We had the good fortune of connecting with Tori Hardy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tori, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Something that has recently come to my attention is knowing my customers and how important it is to not only succeed in every way possible for them, but to make my attention to their needs, concerns, likes, and dislikes known. In doing so, I have old and new customers who speak to me with comfort and ease; it’s something I take pride in! I love speaking with my customers about what specifics they want in their baked goods, or baking something special for a birthday, Mother’s day, cousin’s graduation, etc. It’s such a pleasure to serve anyone my baked goods, but to include me on a special event is even more of an honor! The important factor of simply knowing my customers has given me opportunity after opportunity. Once I establish a work-like friendship and baked goods provider with my customers, they know I’m taking care of them as I ensure their baked goods aren’t processed out like high retail bakeries; everything is always homemade, handmade, and from scratch. My business has grown due to the success of my skills and my customer guarantees, customer service, safe and healthy/clean environment, and lastly, any accommodations that I can fulfil. By doing so, my customers recommend me to everyone they can! It’s truly the success and blessing of my business. I cannot thank my customers enough!
What should our readers know about your business?
Small Kitchen Baking started as something to do for fun and during my time in college. SKB began as an Instagram in 2016 and has slowly grown into a website and a Facebook page. Although I don’t have a lot of following, I’m always excited to share my stories, baked goods, and menu with the Atlanta area! Once my friends and families started ordering from me and telling their friends about my baked goods, I had growth between 2017-2019. I will admit that 2020 was not my finest year. When COVID hit, of course that was difficult for an at home baker! I had to cancel many orders with clients because I didn’t want to risk any exposure even if it’s something small like a sinus infection. However, between the tale end of 2020 and the first few months of 2021, I’ve had a few different orders and have succeeded in my first participation with a pop-up shop event! It was a wonderful experience and a learning one too. I’m very excited to announce that I will be at another pop-up event during the summer months! We don’t have any specific info yet, but it’s coming! However, it isn’t easy being at an-home baker. I’m competing with other bakers and bakeries, and even… Walmart. It’s sometimes frustrating when people choose Walmart’s $15 40 pack of cookies over my homemade and hand rolled buttery cookies, but the customers have options just like in any business. However, supporting a small, local, and personal business is much more than doing a communal service, but it’s about quality of what you purchase. The taste, texture, flavor, personalized packaging, delivery, sometimes lower prices, and more is/are how my baked goods overcome the “assembly line” bakeries! Yet, I think more people are seeing the value in homemade goods and small businesses because of our personal touches. So to answer the question, no, it isn’t always easy, but I think I’m getting to where I want and need to be! Moreover, my business is where it is today solely off of client exposure and spreading the word. Everyone tells me the best items I have to offer are my cakepops and cupcakes. I’ve heard it again and again; “your cakepops are my favorite and they’re so DIFFERENT and WAY BETTER than Starbucks, Walmart, Target, and even high end bakeries!”. My cakepops are, of course, handmade, homemade, and from scratch. At times, I’ve spent 6+ hours making cakepops. The cake, frosting, rolling, candy coating, and decor is all me. It’s a very long process but it’s the way I do things. It’s a personal journey and every cakepop I make it something special. My customers can tell that something is different about my cakepops and that’s what it is; the personal touches and time put into them (aka however cheesy this may be, but a huge sprinkle of LOVE). My cupcakes are also something personal and very well liked here at Small Kitchen Baking. I hate to say that I disappointed some at the pop-up event because I didn’t have cupcakes; I can happily say that I will be providing cupcakes this time around! Whether it’s jumbo stuffed or something simple, my cupcakes never disappoint. Moreover, I’ve learned a lot with this business from customer service to how to properly bake certain items, but nonetheless, it’s been fun and enjoyable. Something I try not to do is sell myself short. In wanting my customer to choose me for their provider, sometimes I do low-ball myself on cakes or other treats. It’s difficult, but honestly, the experience for me is more valuable than any dollar. I truly love baking. It’s truly a humbling process.