Interviews

We delve into the business & personal lives of our TCWEP members and industry vendors in the Twin Cities.

Food Idea Tips

Starting a Food-Related Business? Read Insights From 3 Successful Food-Related Business Owners First

Reading Time: 5 minutes

These Minnesota business owner’s are shining examples of success in the landscape of the local food-industry. I ask the trio a few questions about business start-up strategy, their perspectives, and advice. They graciously share insight.

What constitutes a food business for you?

Tami: I belong to a 400 member cooking club where I’ve learned of over 50 different careers in food. The food business is not only made of cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and food trucks. It also encompasses food writers, nutritionists, and food scientists… along with many other categories.

Sara: A food business can be anything you dream up. Currently I’m a food business without a food truck or restaurant. (The restaurant is coming) Who knew alcohol mixed with a pie would make people so excited to buy my product?

Jamie: A quality product that you are able to produce consistently and receive validation on from consumers.

How do you know if your food business idea is worth pursuing?

Jamie: In our case, we purchased a Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise – so the process for determining worth of opening this type of food business, for us, was on the already-proven methods and success of the franchise itself. The product is very high quality and the financial risks were minimal with a fairly short turn around on profit.

Sara: Well, starting out, who really knows! We jump in with a grand plan, and typically that changes over and over again. We really do whatever it takes to keep going. For me, I didn’t think about the future business I could have selling pies infused with alcohol. I only cared that I loved baking and feeding people pie. It wasn’t until I started bringing my pies to farmers markets that I realized this could be something sustainable. People loved it and connected to it as emotionally as I did.
It wasn’t just me or only my family telling me the pie was good- it was complete strangers who continued to support my idea.
That’s when I realized.
Another thing is to seriously consider is can you afford your food business idea?
It does take money to make money. If you are quitting your job before you test things out… eh, I would suggest you not do that. The hours are VERY long and the pay not so great!
The best advice I was given is to only look at your company as an asset. If you’re doing it to make lots of money right now chances are it wont happen. It’s the end when you sell when you are paid for your dedication.

Tami: When starting out it’s important to know what your priorities are.
Are they to make money or to live out your passion?
If profit is your first goal, you’ll be looking at cost effective strategies over highest quality.
If your passion is first, you’ll be looking to make the best product you can and price it competitively. Prepare to work hard for very little profit for a long time but it WILL pay off!

Looking over the past several months of Twin Cities Wedding & Event Professionals (TCWEP) events, I realize I’ve sampled the desserts of all three of the following local business owners who brought their delectable creations for us event-attendees to taste.
Sara Holden, owner of Sara’s Tipsy Pies, brought three varieties of her pies to TCWEP’s Historic Hope Glen Farm & Vineyard event: Boozey Blueberry Lemon, Carousing Caramel Apple, and Razzy Apple Raspberry.
Tami Cabrera, owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake*, brought five varieties of her cheesecakes to TCWEP’s Delta Hotels by Marriot event: Chocolate Decadence, Chocolate Marble, Original, Raspberry Swirl, and Turtle.
Jamie Cassens, wedding & event planner at Nothing Bundt Cakes*, brought three varieties of individual-sized bundt cakes to TCWEP’s Crowne Plaza AiRE event: Dark Chocolate Chip, Lemon, and Red Velvet.

What steps do people need to go through to validate their idea?

Jamie: If you are starting from scratch I would start small with focus groups, friends and family. Work the network you have to validate the product and quality and grow from there.

Tami: Test your product out at charity events, farmer’s markets, etc.
Also, it’s important to know your niche, target market and to have or to hire marketing skills. Before investing in an expensive commercial kitchen, rent hourly space from a church, incubator, etc.
Marketing, customer service and how your product stands out is key.

Sara: Testing the market: 
Do people want what your making?
Is anyone else doing what you want to do and can you do it better?
Can you niche yourself?  
Are you a point of difference?
Is it scale-able?
Where could you sell it?
What licensing do you need?
How will you get it out for the world to see?
Branding is almost as important as the Product itself. It’s really a perfect storm.A great product,  little bit of luck and a ton of hard work.

Anything Else People Might Want to Consider?

Sara: I think it’s important to have an exit strategy.
I gave myself a 5 years. If I wasn’t growing and making my brand stronger by then, maybe I’d have to give it up. The idea took my breath away but it’s important to understand when to say when.
We are hitting year eight now.
Best of luck!
Sara Holden, Founder of Sara’s Tipsy Pies

Tami: Contact your local SCORE organization who can help you look at your business plan for free or ask a local business to be your mentor in exchange for social media shout outs, etc.
Tami Cabrera, Owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake*

Jamie: Work the network you have to validate the product and quality and grow from there.
Jamie Cassens, wedding & events director Nothing Bundt Cakes* Minnetonka

*Official TCWEP 2018-2019 Member


Thank you so much everyone for sharing. You’re inspiring. We look forward to more of your work and continued success.

If anyone has a question or comment, please leave them below or reach out on the site.


Blonde woman

Do You Know Heidi? The Chic Wedding Hairstylist

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Heidi Akpaette. Who we like to call the Queen of Bridal Updos here in the Twin Cities…

Walking back into the dressing room, I see my sister getting her hair done. She smiles wide with a “I am such a diva star” smile. I can tell she’s enjoying herself. Standing just behind her I recognize the tall blonde hairstylist for today- Heidi of 139 Hair by Heidi. She’s styling my sister’s hair for today’s photoshoot we are doing for the networking group TCWEP.

Hair By Heidi
Heidi does her hairstyling magic with Michelle Tverberg’s hair before the event.

Fun fact: Heidi is also an official member of TCWEP!

