Get Even More Visitors To Your Blog, Upgrade To A Business Listing >>

Say, Cheese(cake)

In three short years, Amlag and Quibuyen’s culinary ambitions have gone from operating a side project for friends and family to a full-fledged business. At the time they started, Amlag was still working in education, as the director of MESA (Math, Engineering, Science, Achievement) at a local community college. Quibuyen came from a music background. As demand increased, Amlag gave up her former career to go full steam ahead with the baked goods business. Today, Quibuyen splits his time between the food world and the hip hop world, rapping under the alias Prometheus Brown.

What the pair lacked in experience, they made up for in local enthusiasm. Both businesses have been hugely supported by positive word of mouth. Quibuyen’s access to a slice of Seattle’s creative community instantly gave the them an an audience and a platform. But platform alone does not a delicious meal make. From there, it was about delivering the goods. That meant continuing to excite Food & Sh*t diners on the third Monday of every month, and meeting up with the demands of the Hood Famous bakeshop. For them, that means continuing to expand their wholesale business and figuring out the best way to ship their cheesecake from stretches beyond just Seattle.

Here, we talk to Amlag and Quibuyen about career crossovers, staying out of the red, and the importance of learning on the job.

Bond Street

What inspired you to start the Food & Sh*t pop-ups?

Hood Famous Bakery

We had our first dinner–it wasn’t a pop-up yet, just a private dinner–at a local Filipino restaurant in our neighborhood. We wanted to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary by cooking for some friends. We asked our good friend, Uncle Ernie, who owned the restaurant, to let us take over on a Monday night when they were closed. Our family was in the kitchen with us. A bunch of our friends were our servers. We had no idea how to run an actual dinner service. At the end of the night we were like, “That was fun, but we don’t know if we’d do it again.”

But, through the encouragement of family and friends, we did it again. After the second time, we thought we could manage to do this once a month. Next thing you know, we were doing monthlies. We later switched the format to a prix fixe, five-course menu that we ran every third Monday at that location. We did it for almost two years there. Sadly, the restaurant closed down. Some friends of ours, Kraken Congee, who were a pop-up at the time that we started, went brick-and-mortar last year. Now we’re doing it over there.

Bond Street

Did either of you have experience in the food space?

Hood Famous Bakery

No, we were both professionally something else. The food thing was a side passion project. For the whole first year, we were juggling our main gigs while doing this on the side.

Bond Street

Did you have any Seattle-based mentors who helped you along the way?

Hood Famous Bakery

Yeah. Kraken Congee, who we mentioned. Two of their chefs had entered an adobo cookoff that we helped put on as a kind of block party in our neighborhood. We and a group of families had started it partly as a donation, food, and medical drive for the Philippines after the typhoon hit. That’s how we met. To this day, we still work with them. They ended up getting on Restaurant Startup and winning. Tim Love invested in their pop-up and they are now brick-and-mortar. It’s kind of come full circle.

Another friend of ours, chef Tarik Abdullah, is a mentor. He runs a brunch pop-up with a Moroccan-influenced menu. He’s an OG of the pop-up scene. Before Kraken Congee, before Food & Sh*t, he was doing it back in 2012 and still doing it to this day. We definitely paid attention to what he did.

Bond Street

How did you market the pop-up in the beginning?

Hood Famous Bakery

Word of mouth, definitely. That was by design, at least for the first three months or so. We wanted to get our feet wet, know what we were doing. The first two dinners were mostly invite-only. Once we knew it was going to be a monthly thing and started planning in advance, that’s when we really started hitting social media hard. We went from having a Facebook page and a Tumblr page to having a website with branding, logo, and identity. All that came around the four- or five-month mark. Since then, I’d say that’s been the biggest driver. It’s still word-of-mouth, but we utilize Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. We definitely recognize its importance.

Bond Street

How did the name Hood Famous come about?

Hood Famous Bakery

It’s funny. The flagship item for Hood Famous bakeshop is our ube (purple yam) cheesecake. Doing the Food & Sh*t pop-ups, we never wanted to do the same dessert twice. We always wanted to keep it fresh and new. When we did the ube cheesecake, it kind of took on a life of its own. People would come to the next Food and Sh*t pop-up and ask for it. Homies and friends started hitting us up wanting to order it.

We did some testing and devoted one pop-up just to ube cheesecake. It was the only item. Because people from the neighborhood were really amazing about spreading the word, a friend came to the pop-up and said, “Hey, man. I heard about this cheesecake. It’s, like, ‘hood famous.” Being the great brander and marketing guy that he is, he ended up posting a picture, hashtagging it #hoodfamous. From then on, people started using that themselves on Instagram.

We eventually got in front of a manager at one of the biggest Asian grocery stores here in Washington called Uwajimaya. It happened pretty fast. They said, “Hey, we like it. Do you want to start delivering?” We needed a name, a logo, a website. We had all our ducks in a row to prepare for it–the commercial kitchen and permits to do wholesale–but when the meeting happened, they were, like, “Start whenever.” We decided to dive head-first.

