At the end of August we hosted a Kootenay Women in Business contest. We wanted to feature a group of female business owners and entrepreneurs in a special way. With COVID wreaking havoc on small shops and artists livelihoods, we thought it was a good time to garner some exposure for fellow makers and celebrate our Kootenay roots. We had 41 (awesome) applications to the contest and saw entries from across the Kootenays. From Rossland to Revelstoke, from East to West, and everywhere in between including Kootenay Babes who now live and work beyond the Kootz. All the businesses that were entered were so varied, from retail and art to food and beverage, and amazing services like nutritionists, accountants, yoga teachers, comedians, and woodworkers. That alone proves that women are dominating the small business scene and we all have so many unique talents. It was really difficult to pick a winner for this contest but as you'll see, Danielle not only has clear talent (she's self taught!) but a passion for what she does and evident hometown pride. As part of the contest prize, we gifted Danielle with a $150 GC to stock up on Kootz Collective goodies and are now pleased to be presenting her feature here on the blog.
Danielle Abenante // Sprinkles + Rose Homebakes
- Side hustle / Part time
- Sole proprietorship
- Food & Beverage
How long has your business/side-hustle been operating?
Tell us about the business in more detail.
How did you get started with your business? Why did you start/open it?
Over the past few years I had started to make cakes for fun, then one day I decided that I had enough interest to start a home-based business (with a little push from friends and family, and having a 2.5 year old and a 4 month old at home - crazy yes! Regrets - no.)
What has been your biggest challenge and/or success so far?
Challenge: My biggest challenge is balancing my personal life, being a mom of 2, my husband, and the business. I want to work all the time and I hate turning down orders, but I need to remember I also have a family and myself who need time.
Success or win: My success has been the amazing continuous support I receive from all of my customers. I am usually fully booked 2 months in advance and having that interest in my cakes and cupcakes is a huge win! Last fall, only being in business for 8 months, I won the entrepreneur award in Trail for the District Chamber of Commerce. The award was won based on votes and to me that is a huge win! The best part of my job is being able to be a part of so many celebrations.
What is a unique experience (positive, negative or funny) you've encountered as a female or female-identifying small business owner or entrepreneur?
For me, a unique experience was winning the award for entrepreneur of the year for the Chamber of Commerce. I had some tough competition (both female and male). I never would have imagined that I would have won an award within the first year of running my business.
What motivates you and keeps you going? Have you encountered any special challenges due to COVID-19?
What motivates you? So many things motivate me! I love a challenge and with this business, I have to step out of my comfort zone to create custom cakes as an artist. It’s my thing. I love all things art. My family also motivates me. They are my biggest support system. Working long hours through the night to accomplish things needs that kind of support. It’s funny how when you love what you do, little sleep doesn’t really affect you (long hours working and kids who don’t sleep, haha).
Has COVID affected you? COVID has affected me. Because of all the unknowns at the beginning, I put my business on hold. After things settled I decided to start up again, however, because of the nature of my business (celebrations) I thought I would be slower with orders. I decided to add a smaller cake to accommodate smaller party’s and gatherings and they have become a huge success. Working around COVID is tough, things have been canceled but it’s understandable and I never broke a sweat over it. It’s nice to see people still celebrating but in much smaller quantities. Little cakes are so cute!
Photos by Amanda Mary Creative
What goals have you set for yourself for the next 1-2 years?
My goals for the next few years are to become more efficient and yet more creative. To be able to offer more to my customers and to continue to bring joy to people's celebrations. Eventually, I would love to open a small boutique bakery.
How did people discover you? And what do you do to promote yourself? Social media or otherwise?
At first, I was discovered through friends and family and then word of mouth and then of course social media once I started sharing my work online. I definitely use social media to promote myself. Living in a small city, word of mouth and social media spreads like wildfire. Once my cakes and cupcakes started to appear at events, I also had new people start to discover me.
Tell us about a time when you were assigned a task you’d never done before. How did you approach it?