Watching, I see that Heidi has an energy about her while she works. Her 13 years of experience shows as she deftly moves her fingers while smiling and sharing stories. Her upbeat personality is palpable as she works. It’s obvious that she has a past of working in salons, and her training with the famous Aveda Institute is apparent too.

Following that photoshoot (which you can see here) I asked Heidi to share a bit more about her work with brides and what they should expect when they come to 139 Hair By Heidi before their big wedding day. And a bit about her history of how she became 139 Hair By Heidi.

Heidi applies some detail to the back of the hair before the big wedding event

What inspires your creativity in hair styling?

“I am constantly thinking about hair and what I can do with it-I don’t realize I do this until I am sitting in public places and realize I am analyzing the hair around me. So my mind is always drifting towards hair! Other than that, there is an awesome community of really talented updo professionals that I follow on social media and learn from every day.

To me, hair feels like a canvas. When I start working with someone’s hair and start brushing through their hair, I start to think and see and envision what I can do with it. I don’t know exactly what that is-but I never get tired of it and I feel like I just know what to do as I get started.”

Do you have any hair horror stories?

“I don’t have any horror stories that involve my work-but I have had to trouble shoot sticky situations-for example one of my brides got her hair colored the week of the wedding, and it was wrong, so she had to get it done and again and it ended up being so damaged from the bleach that they had to cut about 6 inches off of her hair! We had to quickly find extensions to make her hair look the same as the trial run.”

When did you know wedding hair was a career for you?

“I have always worked with people. I have a degree in exercise science and was a personal trainer right out of college and a nutrition coach. I coached hockey for awhile as well. After that, I worked one on one with kids with disabilities in the school system. After I went back to school at age 25 for my cosmetology license, I not only worked in salons but became a certified birth doula as well. All these things work together-listening to people, being intentional, serving them, and helping them feel great. I have always loved doing hair since I was a child, but I never thought of it as a successful or lucrative career so it was never in the forefront of my mind. But looking back, all paths lead to this.”

Hair brushes and combs

How did you decide to make the leap 5 years ago out salons to become an entrepreneur?

“At the time it had to do with my other part time job not looking like it was going to last very long. My husband asked me if I could do just one thing and one thing only, what would it be? And I said “wedding hair”-so then he challenged me to go and do just that, and only that! It felt like a big leap of faith, but it was the best decision and I haven’t looked back.”

Elegant bridal hair updo styling
Updo hair

How many people are on your staff?

Currently, I have 4 hairstylists and 2 makeup artists currently. They are all independent contractors so they do freelance work for themselves as well. I am currently looking to hire another makeup artist!

As an entrepreneur who works with other creative types, how do you do it?

“I am a creative type, so I get what the struggles can be. Basically, I just try to be as clear with my expectations from the beginning as possible and community really well all of the time. I also continually ask for feedback to make sure I am serving my team the best I can and giving them what they need to be successful.”

What’s a bridal hair trial?

“A hair trial is a time before the wedding day that we practice the look or looks that brides are thinking of for their wedding day. We figure out exactly what the bride wants so that come the wedding day, they feel totally at ease and excited-not only about the hairstyle they are getting but with their hairstylist as well!”

It is your wedding day and you don’t need to compromise.

-Heidi, 139 Hair By Heidi

When is good to schedule a hair trial? 

I always recommend 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding. This way, most of the other details are taken care of and the bride will have a better over all vision of her wedding day look. Typically the dress is almost done, accessories are purchased, and the hairstyle can be the final touch on the total look. I find that if a bride schedules a trial too early, they often change their minds or forgot what their hair looked like at the trial run. 

Heidi works on a bride while carrying around her little cute baby

How does a bride pick the right style for her wedding hair?

“I recommend picking a lot of pictures that the bride likes so I can see a variety of looks that interests them. Then, after taking a look at their wedding dress and getting a feel for the overall wedding, I can help them narrow down a look that not only compliments their wedding dress and wedding theme, but will look great with their face shape and hair type.”

What mistakes do you help brides avoid with their hair?

“Don’t limit yourself based on what you think your hair can do or not do. Look at a lot of pictures of things you like and don’t like, and share this with our stylists. Another big mistake is getting a new color or cut within the week of your wedding. Always give yourself at least two weeks in case it isn’t right or something goes wrong.

You steer away from recommending and naming too many products in your interviews, that’s interesting. Why is this?

“I use so many different brands and I am not loyal to anything, so I don’t feel like I am the best to advise products for every day use. I have expertise in specialty hair and I use products that work for specific things I do, which work for me and my techniques. There are products I prefer and would recommend to other stylists for certain styles, but in general I do believe you have to find what works for you and what type of work you do with hair.”

Any preparation tips for a bride’s hair?

“Having “dirty” hair is no longer relevant like it used to be. There are so many products now that give us the texture we need to create a good updo that coming with your hair freshly washed is just fine. Just make sure you hair is dry and down-if you tie it up in a bun or a ponytail you can flatten out the natural volume or give yourself a kink that is hard to work out.

Anymore advice or pointers for Brides

“You’d be surprised what can be done to create an updo-so my advice is don’t limit yourself based on your hair texture, length, or density. Pick out what you like and we can figure out how to make your dream hair happen!
The other thing I always want to tell brides is it is your wedding day and you don’t need to compromise. Be honest with your hairstylist and super upfront-if you don’t like it at the hair trial– tell the stylist!
Be as picky as you want.
I’d much rather have a bride tell me she doesn’t like the look I have her and we can try a new style, or even go with a completely different stylist, and be happy on her wedding day. Rather than feel like she is compromising to be nice and then be nervous and unhappy on her wedding day.”

For more information about 139 Hair by Heidi, log onto her site.

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