted their time, too. We were having a slow spell, we learned that during the summer, most of the people in the Beverly Hills neighborhood, they leave. They have a summer home or they go traveling, so our business got really, really quiet, so I called up my friend, Grace, at Charis Events, and she does beautiful weddings and even planning, and I said “well what are we going to do?” She says, “well you’re going to throw a party, so let’s glam things up a little bit. Now that you know the kids are out of school and they’re gone, let’s plan something more for the adults.” And she started showing me pictures of paper flower walls and new shelving and all of this that looked to me really expensive and time-consuming. But that was her idea, so I did it. I said, “I’ll do this, but you have to come, too.” and she said “ok.” So, she’s a full time, super busy event planner, she gave up her Sunday, we sat in the shop and folded flowers literally the entire day. And I think when you commit to their ideas and when you trust their ideas, they want to see it happen, too. That’s part of their art that’s in your shop now and they want to help you.
NO: So collaboration.
O: Yeah and now we have these gorgeous flowers in here that everyone keeps coming and asking about.
NO: Looks beautiful.
O: You’ve done a good balance of keeping the taste level a bit more sophisticated, but it’s still very kid-friendly.
B: That was a challenge. Where do we find that middle ground and still keep it welcoming for the little boys and not make it too much like a princess wonderland? And we kind of found that the boys don’t really care. As long as you give them frosting and sprinkles, they were cool. Who cares if there’s pink flowers everywhere?
NO: They saw a picture of the Transformers cake and they were like “I want that!”
B: Yeah, that’s it. I think at that age they’re not so defined on gender roles yet. They don’t have those same expectations yet.
O: They see sugar.
B: Yeah, they see cupcakes and cookies and they’re fine.
NO: Get in my belly, is the next thought.
B: And if they are doing a birthday party here, we can always customize it towards a theme that’s more appropriate for them.
NO: What was one of the funnest displays you’ve done? If you go on Bea’s Instagram & her website, you’ll just see that there’s so many beautiful pictures of so many fun things. She does a lot of dessert tables, [where] you’ll get the cakes and the macaroons and the cake pops and the cookies and it’s just really, really fun. Just an explosion of color. What are some of your favorite things that you’ve worked on?
B: I would say, we recently did a Monopoly party, and although it’s not my favorite display, I think Transformers is probably at the top of my list, but what made Monopoly so much fun was she’s actually the same mom that purchased the Transformers display table the year before, so at that level, we already had the trust built in. So during year 2, when she came to me, there was very little communication. She told me a few things that she wanted, and then she left the rest up to me. That’s what makes it so fun for my team, when we have that full freedom and we know we have a client that we’ve already worked with so we know their style, we know what they like and don’t like, they know that we know that and trust us. And we had just full rights to design what we wanted and explore and it helped that she didn’t have much of a budget so really got to do whatever we wanted and in the end, she was so happy. She was having a Monopoly glow party.
NO: What is a glow party?
B: It’s a little rave for 7 year olds.
NO: That’s so fun.
B: I’m just kidding. It was at an indoor playroom where they have… it’s called Glow Zone. They do bumper cars but it’s all glow-in-the-dark. They have rock climbing, glow-in-the-dark. They have dance rooms with the LED floors. It’s madness. And they rented the whole place out and we had to do a dessert table to match, but the boy was really fixed on Monopoly that year, so we had to incorporate that in somehow. So we built the whole Monopoly board, we did all the little tiles and it was nice because in my mind, I can’t draw. I can sculpt a cake, and I can design a cookie, but actually drawing the tiles of the Monopoly board, that freaked me out for a long time but then I did it, and I’m like “dude… I’m kinda good.” So that was a really proud moment for me. And we decided to build Mr. Monopoly shooting out from the cake and then we even found him a cotton candy machine with these LED wands, so they’d glow wherever the kids walked. They’d be like flashing rainbows. So it was just a lot of fun. When you have the budget and you have a client that trusts you, you can do whatever you think about doing. That’s when the creativity and the excitement really comes out for me and my team.
NO: That sounds rad. I want to go to this Glow Zone.
B: I don’t know if it’s just Beverly Hills and this area or if it’s happening everywhere, but children are more advanced these days. We do birthday parties here and the 12 year olds are walking in with all designer clothes, designer makeup, everything is very high-end. I was talking to a little girl to do her 8th or 9th birthday and she said that she wanted to do a party bus. And I said, “do you know what that is?” How is this possible? I don’t think I knew what a party bus was until I was like maybe 21. So the kids, their expectations are higher and I think that’s why they appreciate our room, too because it doesn’t look like a normal children’s studio.
