Bakery On Maple Founder Erika Stirk spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about building a growing her business in the Hartford Region.
NAN PRICE: When and why did you decide to open a bakery?
ERIKA STIRK: It was my dream. It started back high school. I went to tech school for about two years instead of traditional high school. That was where I fell in love with the science making behind goodies and following recipes.
Through the program, I participated in some competitions at different places like the Aqua Turf. At that point, I decided opening a bakery was something I wanted to do.
NAN: Tell us about getting started.
ERIKA: I started with a cottage food license in October 2018. I’m proud to say I was the first cottage food license in the state of Connecticut. Then I gained customers through social media.
When I was ready to open the brick-and-mortar, my boyfriend jumped in with me. He’s the one who encouraged me and said, “This is what you need to do. You’re good at this. You have such good following. It’s your dream and your passion.”
I reached out to the Town of Bristol. They were really helpful providing us with information about what certificates we needed and which departments we needed to talk to, including the fire marshal and the health department.
So, we worked with a lot of different people from the town, including business advisors who helped us with our business plan, and were able to do a lot of research about how many bakeries the town can have and where the need is for a different niche.
NAN: What’s your differentiator?
ERIKA: We’re an artisanal microbakery. We make croissants, bars, pastries, cheesecakes, macaroons, cookies, breads, and specialty cakes. And we switch it up daily and post what’s available on social media. Our customers enjoy knowing there’s something new and different.
NAN: How did you find the location?
ERIKA: We did some prospecting around town to try and find the right location. Two years before we opened, we actually looked at the location where we ended up. It took some time to allocate money and get approved for loans, and the pandemic also set us back a bit. Thankfully, the space was still available when we came back and looked at it again. I remember saying, “This is the place I want to be. This is my bakery.”
NAN: When did you actually open?
ERIKA: We opened in May 2021.
NAN: In terms of the future, do you plan to grow?
ERIKA: We’re in this building for 10 years. I love this location. I would never change that. It’s light and airy. I love the community and the people walking by. It’s a great place to be, but we eventually want to be bigger. We want to do more wholesale and get our goods into other stores.
NAN: What advice would you give somebody else who’s thinking about starting this type of business?
ERIKA: Definitely ask for help. It’s out there. If you don’t know where to look, your local chamber of commerce or town are a great place to start. There’s always somebody who can help you. Don’t be afraid to ask.
We work with five to 10 other companies in Bristol that either supply us or we supply them. It’s been helpful just being able to ask them questions about how they’re growing and how they handle specific situations.
If it wasn’t for our community, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know anything about building or running a business. They taught me how to get to where I am today. So, always reach out to people and always ask for help. It can be as simple as going into businesses and talking to owners. Our community is fantastic for that.