Well it’s been about two years since I’ve written, so I wanted to do a (not so little) update. It’s been a crazy 2019, but I finally feel like chimney cakes is all coming together. I have a lot to say about this experience, but the one thing I get asked about most is why I started this business, how I came up with the idea, how I got the nerve to do it, where I find the time and what my experience has been like. So….I thought I would use this as an opportunity to address all this.
So first off, I definitely didn’t come up with the chimney cake idea. I wish I could take credit for this century old dessert, but if you check out our “about us” section, you can read about the various theories surrounding this addictive little pastry. In the past couple years, it’s become more and more popular to fill these pillowy carbs (thanks for this one Barb J ) with various sweets like Nutella, jam and most recently even ice cream. I posted a blog a couple years ago about how we “got the idea”, but basically I’ve always been a dessert addict, and in particular, ice cream addict. Every time I go to Hungary (or really anywhere), I experience the culture with my taste buds. Although my waistline doesn’t appreciate it, I think it’s the absolute best way to travel. Hungary has some really unique foods and desserts and I always miss the food when I come home (well once I run out of what I bring back with me). It was always interesting to me that there are so many different cultures represented in the form of food here in the US, but you don’t really see Hungarian restaurants or bakeries. My family and I always talked about this from the minute we left Europe, so it’s always been a dream of mine to bring some Hungarian culture here.
Let’s go back a few years to when I graduated with my chemistry degree. I started working in the pharmaceutical industry in 2008 when the economy was terrible, and I went through many rounds of layoffs at a few different companies. Since I am first generation American, there wasn’t exactly a college fund waiting for me when I decided to continue my education and with loads of student loan debt, the thought of unemployment was super scary. I’ve always worked in restaurants on the side, so I am pretty familiar with the industry and always loved it and the people that worked in it. Long(er) story short, I finally found myself in a stable place where I had the time to think of a way to not be 100% dependent on someone else staying in business or working off tips. In this crazy insta-famous world we live in today, I thought what better way to feed my inner fat girl than start an instagramable Hungarian dessert business. AND my grandma already had the recipe and the process nailed down, so it seemed like a “piece of cake”.
I wanted to start small, so I started doing some research and reaching out to a few existing chimney cake business owners in 2017 and ended up being a proud owner of a chimney cake oven and ice cream machine shortly after. (You can read more about this in the “life, liberty, and pursuit of doughiness post). To test the market before investing too big, I decided to try my hand at chimney cakes at the annual, 3 day International Festival in Raleigh. I made ~70 cakes for the first day and was going to be super excited if we sold those. Well…we did. In the first 30 minutes of the festival. So….I went home to bake more, called a few friends on the way to help me for the weekend, and we ended up selling almost 1000 cakes that weekend. I guess you could say the market responded well. This was in October, about 2 months into starting my Master’s degree. We did two more events as MagDough the following year, both equally as insane. Once I graduated I decided to rebrand and start building a food truck since the concept proved itself worthy of a bigger investment. (And because it was pretty annoying to load and unload a 300lb ice cream machine into the back of a small SUV).
In December of 2018 I bought a used trailer off Craigslist and built a great relationship with the previous owner. He really got me started and answered soooooo many questions for me and introduced me to tons of resources and people in the industry. Without him my start would have likely been much more rocky. Since I was already permitted to sell food through the department of agriculture in North Carolina, the “hard” legal stuff was pretty much out of the way. I started the process of physically building out the empty trailer with all my equipment, rebranded and took up many, many hours of Bennet Creatives’ time. I also, worked on increasing my social media presence and started reaching out to events in the area to get on some calendars. By March we had secured some events, an amazing partnership with Andia’s Ice Cream from a random sample drop done a year prior, and by April I was pretty much ready to roll (pun intended). Now came the scary part. When I started this, I didn’t think about that fact that in addition to being a baker, I also had to be a photographer, an accountant, a small engine mechanic, a plumber, a content writer, and the list goes on.
This is the perfect segue into the sappy, gross, barfy part. If you know me, you know I am a bit of an ice queen, so this is really uncomfortable for me to write. My heart is actually pounding thinking about what I am going to say. Of course there are tons of people I have to thank for helping me like friends and family who have worked on a 100 degree trailer all day, Ryan for putting up with my shenangians, etc. But there are a few people I’ve met or become closer to in the last 8 months that this small little passion project would not have happened without. Three people in particular. I won’t name any names, but you all know who you are. The first person has been in the food truck industry for a while and did all my design work, helped me with countless other things along the way, and now I am grateful to call him my friend and a mentor. The second person I have known for years and when I started, he helped me work some events, helped me with writing and speaking content, and other creative tasks like social media and general business advice. Now he is one of my best friends, and he’s probably dying and cringing reading this entire post. And finally, someone who I am having trouble even putting words around what he’s done for the business in the past 3 months. I mentioned having to be all those things in the last paragraph that I didn’t anticipate, and he’s not only been a support, but has taken over a lot, ok most, of those tasks like they are his own. It’s rare these days to find people who care enough even about their own stuff to give 150% everyday, let alone do it for someone else’s stuff. He’s changed the way I think about a lot of things, but mainly about the value people can bring to your life and friendships you can build in such a short amount of time. The bar is set high now! I am beyond grateful to have all these people in my life and there would be no chimney cakes without them. I’ve learned so much in the past 8 months, but most importantly this experience taught me how important relationships, leadership, perspective and teamwork is in not only business, but in life.
It has been an insane 8 months, and really 2 years now that I think about it. I have NO idea where I found the time to keep up with my full time job, run and start a food truck business, have a social life, and keep up with things like fitness and travel. But it’s been amazing and I am sooooo excited to see where this experience takes me from here.