Kristina Schlegel spent years helping other companies build their brands through her marketing work. Throughout, she had an itch to build something that was hers. Five years ago, she left her day job and went to culinary school. There, she honed her baking skills, giving her the skills and bravery needed to launch her edible sticker company, Make Bake. Schlegel’s colorful and whimsical stickers and decorating kits are perfect for parents who want to get creative with their kids in the kitchen, but lack the time, skills or confidence to bring such projects to life. The California mompreneur is still figuring out how to obtain the necessary funding to scale her business – and how to carve out enough time to hang with her own children.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Most baking kits are overly simplified and prescriptive – they don’t leave much room for creativity. Our patent-pending approach is to take the open-endedness that kids love about arts and crafts,and bring it into baking.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Our Christmas products launched this past November in Barnes & Noble and PaperSource stores nationwide — 670 locations in total! It was a huge accomplishment, but also quite stressful to take that big leap!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Financing. Often I find myself saying “no” to opportunities with larger retailers because I can’t get access to the capital I’d need to effectively scale. I am still in the process of trying to solve this. We could literally double our business if I could find a lender that would work with us.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I’ve found it very difficult to juggle a lack of affordable childcare with my work schedule. There are a lot of days where you feel like you have nothing left for yourself. It takes a lot of determination to keep going!
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
If I could tell my younger self one thing, it’s this: “No one is coming to save you.”
As a small business owner, you will get lots of consultants telling you how they can grow your social media presence, run your paid ads profitably, and take over your logistics. When you are overwhelmed, it can be tempting to believe someone else can take something like that off your plate. But I’ve wasted a lot of money looking for help. If I had stuck with the things that were already working, I would have definitely saved myself a lot of money and heartache.
So in the early days, play to your strengths. You don’t have to run your business the way everyone else is doing it. In the beginning, you are your best asset. Figure out what you do best, and keep doing that until you scale up. Then decide who or what to invest in next. There are no quick wins.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I step away and spend time with my kids. They are the reason I’m doing all of this.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Hey Ya!” by Outkast. It makes me want to dance.
Who is your most important role model?
My sister. She has built her own business over the last 10 years and I have watched how hard she has worked and how patient she has been with herself and the business. All while having two young children. ◼