Life & Business: What Baking Has Taught Me About Business

MCB-Life&Biz-Article

Chicago native Maya-Camille Broussard is a creative entrepreneur, culinary artist and culturist. As the owner and curator behind Three Peas Art Lounge, Maya made viewing and collecting art less intimidating by incorporating a bar inside of a gallery. Despite the eventual closing of Three Peas Art Lounge, Maya focused on her work as a curator and designer while she developed another inventive business idea in the background — this time pairing food with law.

One year later, founded in memory of her late father, Stephen J. Broussard, Maya opened Justice of the Pies. A criminal defense attorney and “Pie Master” whose passion for baking and eating pies was well-known in the family, her father influenced more than a fun name and celebration of his love for round tarts: Justice of the Pies honors his belief that everyone deserves an opportunity to reform their lives. And to that same tune, Maya is not just committed to delivering amazing sweet and savory pies, quiches and tarts, but to positively impacting the lives of those who have faced barriers and difficulties in gaining employment by offering them job training and skill development. In honor of her father, her own path of business-ownership, and in celebration of Pi(e) Day yesterday, Maya is reflecting on and sharing a taste of the three important life and business lessons she’s learned from baking. –Sabrina

Patience Is a Key Ingredient:

I didn’t start baking until I was well into my 20s. As a young pre-teen, my father (who called himself the “Pie Master”) tried to enlist me as his protégé in the kitchen. I was bored out of my eyeballs and extremely impatient because: teenage angst. As I became older, I found that baking and being in the kitchen was soothing and meditative. A lot of patience is required when baking, and equal amounts of self-control is required when you’re starting a business.

Patience is seen as a desirable trait of a leader. Employees, customers, and vendors often see an individual with patience as a compassionate and openminded person. A patient leader likely has high emotional intelligence, empathy, and confidence.

As a baker, I’ve waited for yeast to rise, crust to chill, and meat to braise for several hours over a low temperature. Perseverance is a sure sign of dedication. When starting a business or striving to reach certain benchmarks in an existing business, you have to value your staying power. In this day and age, we live in a “microwave society ” where mostly everything seems to happen instantly. The truth is, we live in an “oven society” where the most wonderful outcomes happen in due time.

If you are waiting for certain professional results to produce, work on other elements of your business in the interim. While a cake is turning golden brown, you would work on preparing the homemade frosting. If you are waiting to receive a confirmation for a new account, work on developing new marketing techniques or sales pitches. Patience does not necessarily mean to sit back and wait — it means to practice diligence while retaining a level of endurance and persistence.

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Image above: Maya’s Heirloom Tomato Tart

Exact Measurements vs. “Eyeballing It”:

Baking, unlike cooking, usually requires precision when measuring ingredients. It does not allow for substitutions and will often yield perfect results when the recipes are religiously followed. Cooking, on the other hand, allows for someone to employ a bit of improvisation in flavoring. One may “season to taste” or “eyeball it,” make spontaneous gastronomic decisions, or modify the way a meal is traditionally prepared.

Baking represents a business plan. There is an exact science to what the business will look like and how the business will achieve its results. Cooking epitomizes what a business owner does when he or she takes a detour from the business plan to make creative, strategic decisions that are contingent on the challenges or prospects that may arise.

As an entrepreneur, the key is to create and follow a recipe like a baker, but be prepared to think on the fly like a chef. Whether it’s an unexpected opportunity, uninvited challenges that could threaten the business, or new ideas that could allow for potentially positive changes, an entrepreneur needs to know when to follow the exact measurements as prescribed in their business plan and when to “eyeball it” and divert from the carefully constructed blueprint.

Bleu-Cheese-Pear-Pie

Image above: Maya’s Bleu Cheese Praline Pear Pie

Bake the Whole Pie, But Savor Just a Slice:

Social media is an effective and (relatively) low-cost marketing tool for a business. With a strong following on various platforms, a business may find itself presented with interesting collaboration, branding, and sponsorship opportunities. For this reason, many believe that the larger the social media following, the more viable that brand is.

If the total number of social media followers represent a whole pie, then as an entrepreneur it’s important to savor a slice of that pie. As a small business owner, I’ve learned that true consumer engagement numbers matter more than the number of followers I have. Instead of focusing on the number of social media followers my business accrues, I’ve shifted the focus to the number of followers that are actively engaged with my brand.

There is a wonderful, fellow baker with an account on Instagram that has over 19,000 followers. Their posts receive an average of 100 “likes.” My Instagram account for Justice of the Pies receives an average of 60-80 likes per photo. At nearly 800 followers, I tend to receive feedback from approximately 10% of my following (as opposed to .005%, like my fellow baker mentioned above). Some entrepreneurs and small businesses may express lamentation for not having as many followers as their so-called competition. However, the number of followers on any social media platform does not translate to authentic audience segmentation and engagement.

After baking a pie, I would never sit down and devour it in its entirety. As a business owner, I am not concerned with the total number of followers I have, but rather I focus on activating a relationship with those who do indeed follow me. It is not as important for me to acquire an astronomical number of followers. It is more important that I make a genuine connection with the followers who are interested in my brand, services, and products.

Just as there are many more recipes for me to explore in the kitchen, there are ample things that the joys of baking will continue to teach me about the art of business. So far, the most important thing that baking has taught me about business is to relish in the enjoyment I derive from the work that I do, to literally indulge in the fruits of my labor, and to recognize and appreciate the sweetness of success.

lavender lemon tart

Image above: Maya’s Lavender Lemon Tart

  1. Summer says:

    “Instead of focusing on the number of social media followers my business accrues, I’ve shifted the focus to the number of followers that are actively engaged with my brand.” WOW, so simple but so true. This is important to me, it’s so easy to get caught up in the “popularity contest” on social media instead of enjoying connection, building rapport and engaging with others. Very nice article!

    1. Julia Chance says:

      “… it’s so easy to get caught up in the “popularity contest” on social media instead of enjoying connection, building rapport and engaging with others. ” So true and well-stated.

  2. One of the most inspirational stories-interviews I’ve read!

  3. Jessica says:

    What a grounded, lovely perspective. I love it. And I really, really wish I could eat pieces of all those pies. : )

  4. Erica Howat says:

    Such a lovely personal story that is woven together with relevant business insight. I like the analogy of baking as it relates to business. This article resonates with emotional intelligence and Maya’s dad would be so proud. Well done Maya!

  5. Julia Chance says:

    This post is a keeper! Maya’s baking/business analogy is very inspiring. Just wanted I needed to read today. Thanks Design Sponge!

  6. Always glad to hear about entrepreneurial adventures. Thanks for sharing

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