NO: It doesn’t look pedestrian or like, it’s more sophisticated.
B: Yeah, it doesn’t look like a jungle gym, they feel like they’re playing with the grown ups in a nicer environment. So we try to keep that balance like you said of the adults and the kids and we find the kids rather jump into something higher end than feel like they’re at Chuck-E-Cheese.
O: It’s that Instagram that’s elevating their taste level. Is there any sort of process that you have when you’re building trust with your clients, like when you are trying to figure out what they’re about or is it very instinctual for you?
B: I think it’s just talking to them, inviting them in and talking to them. And they usually get really comfortable and they start telling me a lot of their personal life and you just learn to stay alert through all of that. There are certain clients I know: keep it simple. They’re minimalists, they’re not gonna want too much fuss, they are probably just getting a cake just because it’s their wedding and their parents are expecting a cake. You know, so you deal with that. And other people they might say one thing, they say they’re simple, but then they show you a Pinterest full of all handmade flowers and gold brushing. So you learn to understand all the little aspects together and find a medium and I think once you do that, that’s how you get their trust. When you can start offering ideas that fit their trend, then they know that you see what they see, even if they’re saying it wrong.
O: Actually, that’s really key. I feel like in design, it’s the same sort of thing. Those words mean so many things to different people. One of the favorite words I feel I’ve had every boss say is “I need something more elevated,” and that means 100 different things to 100 different people.
B: Yeah, where do those standards lie? Or my favorite is when people call and say, “I just need a really simple cake.” I’m like, “uh-huh. Show me a picture. What do you think ‘simple’ means?” because some people, no matter how much work you put into it, they still think it’s just a cake. But they forget wether it’s porcelain, or granite, or wood, it still had to be carved. It still had to be detailed and molded. It’s the same work and if anything, it takes us even longer because we’re working with something that melts.
NO: I know. We stopped by the other day. There was a little bit of a mini emergency where the power went out for like an hour.
B: Oh, my heart attack.
NO: And Bea was on high-alert. You know you have to have a plan, luckily it came right back on, but you know, it’s so much to juggle.
B: What if we were in the middle of an event the next morning, and we don’t have lights, we don’t have refrigeration, and it’s super hot in Los Angeles right now. Anything we would have already made, would have completely melted.
O: How much butter? You were saying it’s like…
B: I have like $500 of butter in the freezer or fridge. Butter’s expensive right now! The drought really drives up the cost of a lot of our ingredients.
NO: And you’re not raising prices to go with that, so you have to…
B: No. And that’s why were careful because I start learning early on, and I think one of you guys mentioned how I got to make a lot of mistakes on the small level, I learned that butter prices can fluctuate extremely. Like within a few weeks, I went from one day paying $6 to $9. And it literally was within 2 weeks. I said, “well that’s a big difference.” And we use all pure ingredients, so we have a very high butter content in everything we make and we only use buttercream. So that’s partly a reason why we charge a little higher to always accommodate for that because nobody likes to see your prices change.
NO: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And then you also can’t stay in business if you’re taking a loss on butter charges.
B: Right. So we try to be careful for that and that’s another one of those little nitty gritty things that you mentioned, the surprises that we get. Like sometimes, your suppliers don’t have what you need and all of a sudden you have to stop what you’re doing and find another one or they had to deliver something wrong and you always need to have that cushion for things to go wrong because something always does. Especially with our medium. We’ve had cakes fall apart, we’ve spent all night making cake pops and then realized it was the wrong color, the wrong shade of pink and had to start all over again. And our work is just so labor intensive. That’s what people don’t understand that that’s what they’re paying for when they’re paying for a designed cake. It’s not the materials at the end of the day, it’s how long it takes us.
NO: Yes. And that’s the reason they come to this bakery and they’re not just picking up pre-packaged at a grocery store.
B: Right, because if you want to be God, you come here.
NO: Well yeah. So I guess… that’s a great takeaway though, for example you were talking about July, how all of a sudden you realized that people are out of town and so the walk-ins kind of dwindled a bit and building in pricing for the whole year, building in pricing for your ingredients to fluctuate. That’s something that people… we went to a conference the other day, and they were saying build your budget around the whole year, not just like if you’re a florist, then don’t obviously take your numbers based on June when all the weddings happen. Really get a scope of the whole year when you’re planning.
O: Which you have to be very realistic about. I think it can be easy to be like, “oh, we had this great month, let’s just pretend that’s our whole year.” to make you feel better.
