I have incredible news to share!
Many of you know that Yummyholic recently celebrated its official first year since launching this website last October. In retrospect, it has grown remarkably over a short amount of time, but the amount of sleepless nights, sweat, and tears I've invested so far has made it feel like a long time coming. Other than all the personal growth you go through by putting yourself out there on all levels of vulnerability as an entrepreneur, the two main logistical hurdles I had to overcome in order to really start growing my business were 1) space and 2) equipment.
Earlier in September, I overcame the first hurdle when I was named one of six winners of the Urban Innovation21 & La Dorita Cooks Food Incubation Grant Competition and acquired about 4-6 months of free commercial kitchen space to solidify and grow my operations. I'll be operating out of La Dorita Cooks' shared commercial kitchen space in Sharpsburg, PA.
Pitching to judges for the Urban Innovation21 & La Dorita Cooks Food Business Incubation Grant Competition
Shortly afterward, I became one of six finalists who presented at the Invest in Her Pitch Competition for a chance to win up to $5000. I hoped to win prize money that I could use to purchase equipment and be on my way toward overcoming the second hurdle to growth in my business.
Unfortunately, I didn't place in the competition. I had an incredible experience and know that making it as a finalist was a huge feat in itself - we were initially chosen out of 40 applicants and then made it through to the pitch out of 12 interviewees. I stood alongside amazing female entrepreneurs who are making waves in the fields of medicine, technology, retail, and recreation and proudly represented my niche in the food industry.
From left to right: Adhiti Aji of Adrich, LLC, Courtney Williamson of AbiliLife, Marissa Vogel of Caligramme, yours truly (!), Monica Yope of PopCraft, and Tamiah Bridgett of Diversame, Inc.
Since I didn't place in the Invest in Her competition, my immediate next step was to launch an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to do what I could to lessen the financial impact of investing in the critical equipment needed to meet new wholesale demand in my business. What I needed was a dough sheeter - a piece of commercial equipment that would enable me to produce eight times what I can do now rolling out my cookie dough by hand. Commercial kitchen equipment tends to be very costly, averaging in the thousands of dollars. A table top dough sheeter on its lowest end runs $5-$6K. I hoped to raise at least half of the cost through crowdfunding.
My campaign was a little slow-going in its first week, so I created a Facebook event to try for one more push five days before it ended. In less than 24 hours, I not only met my campaign goal but exceeded it thanks to the incredible surge of support from so many friends and fans!!
But then comes the amazing cherry-on-top announcement!!!
During the same time I was hopping and skipping celebrating the fact that I had just reached my campaign goal, I received an unexpected call from Executive Pastry Chef William Racin of the Duquesne Club who spoke words that started making me cry while I was stuck in the middle of traffic:
"On behalf of the Duquesne Club, we would like to donate a dough sheeter to you. We're more than happy to support a local pastry chef who's working hard to get their business going. If you're available, I'd like to deliver it to you tonight!"
Chef Racin and my boyfriend nearly threw out their backs carrying the machine up the steps into our house last night.
I received their 20-year-old dough sheeter originally purchased by Chef Thaddeus DuBois - former Executive Pastry Chef of the Duquesne Club who went on to become The White House Executive Pastry Chef and named one of the Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America in 1999! So not only am I still reeling from the generosity of the donation itself, I am also geeking out about the history of the machine and having the juju of such a highly-esteemed pastry chef passed onto me!! :D
The machine is in great shape and looks promising to fulfill my exact needs for production, but it unfortunately requires three-phase power that both my home and La Dorita's commercial space currently can't accommodate. (So many sad tears) Good news is that La Dorita has major plans to renovate and expand their shared commercial kitchen space, so I'll hopefully be able to use and test it out by early Spring next year!
In the meantime, the total net funds of $2,926.50 that fans, friends, and family helped me raise through Indiegogo will either be put toward a single-phase dough sheeter that I can use more immediately or toward investing in other needed kitchen equipment and materials. I will keep everyone, especially my donors, promptly updated!
For now, I wanted to share the amazing news and express my deep, deep gratitude again to the Duquesne Club, their Executive Pastry Chef William Racin, and their Executive Chef Keith Coughenour who all recognized my hard work and decided to award it so generously with their support!