Name: Brooke Siem & Leslie Feinberg
Business: Prohibition Bakery, boozy cupcakes
Industry: Food & Beverage
Location: New York City, New York, U.S.
Reason for starting: Brooke: I was unable to continue my kitchen career due to a back injury, and generally felt pretty lost. It started off as a way to pass the time, and we just kind of kept growing as the opportunities kept presenting themselves. Leslie: It’s a pretty great recession story. Since I was laid off from my publishing job I started to work at several jobs to pay the bills including at a bar and odd jobs in the publishing industry for literally anyone that would hire me – from The Onion to a 92-year-old self-published writer who specialized in microwave cookbooks. I found, as did Brooke, that there really weren’t any stable employment opportunities in our desired fields, so we decided to make our own opportunity. I had always baked a lot, and knew a lot about mixology and high-end cocktails. So, when Brooke approached me with the idea for the bakery I immediately saw so much potential.
Related: Read about another foodie entrepreneur here.
How do you define success? Brooke: Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be able to truly admit our success until I can look back on the experience as whole. Whether that’s in months, years, or decades, I don’t know. Leslie: Success is so subjective, it really varies day to day. Maybe success is getting in to The New York Times Food Section (hint hint), but then you get that, and then you create a new marker. Some days, success is just getting everything done without breaking, dropping, or forgetting anything. It’s tricky when you’re in a position such as ours, because on paper, we’re “killing it,” as our friends like to say. But then you have a day where the phone’s not ringing off the hook or something falls between the cracks and you feel like it’s your first day all over again and you’ll never find your footing.
Biggest Success: Brooke: Probably the day when we did something like 275 dozen cupcakes for a single order, and nothing went terribly wrong. Leslie: I’m really proud of some of our bigger name catering clients, particularly people and companies who are known as tastemakers. The fact that we were catering for Google within months of creating the business was pretty validating
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Brooke: Uncertainty, mostly. One day you’re super busy and the next it’s completely dead, but there’s no real patterns or any way to predict the ebb and flow of customers. We’ve tried to look at previous years to get an indication of how the day might go, but all we’ve established is that there are no patterns. Leslie: Probably a tie between doubt and patience.There’s a lot of opportunities for second-guessing when you’re creating something out of nothing, every bad day is an opportunity to convince yourself that everything is falling apart, no matter how well it’s really going.It’s also very easy to expect that everything will come together right away, and very difficult to accept that these things take time if you want to do it right.
Who is your most important role model? Brooke: I don’t really have one, but I find myself getting advice from successful friends who are at least five to ten years older than me. They always seem to find an angle of consideration that I may have not thought of, because they’ve either been through something similar themselves or seen something similar play out in their careers. Leslie: Really anyone who has found success going their own way, in our industry or any other. It’s much easier (which is not say that it is easy) to follow the basic model and reach a certain level of success than to get there while thinking outside the norm. Those are the people who truly seem to find that internal sense of “success” that I think every business owner is searching for.
Edited by The Story Exchange