B: Oh, I wish. And that’s challenging to know your seasons before you begin. We didn’t know and every year it’s changed for me. And my first year was in my apartment. Very small scale, my second year was in a commercial kitchen, so no retail exposure. Now this is our first year in retail and there’s just a lot of things. You know you can prepare as much as you want but you’re not going to know until you do it and just doing your own best to keep your cool when all the surprises come. Because Noel knows I like to freak out.
NO: Oh yeah. You know what? I’ve had was less freak out calls over the last year.
B: Well that’s because I got a boyfriend.
O: And a cat, right?
NO: That’s true, you got a really good boyfriend.
B: A really good boyfriend who just got me a cat right before our 3 year anniversary.
NO: Things are night and day with Mattieu.
B: Yeah, and he’s been a big part of all of this. He’s been my rock. He’s who I go home crying to every day and he’s who I go home to celebrate with and I think anyone who’s about to start a business, figure out who that person is going to be for you because you need emotional support every single day. Every day is hard when you’re starting, things just go wrong all the time and then things need to be celebrated all the time, so figure out who your core circle is because you’re really gonna need them. And make sure they understand what you’re getting into.
NO: That’s great advice.
O: I was just going to ask you what keeps you going and that sounds like it’s probably a big part of all of it.
B: That’s a big part of it. You know I just had this conversation with somebody yesterday, at the end of the day a lot of people have given me a lot of support, a lot of people have put in a lot of money to help me build this little dream shop here, but there’s 2 people who actually have to deal with me every single day. And that’s my assistant May and my boyfriend Matthieu. Those are the 2 who actually make the daily sacrifices on the personal level and with the work. For my assistant, May, if somebody calls at 5 o’clock right before closing and says that they want 500 pieces by 9AM the next day, which that just happened 2 weeks ago, she doesn’t flinch when I say, “actually, tomorrow instead of coming in at 7, you should come in at 4.” and she’s there. And when one of our staff members sends a text message to quit in the middle of the night with no warning, she’s staying late every day helping with dishes. She’s always flexible and helping as much as she can and I need to make sure that at the end of the day, they didn’t do this for nothing. My boyfriend has a full time job and he’s still here every Saturday. He put half his savings in this bakery for me. If I don’t make it work and it doesn’t become a success, those are the people that I’m going to regret hurting the most, because I need them to know that they’re fighting for something with me. That I’m not leading them into just…
O: A project. Like, “oops!”
B: Yeah. This isn’t a project, this isn’t a hobby, just dreaming. I had this planned out and it’s gonna work, I just need you to hang in there a little bit longer. Just trust me and know that it’s not in vain.
NO: That’s beautiful. I love that. And also I’ll say you’ve always had very… you’ve always approached this as a business. Even when people first start thinking about something that they really want to do and they turn their passion into their career, I think people have a lot of doubt when they first start talking about it, but you’ve always… the second you decide to do something, and I actually think that this is one of the most admirable things about you, the second you decide to do something, you take it 1000% seriously. And you don’t talk about it like it’s a fleeting thing. You talk about it like, “this is a business!” Even if you’re doing someone a favor or someone’s doing you a favor, you always talk about it with… you give it so much thought and you give it a lot of attention. And I think that that’s really important for people to hear, that you need to be supportive of all the people who are being supportive of you. That mentorship or these relationships are so reciprocal and that’s the only way you’re really gonna have that loyalty.
B: Yeah, because I think at the end of the day, it’s part of human nature. We want to help each other(42:59) and there’s a lot of people who will want to help you as long as you’re nice. Just be nice, be appreciate and actually listen to their input and know who to ask. I think that’s a big part of it, too. Don’t just go asking anyone for help, only ask people that you respect. Do some research, don’t just grab a body just because they said they can design. Did you see their portfolio? Do you know what you’re asking? Because they’re going to appreciate that, too. I have an old coworker of mine who’s been helping me with all of my design work, Lynn Chee, and I already know her style, so if she gives me something, I trust it. Versus I worked with other people where I ended up changing their work so much, and I think next time I shouldn’t even ask them and I won’t. So do a little research before you ask for favors, because nobody wants to give you a bad product, just know what their style and limitations are so that they don’t feel bad later. They want to feel like they got a win.
O: Right. That’s trust building.
B: Yeah. Like Noel knows there are certain things to ask me and certain things not to.
NO: And I think the same goes the other way, right? No. I really like that though.
O: It seems like you generally, maybe because you had thought about it as a business from the beginning, been real realistic with it and being able to look at the holes and not just the parts that are easy to just focus on. And keeping that improvement seems to be a key for you. Even like what you’re saying with friends and people, being like totally ok with being like “this is your strength. This is not so much your strength. I love you, but that actually would not help either of us if you helped me with this part. And I think it’s really easy to be like “oh this person’s my friend!”
