From tarts to technology: How a local bakery became a million-dollar brand
Sugar Daddies Bakery co-owner Greg Gardner-Orbon shares how his healthy treats made their way into major grocery chains after less than 3 years in business.
For many bakery owners, day-to-day operations entail switching on ovens, jotting down orders and serving up sweet treats. For Sugar Daddies Bakery in Cambridge, Ontario, co-owner Greg Gardner-Orbon splits time between livestreaming on social media, tracking the temperature inside his delivery trucks and remotely communicating with in-store staff. These innovative tactics—along with the shop’s mouth-watering desserts—propelled it from a single table at a community craft show to an in-demand brand available at multiple Sobeys, Foodland and Farmboy locations across Ontario, in just a few short years.
Gardner-Orbon and his partner began baking keto-friendly confectionaries in 2018 after adopting the popular diet. Their healthy take on traditional sweets quickly gained a loyal following and the duo now run a thriving online delivery service and busy storefront, along with plans for a second shop and cross-Canada expansion.
With no background in bakery management or ecommerce, such rapid growth, especially during COVID-19, was unexpected and somewhat overwhelming. “We were renting a kitchen on an hourly basis,” laughs Gardner-Orbon when reflecting upon their first big contract, a request to fill 25 Farmboy stores. “We needed to scale operations, fast!”
"We knew that the only way that we would be able to stay on top of our game was to keep our customers engaged."
Social media streaming: Turning followers into fans
They set up a permanent kitchen along with a storefront on Cambridge’s downtown Main Street but, like many small businesses, were forced to briefly close at the start of COVID-19. Baking resumed after the launch of a revamped website with online ordering capabilities, as well as the Rogers Unison voice and collaboration solution to help field an influx of calls.
Fast forward to Mother’s Day and the small shop had a whopping 172 cake orders to fill, with a line of cars crowding the street and the whole town taking note. “It was a defining moment for us. People were recording videos and posting them online,” says Gardner-Orbon. “The questions were coming in on Instagram at 11:00 o'clock at night!” The boom in business made the bakers re-think their reactive approach and consider a deeper dive into their customer base.
Part of this strategy is a Saturday morning livestream, originally intended to serve as a digital survey of sorts but instead evolved into a platform for new recipes, customer questions and off the cuff banter. This personal approach has not gone unnoticed by patrons, who heap praise both online and in-person. The bakery has a-near perfect 4.9/5 rating on Facebook with many lauding the owners themselves, who routinely spend mornings greeting customers. As Gardner-Orbon explains, “We knew that the only way that we would be able to stay on top of our game was to keep our customers engaged.”
…we needed some sort of governance and proof we were keeping products at the right temperature.”
From frosting to fleets: Investing in transportation solutions
Much of the bakery’s orders come from distribution to major grocery chains, meaning the fresh, delicate treats travel to locations all across the province. Once they arrive, each delivery is subject to strict guidelines on temperature and shipment condition. Unfortunately, with the volume of incoming products, receivers can easily mix up records.
Such was the case for the bakery when an entire truckload was returned due to a mistaken report showing an error in refrigeration. “We knew that they were confusing our delivery with a totally different one,” explains Gardner-Orbon. “But we needed some sort of governance and proof we were keeping products at the right temperature.”
The bakery now uses Rogers Fleet Complete to remotely monitor the location, condition and internal temperature of their delivery vans. The recipient gets an alert to prepare for an incoming shipment, as well as a detailed report on the cargo’s condition, which both the grocery store and Sugar Daddies can follow along on their smartphones.
Remote monitoring capabilities are key as both still maintain their fulltime careers outside of the shop. Balancing multiple jobs may sound familiar to many entrepreneurs, and such individuals must juggle their demanding ventures alongside fulltime hours at another organization. For Gardner-Orbon, a key tool for managing this challenge is technology and the ability to quickly implement time-saving solutions. The bakery is in the process of implementing Microsoft 365 in order to facilitate communication as they grow, a matter that will become even more critical as the brand expands nationally and the co-owners will be unable to regularly visit the stores.
Advice for small businesses with big workloads
“Employ technology to do the simple things. You might think it’s expensive, but it’s going to be more expensive when you’re in the hospital from exhaustion!”
Asked how they were able to scale so quickly, Gardner-Orbon doesn’t hesitate. “Employ technology to do the simple things. You might think it’s expensive, but it’s going to be more expensive when you’re in the hospital from exhaustion!”
Like most small business owners, they need to be jacks-of-all-trade, handling everything from staffing to product photography to recipe creation. Gardner-Orbon’s Dad even drives their delivery truck every so often. Still, he advocates for investing in trusted employees and service providers. And it matters how that trust is earned. “When you’re choosing technology providers, you need to make sure that they are working on your terms and you're not having to mold to them.”
In fact, he often chats with service providers well outside traditional business hours in order to accommodate his long days, not that he minds the hectic schedule. “We love spending time with customers. We’ve met people who traveled an hour-and-a-half to visit the store. Pardon the pun, but that’s just the icing on the cake.”
When you’re choosing technology providers, you need to make sure that they are working on your terms and you're not having to mold to them.
Rogers also highlighted Sugar Daddies Bakery in our stories of Canadian small businesses. Read more customer stories or feature your business. To find out how Rogers for Business can help support your operations, contact a specialist.