In late September, Hamilton, Ont. bakery owners Josie Rudderham and Nicole Miller received news they had won the top $100,000 prize in a nation-wide Small Business Challenge, a competition sponsored by Telus and The Globe and Mail. The Challenge accepted over 3,400 entries and narrowed the field to five semi-finalists, and it was Cake & Loaf Bakery who rose to the top.
The duo founded the bakery six years ago and it has grown to 23 employees and added a second location.
Their prize included $100,000 plus $10,000 to donate to charity. We caught up with Josie Rudderham to find out how it all came about.
Why did you enter the Challenge?
Telus actually tweeted us and suggested we check out the contest. We certainly were not the only business they tweeted, but it made us feel special and motivated us to take a look.
How hard was the entry process?
The initial application was online and took 20 to 30 minutes to complete. A few weeks later we were informed we were one of five finalists. At that point we put together a five-minute Power Point presentation and set off to Toronto to present directly to the judges. There was public online voting that followed, and along with the judges input a decision was made about a month after that.
How did you react when you won?
We were shocked and honoured and just generally giddy! We certainly did not expect to win with such amazing competition.
Why do you think you won?
We think our dedication to Living Wage and our passion for our business set us apart from our competitors. We are truly obsessed with creating from-scratch deliciousness with locally-sourced ingredients.
How has the exposure from the contest affected business?
Our customers are very proud and our city has been incredibly supportive. The messages of support from our suppliers, customers and friends have been so meaningful. We feel like the competition really rallied our community in a meaningful way and has brought us even closer to our regular customers.
What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make?
We’ve had to be very careful not to jump into every project that’s presented itself. It has been really tempting to run out and spend the $100,000 right away. We’ve always had a strong vision for growth, but capital isn’t the only important ingredient for expansion and we have come to terms with making deliberate and well considered decisions before we leap.
What are your plans for the $100K?
Our biggest challenge is space. We have an extremely talented cake team who currently reside in the second floor of our bakery. They have very limited refrigeration and must carry all cakes down a narrow set of stairs. This means we often have to say no to larger, more exciting, custom cakes. Our top priority is getting them into a new space with a purpose built kitchen.
And the $10K to donate?
Childhood poverty and nutrition is a cause near and dear to our hearts. We’ve decided to donate the $10,000 to Food4Kids, which provides packages of healthy food for kids aged 5 to 14 years with limited or no access to food each weekend (www.food4kids.ca).
What lessons have you learned from this experience?
We really applied to this contest on a whim with no expectation of winning, but we put our hearts into the application. We didn’t try to make a business case, we made a human case, and I think that resonated with the judges. We own a bakery because we really love to eat, but we also love the power of good food. It brings people together in a unique way, it speaks to community and togetherness in a way few things do in our modern world.
We feel like we won because we have strong values as a company—Living Wage, supporting local farmers and small businesses and putting a passion for quality above all else. We’ve learned we don’t have to put profit first to succeed. We will continue to put our values at the centre of all our decisions as a company.
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