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are a few different stops in the Atlanta, Marietta, Hiram, and Douglasville locations that I have spent my childhood to adulthood exploring, but there are a few I have recently fallen in love with! First, Hiram is where I’m from and located, but this little town has more to offer than meets the eye. First, I would highly recommend Nueva San Salvador Bakery in Hiram. They’re locally owned and operated and serve authentic Hispanic dishes and baked goods! The amount of food you get is crazy and everyone there is an angel. If you are a tattoo lover, or a comic, pokemon, Marvel, DC, gaming, and stones/crystal nerd, check out Uncanny Tattoo Studio off of Macland Road! Mat Purdy is an amazing tattoo artist and a great guy all around. He has done several of mine and my fiancé’s tattoos – he never disappoints! Subtract the crystals from that list and head over to Killer Finds in Hiram! They are another ultimate must on a Hiram shopping spree due to their wide variety of games and collectors items! To continue, although it isn’t technically Hiram, the Bookworm Bookstore in Powder Springs is my favorite book store. The clerks are the best and they accept used books for credit at their shop! It’s locally owned and operated as well with an enormous amount of books to choose from. I highly recommend checking them out when heading toward Powder Springs! If you love hiking like I do, I recommend Sweetwater Creek State park in Douglasville, off of Mt. Vernon Road. It’s the best hiking spot for different levels of hikers, but also, there is access to water where you can walk on rocks or just enjoy the sunshine. They also offer paddle boarding, peddle boating, and kayaking! You can camp there as well so it’s defiantly a weekend trip deal! Douglasville has grown with places to eat, but I love Fin & Feathers, Bagel Meister, and the Thumbs Up Diner. Order the biscuits, gravy, and chicken at the Thumbs Up Diner; you will NOT be disappointed! Marietta also has a lot to offer, but my favorite days in Marietta is Saturday. The Marietta Farmer’s Market is such a fun and communal experience. I try to go at least once a month and pick up fresh, locally grown, and organic veggies and fruits for cooking and baking. All of the vendors are so sweet and they always have so much to offer! I love meeting new small business owners and watching them succeed. I highly recommend making a trip to see everyone on Saturday mornings before the crowd and there isn’t only produce, but breads, small t-shirt businesses, craft businesses, and more! A great place to eat while visiting is the Marietta Burger Bar. I loved their burgers and the different sauces they have are awesome for a sauce “connoisseur” like me! Of course, shop at the Marietta square and visit Andretti before you leave! Although I haven’t experienced Atlanta like I should, I still know of a few great spots! Little Five Points off of Moreland Ave, with the Vortex, and local bookstore is a great place to shop and eat. I’ve been a few times and have spent hours at the restaurants trying new foods and drinks. Moreover, the Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, High Museum of Art, and Krog Street Tunnel will always be my favorites. Each of these spots hold special events or releases randomly and usually annually. The Botanical Gardens had an Alice in Wonderland exhibit in the month of October and I enjoyed every bit of it! I know this is scattered, but it’s well worth checking out the places I’ve mentioned if you’re down to support local!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mom, dad, fiancé, friends, family, and customers deserve so much recognition! My parents have always encouraged me to take my baking business to the next step and I have been making stride in 2021. My fiancé, Chris, is my rock. He has supported me through all of my journeys, helped me deliver orders, assisted me at pop-up shop events, and has been the most encouraging of anyone. He tells me, “as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters”. We’ve been growing with our hobbies and transformed them into what I like to call “part-time careers” that will one day be full-time realities! My friends, and a few of Chris’ as well, have been amazing support! Our families too! They all love getting my baked goods, especially my cakepops and cupcakes. It warms my heart to see their excitement when I deliver left-overs and freebies! There will be a long list of thanks; thank you to my friends and family: Ryan Jordan, Jackie Lyle, Kaleb Harris, Sami Henderson, Daniel Gaines, Kathy Dammes, Brittney Canty, Brianna Canty, Tyler Owner of Polished Training, Ricky Menendez, Brittany Roberts, and lastly, Jamal and Breanna Glaspy!
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