#NationalPieDay: The Story of Scaling Mini Pies

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“This was to biggest production I have ever run, which made it both terrifying and exciting. I took out a loan for $80,000, hired and trained 13 people, and quickly understood that failure was not an option. By the end, I felt like a CEO for the first time.

The Opportunity:

Like many entrepreneurs, Sweet Teez Bakery was an idea that blossomed from a problem seen in the market. Fed up with baked goods that ignored her kid’s nut allergies, Teresa Maynard left her position at Harvard University to pursue her passion for baking and decorating in a nut-free environment. Two years later, Maynard’s popularity had grown enough to capture the attention of the Whole Foods bakery division and when she walked in to pitch them on a 2,000 pie purchase, she walked out with a purchase order for 48,000 mini pies.

Multiplying production by a factor of 24 was going to take a lot of help - not just in the kitchen. Maynard had some experience hiring and producing but this was a different ball game. Like many Boston food entrepreneurs at the early stages of company development, Maynard worked out of Commonwealth Kitchen and utilized both the equipment and the expertise that comes from being a community member there. Sitting down with Executive Director Jen Faigel, the two began laying the framework for what needed to be a smooth and successful production, which included acquiring $80,000 in capital, hiring and training over a dozen employees, ordering custom packaging and specialty supplies, finding additional storage, scaling recipes, and contracting with vendors who would extend credit to someone with little credit history.

Unable to secure traditional capital, Maynard needed funders who would provide PO financing to an early stage entrepreneur. With the help of Faigel, Maynard found two such funders: Dorchester Bay and Boston Impact Initiative. Presenting to both firms with very short notice, while utilizing the pitching and business expertise that she developed in Babson’s WIN Lab, she landed the $80,000. Now for the next challenge. The loans took long enough to come through that her production was at a standstill until 1 week before the first pickup date.

The Plan:

Determining how to scale is no joke, especially when you’re dealing with perishable items and a very short window of time. To make the production run work, Maynard put together a plan. In the span of just a few weeks she:

1) Took out a personal loan for $5,000 to order custom boxes that had a two week lead time.
2) Found and paid for additional freezer storage while negotiating terms to deliver ingredients and have finished product back hauled, while finding a distributor to pick up those finished pies and deliver them to the appropriate Whole Foods.
3) Ordered specialty supplies like freezer tape and labels that could withstand -5 degrees.
4) Scaled her recipes and bid out all ingredients.
5) Found pallet pricing on crusts and negotiated staggered delivery, to account for limited storage space.
6) Recruited and trained over a dozen staff members while managing two different shifts at the kitchen and all corresponding payroll.

Despite the plan being put into place, capital coming in so late meant that she only had one week to get a smooth production line set. Things were rocky that first week and quality control lagged. Maynard was on the hook for thousands in credits back to the client. But she learned quickly and immediately implemented new, successful, procedures. By week two, the pallets of mini pies went out without a hitch and Maynard worked 35 days straight to ensure things stayed that way.

The Village:

One theme that wrung true throughout Maynard’s scaling journey was that it took a village to make production work. Babson’s ET&A methodology teaches entrepreneurs to utilize the network that they’ve developed to move forward, and Maynard did just that. From her community at Commonwealth Kitchen, to her family members who joined the team, to her supplier whom Maynard met through Babson’s WIN Lab, ramping up production and pulling off her greatest feat could largely be attributed to the network of individuals whom Maynard had cultivated since she launched Sweet Teez in 2016.

The Lessons:

As the largest production she has ever run, Maynard learned a lot by the end of the experience. Lessons that forced her to push forward through uncertainty and gave her a sense of accomplishment, ultimately making her feel like a CEO for the very first time. Her biggest lessons learned? Today, Maynard tells other entrepreneurs that even though something may seem bigger than you, you won’t know your capacity until you push yourself to take on the challenges that scare you the most. She also understands how critical a solid team is to success, especially when you have to work on the business at the same time you work in the business. You can’t just hire anyone to do the work. It’s about their attitude and dedication to producing a quality product that will allow you to see your goals come to life.

Interested in learning more about Teresa and her business? Head here to see what else she’s busy producing.