I have been asked to do new things plenty of times, especially as a new home baker. I am continuously learning new things. Most of the time, I do some research on the task and figure out if it's in my level of ability. Sometimes, if it's something I don’t really do, I will improvise with something similar to make my customers happy.
What new skills have you had to develop when running your business?
Since I hadn’t ran my own business before, most skills were new to me. Everything from the very beginning, like testing my recipes until I found the one I loved (including baking ingredient amounts, oven temperatures, cooking time), new techniques with buttercream, learning how to time manage especially with balancing my home life, children, husband and work. Also the social media side of things. I had to learn how to run a business page, make a website, and connect with my customers.
Photos by Amanda Mary Creative
How long does it take you to build a cake from concept to the final stage? And what is your creative process?
Depending on the cake (or cupcakes) anywhere from 2-8 hours including bake time, cleanup, set up, decorating, and boxing the cake up. However, I do have to shop for my own ingredients, spend time online chatting about the order, researching and ordering online specific items and managing my social media accounts. My creative process starts with a discussion with my customer to understand exactly what they want, baking the item needed, allowing time to cool, making different fillings and icings, putting the cake together and then packaging.
What has been your favourite cake or cupcake project and why?
Oh, this is so tough. I always have a favourite until I make my next cake and then I have a new favourite. I love fresh flowers on cakes, abstract cakes, pastel coloured cakes, drip cakes, and textured cakes. And of course, I love gold on cakes. I think overall, I love the mountain and tree cakes, which are regularly requested.
Do you have a website?
I do. I made my own website with help from a very talented friend. I made it back in June. Currently I have all my offered treats, flavours, sizes, and pricing along with my current creations. I try and update my availability as often as I can. You can also find many FAQ's on my website. Everything from how to order a cake to how to cut a cake. www.sprinklesandrosehomebakes.com
And finally, tell us about YOUR Kootenay pride! What makes the area and people special? How does winning this contest make you feel?
Kootenay pride is written all over me. When I was 18 I couldn’t wait to move away from Trail, not realizing what I would be missing. Each year being away I missed the Kootenays more and more and realized it’s the place I want to raise my family. Coming back to this area after living away for 10 years has given me a greater appreciation of what we have here. Beautiful mountains, lakes, scenery, and people - we have it all! I’ve been back for 4.5 years and I have done more here than I had for the first 18 years of my life. And now my children get to grow up in this beautiful place and appreciate it the way I do. I think people respect where we live and that’s why the people are so great. They respect others and they respect nature. Receiving the apparel is just the bonus to be able to represent a woman running a business in the Kootenays. And we have SO much talent! It didn't matter to me if I won the contest or not, we all know that whomever got chosen appreciates the Kootenays and runs a kick-ass amazing business run by a strong, talented, determined female. Thank you for giving me this opportunity!
Photos by Amanda Mary Creative
Rapid Fire Questions:
Chocolate or Vanilla – Depends on my mood but probably chocolate
Cake or cupcake – Cake for sure
Rather be on the mountains or on the water – This is the hardest! How about on the lake surrounded by mountains.
Favourite town to visit in the Kootenays – I love Fernie
Favourite small business in the Kootenays – SO MANY!!! How do you choose? My go to for everything from coffee to gifts is definitely The Doorway.
Favourite place to dine in Trail – Trail Beer Refinery Taproom. The chef is amazing and the cheesecake is to die for! And the beer is smooth.
Morning or night person – Night
A product you can’t live without – In regards to baking, my smoother, and in regards to life in general – my scrunchies to hold my bakers bun.
Pumpkin Spice or Cappuccino – Pumpkin Spice
It was awesome getting to know Danielle and dive into all the details of her business and (tasty) creative process. Here is a small selection of Danielle's pieces of art (or should we say piece of cake)!
Please go give this Kootenay talent a follow on social media and to view more of her creations.
In addition to our winner, we drew additional random names to feature even more women in an epic group blog post. We have 4 wonderful talents to showcase, plus a great story on how all the winners successfully arranged to meet each other thanks to a quick-thinking photographer who stepped up big time and made some women in business magic happen. We are beyond excited to tell you all about it very soon. That post is going live next week so stay tuned!