Bond Street

Do you find that there’s a supportive community of small businesses in Seattle?

Hood Famous Bakery

More and more so. With the Internet now, you can see there’s a similar energy going on in different cities. In Seattle, I think it manifests itself a little differently. It’s a little smaller, there’s a lot of changes, a lot of creative energy. It’s small enough that everybody knows everybody else.

Bond Street

How did you finance both projects originally?

Hood Famous Bakery

It’s all self-funded. Thank goodness we’ve had the opportunity to not go in the red every pop-up. We were very mindful of making sure we kept food costs within the right ratio. We started doing prix fixe dinners so we knew how many people were coming before the pop-up. They would go on our website, pay, and then come for their five-course meal. That really helped. Unlike an a la carte, you don’t know how many people are coming; you just estimate how much food to bring.

In the beginning, it was more of a side thing. We were both still working. But now after a year–this is the kind of conversation we’ve been having a lot lately–we’re seeing the demand grow and people keep asking if we are going to start shipping the cheesecakes. With that potential expansion, we’re definitely looking to other financial means rather than dipping back into our own pockets.

Bond Street

What are the biggest hurdles in shipping baked goods like that?

Hood Famous Bakery

For the most part, it’s the packaging. It needs to get shipped overnight, or one- to two-day shipping. That means packaging it so that it arrives intact, packaging it with dry ice or gel pack. For us, needing some seed money to invest in the packaging of it is important. So is doing an experimental round on people who want to test it out. It may or may not arrive intact! We’ve got a fairly good list of people willing to be part of the early phases. It’s one of those things we want to do right, which will require a lot of testing and making sure that we can meet the demand.

Bond Street

Have food festivals been important to growing the brand at all?

Hood Famous Bakery

Yes and no. There’s a bunch of that going on in Seattle. There’s like one every week, it seems like. It’s part of the big picture but it’s not central to our strategy. We’re part of this organization called Seattle Made. It highlights artisans, food manufacturers, and arts-and-crafters based in Seattle. They do a really good job promoting local businesses and encouraging folks to buy local. We’ve done our big Filipino festival here in Seattle. But our main thing is wholesale. We wholesale to grocery stores and restaurants. Our next stop is to get into wedding catering.

Bond Street

How important are partnerships for the business?

Hood Famous Bakery

Very. You need those partnerships, you need those relationships. You need people who are in your industry doing similar things to you that you can learn from, get financial advice from, even just emotional support. You also need creatives in other industries, whether it’s food, music, or otherwise. All those resources can definitely help out. We try to establish relationships all across the board, knowing that there’s a mutual benefit. We’re all, for the most part, independent businesses. We need to support each other if we’re going to thrive.

Bond Street

What’s the one thing you learned as a business owner that you didn’t anticipate going in?

Hood Famous Bakery

So much. The most important thing is really persistence. There are definitely things that business school will teach you: have a business plan, understand step-by-step how to grow your business, have three to six months of operational costs in the bank before you start. Those are the typical things that you’ll find if you try to look it up online. And they’re all really important to any start-up or small business. But it’s also a lot about learning on the job, really understanding your resources and knowing that you’re going to make mistakes and things are going to go wrong and that you’ve got to learn from that. I know that’s cliche. It’s hard work. You don’t have anything around you to hold you up. Every day you wake up and you grind and it’s so worth it. It takes a level of persistence and grit and the mindset that you have to keep pushing. It’s the folks that keep going who are the ones that succeed.

Quickfire

What are your 3 favorite independent businesses in Seattle?

  1. The Station Cafe
    Every coffee shop says they’re more than just a coffee shop, that they’re a community gathering space and whatnot. But The Station truly embodies that and even goes beyond it, from throwing block parties to hosting events for artists and musicians to supporting community organizers.
  2. Kalsada Coffee
    I’m partial to them for pushing Philippine coffee real hard, and the quality and branding of their product is top notch. But more than that, I love their small-scale farmer-direct model and how they share the stories of the farming families and educate folks about the Philippines.
  3. Alive + Well
    They’ve weathered all the streetwear hype that’s come and gone over the past several years by being present with the local music, skate & art/photo scene, collaborating w/ folks outside the city, and hiring cats who know their shit.

Why is it important to support independent business?

I think it’s important to support independent business because what small scale operations may lack in capital and resources, so many make up for in ingenuity, passion and a genuine love for what they create or provide. So much big business either seeks uniformity or fumbles in their attempt to cater to a multitude of tastes and lifestyles with algorithms and focus groups and bullshit like that. Things that independent businesses are more likely to instinctually know from experience of being closer to the ground.

More from Bond Street:

  • Seattle Small Business Loans
  • 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Snapchat
  • Resources for Entrepreneurs in Seattle

The post Say, Cheese(cake) appeared first on Stories on Bond Street.



This post first appeared on Stories On Bond Street, please read the originial post: here

Share the post

Say, Cheese(cake)

×

Subscribe to Stories On Bond Street

Get updates delivered right to your inbox!

Thank you for your subscription

×