B: “Of course I’ll say ‘yes!’”
NO: That’s such a huge part of our, that’s one of our Chill + Ambitious…
O: Yeah, that’s so Chill + Ambitious!
NO: One of our Chill + Ambitious- we have a manifesto- it’s to leverage your abilities. Always leverage your abilities and that’s true about other people too. Like what are their strengths? People don’t really like to think about what they’re not great at, but it’s like “what are you really great at?” Know your limits and then seek help outside of that.
O: Yeah, and it takes a while to learn what those things are. I’ve learned that my specialty is really with the people. I build the clients’ trust and I’m good with the networking and gathering resources, so more and more I’ve let my assistant take over more responsibility in the kitchen and I’ve had to step on the forefront. And sometimes I wish I didn’t have to deal with anyone, I could just hide back in the kitchen and build my cakes, but I had to recognize where my strengths were and what the company needed more.
NO: And I think that’s a hard thing to learn, letting go…
O: As a creative person.
NO: As a creative person letting go of what you don’t HAVE to do. Because you’re like “this is mine! This is my baby! This is my Baby Bea’s!”
B: You know, my sister said something the other day that really stuck with me. She said, “I don’t have an assistant because I can’t do it, I have one so I don’t have to do it.” And she’s like, “you have to remember: just because you don’t do it, it’s not a reflection of you. It doesn’t mean you can’t, you just chose to let somebody else help you and you have to get comfortable with getting more of that help.” Because I’m tired. I need more people.
NO: I know you do. It will happen.
O: Well this is a really impressive bakeshop. I’m so proud that you’re doing this. It’s one of those ideas that, you know, I think if someone tells you, “oh I’m gonna make a bakeshop,” it’s not like a no brainer that that’s gonna be something to invest in, honestly. Just because there’s how many different cupcake shops? But it seems like you’ve just really made it happen because of your conviction in it- your conviction and also you’re willing to problem-solve, not just be like “I’m gonna do this no matter what but I’m not gonna think about strategically how to make this happen.” But you’ve been very open about it, it seems like.
B: Yeah, because I’ve been around a lot of startups. I think that’s what really helped. Right when I finished at Berkeley, I started with Credit Karma, which you know now has completely blown up in San Francisco, but I was there when it was just a big open studio with a couple employees.
O: It makes sense.
B: And I was there helping them find their health plans and insurance policies, so to be fair, I got a glimpse and I walked in with some background of knowing what challenges were ahead and what I had consider. My mother has her own business, too, so I was there when she started. I was much younger at the time so I didn’t quite grasp all of it but she’s had 2 businesses throughout my childhood, so I watched that. And always just paying attention to all that is going on around you, picking up tidbits here and there that can help you later in life.
O: I love that and all these past experiences you had. You didn’t necessarily go to cupcake school, or whatever school and then found a cupcake mentor and mad a cupcake store, you know? I think people get hung up on that a lot, too. A lot of people are trying to change careers or they’re thinking about it and they’re like “I wasted all this time doing this other career.”
B: You start building your foundation with everything you do in life, and it’s just kind of digging into that and pulling what was most useful out all your other experiences and applying it to your new one. Because I didn’t go to culinary school, I don’t really have a business background either, I was always in marketing. I was a communications major, but there’s ways that you can, what did you say earlier?
NO: Leverage your abilities.
B: Leverage your abilities. And just being aware of what they are.
O: You let life be your school in that way.
B: Yeah. I’m just naturally a very sensitive person, so I think that that was a big part of it. You just kinda go by feeling sometimes. You try to put as much analysis and numbers and charts behind your decisions, but at the end of the day, you just have to feel them.
NO: Thank you so much for chatting with us. This has been so wonderful.
B: Thank you for caring about my business.
NO: Of course. It’s funny, I told Olivia the story. “Oh, Bea started by making some cookies, she posted them online, friends were like ‘can I have some? Can I buy some?’, now she has this store front.” It sounds like the dream story kind of, and it is, it’s beautiful and it’s nice for you to… thank you for sharing all the stuff we don’t see.
B: Well I’m glad you guys are interested in the story and that it can be useful for your series. And then back whenever you’re in Beverly Hills, you know to come to Baby Bea’s Bakeshop.
NO: Absolutely. Check her out BabyBeasBakeshop.com. Bea spelled with B-E-A
B: For Beatrice!
NO: For Beatrice! For Bea.
O: We’ll have more information on our website as well if you go to our show notes and you look under Baby Bea’s episode, you can find out a lot more.
NO: I’m NO.
O: And I’m O.
B: Oh, and I’m Bea.
NO: And thanks for listening. BYE.