Ashleigh Blackman was tired of seeing the same old cupcake.
After about 10 years of working in lingerie, most recently as head designer and creative director at an intimates company until 2012, she decided to open a business with her childhood passion: baking.
Flash forward to January 2013, when Blackman launched Bake-tique 212, a boutique bakery, where she uses her creative skills from her years in lingerie to make custom desserts based on her clients' requests.
Currently there is no storefront for Bake-tique 212, but rather its information is on its website and dessert orders can be placed by phone.
Blackman, who is 35, lives in Midtown East.
How'd you come up with the name Bake-tique 212?
I had a vision in my head for eventually if I ever opened a freestanding store of wanting it to look like a boutique and not just a basic bakery when you walk in. I had all these ideas of how I wanted the floors to have black and white checks, floral prints on the walls. Because everything we do is customized for the person, it's not a place where you just walk in and say I want X, Y and Z. It's more of a boutique that's catering to the clients that's just a regular shop. And 212 is for New York, so if it was in Miami it would be 305.
Why did you leave the fashion industry?
I had always felt like I wanted to do something on my own. I work as hard for myself as I did for the past companies that I worked for but I wanted to have a business that was mine and really get something going for myself and be able to use my talent and design and incorporate it into baking. I always loved to bake and whenever I brought something to friends they were always happy with it. I liked my job but I just felt it was time for me to start something for myself.
Where does your background in baking come from?
I guess it really started when I was little my grandma has always been cooking and baking. And I always loved sweets so to make these sweets myself was always kind of fun for me.
How did you get the biz started?
I went to the [International Culinary Center] in the city and took a class there but aside from that everything's been trial and error on my own; a lot of family tastings and friend tastings.
How did you come up with your business model?
We have certain products that you can buy as is. There's a line of products called "smidgens" which come in a variety of flavors. Basically it's a marshmallow that's covered in chocolate or caramel and it goes on different bases. I wanted to be able to have a presentation when I was making desserts for a client. You see on Pinterest there's all these dessert displays and dessert buffets or dessert tables, I kept seeing the same type of cupcakes all the time. And I wanted something that could be unique for each client where I could decorate things according to the theme of the event and the color of the event. When I started I got great responses.
Did you need to learn about marketing and web design?
I had someone do my website for me but my love for flowers and stuff like that is why there's flowers on the website. We do a line of fine art cupcakes, so those are cupcakes decorated to look like flowers, like the butter cream ice cream is in the shape of a flower. I've been looking into marketing and how to expand my business. Prior to hiring [a public relations firm], everything's been word of mouth.
Do you plan to open a shop?
Down the road I would love to, right now I'm happy with just doing events. Right now I'm not ready for a storefront. I hope to get there eventually.
Where do you do your baking?
It's called Le Gourmet Factory, which is a warehouse in [Englewood,] New Jersey that they converted into a bunch of different kitchens. You can reserve your kitchen. You have to be certified.
What was an unexpected challenge in launching your new business?
Making sure certain recipes are right. Sometimes you can make something a couple times, it'll taste great, you can think you want to change something up with it and you have to start all over. Or you have 10 people who like it and two people who don't, well I'm not OK with the two people who don't like it.
What have your profits been like?
It's been going well but it's still new and I'm looking to really build the business and to make as much money as I can. But it's been good, I've been very lucky so far.
How does your former career help with this one?
Because I was schooled in art and design and in color theory and everything you learn in the arts, when it comes to an event if there's a color scheme, I'm good with color. Say there's three different types of desserts, sugar cookies, cake pops and cakes, I have an eye for what color looks best, how much color there should be, so everything flows together.
What is your favorite pastry to eat?
My favorite thing to eat would probably be the apple cookie pies. They're about 2 [inches], round-shaped with a lattice top and an apple filling, so they're crisp from the outside. They're thin, they're light and easy to eat and they're great.
You developed all your recipes yourself?
One of my specialty recipes, which is called ghuvikelz, came from my great grandma, so I'm fourth generation making it. Pastries similar to this were a big thing in Russia and Austria. And her mother taught her how to make this dough and my grandmother taught me how to make it and it's basically a great canvas for whatever fillings you want to put in it.
Do you have any advice for readers considering a career 180?
Shadowing someone is always great because you can learn from them, but if you don't have that and you need feedback on what you're doing, make stuff and drop it off at offices and ask for feedback. Drop it off [with] friends and ask for feedback and see if it's something that works, if it can take you somewhere.