Creative entrepreneur and passionate baker Monica Beaudoin started Bloom Bake Shop in 2020. Her sister, Alexandra Pilon, and father, Rich Beaudoin, joined the company in 2021. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price met with the family to learn more about launching a business in the Hartford Region.
NAN PRICE: How, when, and why did you develop the concept for Bloom Bake Shop?
MONICA BEAUDOIN: When I was little, I always liked to bake. It was always my plan to go to culinary school and open a bakery. I studied culinary and pastry for four years at Johnson and Wales in Providence. Throughout my career, I worked at and managed different cafés and bakeries. When the pandemic hit, everything shut down and I saw a window of opportunity.
Bloom Bake Shop launched September 1, 2020, at our first farmer’s market. It was a great way to get out in the community in a way that was still open and accessible. We were well received in the community and about six months into the business, we were really starting to grow. So, I reached out to my sister and my dad to help me grow the business. They joined in June of 2021, which was perfect timing because my dad had just retired.
NAN: What skillsets do you all bring to the family business?
MONICA: All our skillsets complement each other. I’m the head pastry chef—although we all bake. Alex and Dad assist me in packaging and selling.
RICH BEAUDOIN: I have a finance background. I spent 35 years managing accounting groups mostly at United Technologies Corporation (now Raytheon) and Pratt & Whitney.
From an entrepreneurial perspective, Alex and Monica’s mom and I started a business with their aunt and uncle about 20 years ago. We operated the Gwyn Careg Inn, a bed and breakfast in Pomfret, and started doing wedding and catering events there.
Starting that business from scratch and running it gave Monica, Alex, and me some experience about what it’s like to start a business and be active in a business. Monica and Alex were a big help in getting things ready and behind the scenes in that business. So, that was the first true startup experience the three of us had.
ALEXANDRA PILON: Growing up in an environment where we saw our parents taking risks and being successful gave us the confidence to pursue a similar track. As for me, I was at a point in my career where I was ready for this pivot. I had been working in government relations here in Hartford for almost a decade.
What I bring to the table is a Hartford-based network and an understanding of some of the organizations, nonprofits, key players in government, and other connections to resources here in the region. My focus is on helping connect with resources and spreading the word so Monica can focus on the vision for the company and baking a great product.
Something we constantly remind ourselves is to stay true to the vision and the initial goals that we had set out. As a family-run business, communication is really important. We all communicate well and let one other bring their background and strengths to the table. So, we all lead in different sectors of the business and rely on each other’s expertise.
NAN: Tell us about marketing. Rich, did you tap into your network from the bed and breakfast and the wedding community?
RICH: Yes. The inn is still owned by our family and we have exclusivity on wedding cakes and desserts for all the functions hosted there. That’s a good segment of the business.
We’re learning that you need to be fluid and flexible. We’re trying to determine the right products for the environments we’re marketing to and shifting when we have to. Sometimes you go into a process with a certain set of ideas, but you have to be willing to adjust to stay within the business model and fit the markets.
MONICA: A lot of our marketing comes from word of mouth at farmer’s markets. Another way we’ve been able to grow our wedding business is through connections we’ve made with wedding planners and stylists. We’ve done some styled shoots, which have been a great way to network. It’s a fun day to dress up and be around all these different wedding professionals. They post professional pictures and get published with our pastries and then other people see our products and reach out to us. That helped us grow in our first year.
ALEX: We’ve also utilized social media, mostly focusing on our Instagram and Facebook. Bloom is such a visually based product, so it’s helpful for people to see the pictures we post on our social media or website. Social media has been a great way to connect with other small businesses too.
Also, we’re fortunate to be based here in Hartford and connected with so many great resources, like reSET.We were lucky to have been accepted into the new reSET Retail Incubator. We’re hoping to keep learning more about retail and growing our business.
We participate in the West End Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays and the Forge City Works’ Farmers Market on Broad Street on Thursdays. We’re also a part of the KNOW GOOD Market events on Pratt Street and at the Hog River Brewing Company.
NAN: How has the business evolved in the year since its launch?
MONICA: When we first started during the pandemic with farmer’s markets, we didn’t know what was going to happen. So, we started off renting by the hour at CLiCK (Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen) in Willimantic. But then we quickly grew and needed a larger kitchen.
NAN: How did you become connected with the Swift Factory?
RICH: As the farmers’ market base grew, the custom orders grew, the wedding cake requirements grew, and we evolved, we needed to look for another place. We heard about the Swift Factory through word of mouth at a farmers’ market in Hartford.
Since we’ve moved to the Swift Factory, we’ve been able to grow the business by having a year-long lease and 24/7 access to our own private kitchen. So, capacity was driving the need to evolve into this stage here, but we’ve been here about a year and we’re already outgrowing the space.
MONICA: Also, in terms of evolution, the business has three different niches: farmers’ markets, weddings, and now we’re doing wholesale. Something else Alex is introducing to our business is the floral aspect. We’re named Bloom because I like to bake and decorate with flowers, but we’re actually going to start selling bouquets and growing the business that way.
ALEX: This summer, we started selling bouquets with our baked goods at farmers’ markets and it went over well. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to do a couple of events where we provide desserts and the floral centerpieces.
MONICA: I’m often working with florists when I’m making wedding cakes, so it would be a nice opportunity for us to work together and make it easier for our clients too.
NAN: You mentioned outgrowing the space. Is your long-term goal to have your own brick-and-mortar location?
ALEX: Yes. We’re working really hard toward that goal. We hope to have a space within the next six months or so. We would love to stay here in Hartford. One benefit of joining the Hartford Chamber of Commerce is that we’ve been having great conversations with the leadership there about some of the vacant storefronts downtown.
We’re also looking to continue to grow the catering side of our business. As people start to return to the office, we hope they’ll think of us when they want to bring in breakfast pastries or cookies for meetings or other occasions.
MONICA: Once we have the storefront, our plan is to have the bakery, the floral unit, and offer some type of breakfast and lunch in a café environment. It’ll be a beautiful bakery café and flower bar where we’ll sell local goods that are true to our vision. We want to keep our core farmers’ market connections with small businesses and incorporate our community in the café.