Katharine Ortiz, Founder of A Little Bird Told Me and Scott Kluger, Founder of Hartford Baking Company discovered their love of entrepreneurship—and each other. The West Hartford business owners recently announced their engagement.
Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price met with Scott in March 2016, when he discussed his journey from Wall Street to bread baking. Since then, Hartford Baking Company opened a second location on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center.
In the process of meeting Scott, Nan met and interviewed Kat, who was working on growing her company at the time.
Nan caught up with Kat and Scott to discuss the roles passion, commitment, and love play in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
NAN PRICE: How did you two meet?
SCOTT KLUGER: We were introduced by a college friend of mine in August 2015. Kat was just starting her own business and I was looking for someone to do marketing. We started dating soon after we met.
NAN: In terms of your relationship, can you talk about some advantages to both of you being business owners?
KAT: There’s a tremendous amount of encouragement and understanding within our relationship. It’s nice to have a partner who can provide feedback and general support. Like me, Scott also embraces risk and challenge—and he knows what it’s like. He provides a good sounding board.
SCOTT: Right, I’ve gone through all that—the failures, the pivots. My business is further along; Kat’s is in the earlier stages.
I didn’t have a basis of comparison when I was starting out. I had to learn as I went. I told her the first two to four years you may feel like you’re going to quit. For me, it was stressful but an important learning experience. I try and give her that wisdom I gained. I offer a voice of reason.
Also, the flexibility in our relationship is nice. We’re both busy, but we’re also at a stage where we can decide our own hours, which gives us some freedom to “get out of the office” and travel, which we enjoy.
NAN: Entrepreneurs often use the word passion to describe the work they do.
SCOTT: You should be passionate about what you’re doing. Kat and I are both lucky to do something we enjoy. You can do something you love to do and go out of business, so you have to find that balance between doing what you love and doing what your customers want.
KAT: The passion drives you—that’s why you do it. If you don’t have the passion, you’ll get discouraged and may end up quitting.
My business is the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. I dream about it. It’s all-consuming—in the best possible way.
NAN: Let’s talk about commitment. You two are both committed to making a social impact in the community.
KAT: For me, it’s about collaborating and making connections—connecting local charities with restaurants, finding silent auction items, finding notable local people to MC charity events. You can do a lot of little things and make a real impact.
Also, I’m on board of Camp Courant, an organization that provides free summer programs to kids from Hartford. I can directly see the impact I make. Everything is going right back into the community. Kids’ lives are improved by this type of commitment.
SCOTT: Hartford Baking Company has a commitment to creating zero waste. We try not to throw anything away. We’ve been donating bread to homeless shelters for years. We also participated in several successful fundraisers this year to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others. It’s easy to empower others to give back—we just donate a portion of the day’s profits to the charity of choice.
KAT: I’ll add, in terms of giving back, we’re planning on announcing his-and-hers charities for our wedding registry.
NAN: What do you love most about the work you do?
SCOTT: For me, it’s about creativity and being able to showcase things people haven’t seen before, whether it’s a new coffee beverage, baked goods, or other culinary ideas.
KAT: I love that I’m able to help people like Scott get the recognition that they deserve. I work with a lot of Hartford-area restaurants and non-profits, and it can be challenging for them to get press coverage and media attention. I enjoy helping with that coordination.
NAN: Aside from the engagement, what’s new for each of your businesses—and what’s on the horizon?
SCOTT: We’re adding more events, such as Hot Chocolate Month in February at both cafes. We launched our first wine dinner on February 10; those will be ongoing. We’re also going to launch catering from both cafes. In March we plan to begin offering classes—everything from how to bake bread at home to how to use stale bread you already have in your kitchen. And we’ll be celebrating our one-year anniversary at the Farmington Avenue location on March 22.
In the future, we’re looking into possibilities for opening additional locations. And we’re always looking to grow. In 2013, we got a grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development that enabled us to increase our staff. We went from 12 employees to 50.
KAT: Little Bird is growing in all the right ways. We now have a full-time photographer on staff to deal with the sheer demand for photography that keeps us creative and on brand with our clients’ messaging. Being able to create unique and custom content that shouts out on social media at an affordable rate has always been a sweet spot of ours.
We’re continuing our work with the fast-growing digital sector, especially honing in on organic influencer marketing. We’ve been focused on these tactics since day one, and the demand for them has only increased. So, it’s nice to be hitting stride very comfortably with our current product offerings. We are also increasing the niche business line we support from restaurants and fashion retail to the world of B2B marketing. And we are thrilled to be partnered with another local business, Fathom, for content support and experiential marketing.
SCOTT: I’m motivated to think about growth and freedom to continue doing what I know and love. I’m also keeping my options open for the next opportunity on the horizon. Enough is never good enough. There will always be another challenge to overcome, and who knows what businesses I’ll start in the future? It’s quite exciting.
Learn more about Hartford Baking Company
READ: Hartford Baking Company: Entrepreneurial Success In Hartford County
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Learn more about A Little Bird Told Me
READ: Social Media Startup Enhances Greater Hartford’s Arts, Restaurant and Community Scene
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