stephanie giordano / baked by steph
This time on our Mondays series we interview Stephanie Giordano, the creative mind behind Baked by Steph.
Rachele: To begin with, tell us how you first fell in love with baking and how Baked by Steph started.
Stephanie: Well baking was always going on in my family’s kitchen growing up so I guess it was something that I was always familiar with. I properly fell in love with it about 3 years ago when I found myself with 3 weeks off between jobs. I got bored and decided to pick up a whisk and get creative in the kitchen and from there it quickly grew into my absolute obsession! I made it my mission to consume every bit of baking knowledge I could lay my hands on - Youtube tutorials, cook books, Instagram videos, you name it, I’ve probably seen it.
I became “the baker” within my friendship group; someone’s birthday? Steph will do the cake. Then friends of friends started getting in touch for cakes. I documented my baking journey on Instagram and, as my followers increased, so did orders. It became a side hustle for about 6 months on top of my full time job. I found myself regularly coming home from a long day at work and then baking into the night and early hours of the morning just to keep up.
Eventually it got too much - I was literally taking naps in front of my oven at 2am waiting for things to finish baking! I knew I had to choose between the baking or my day job and there was just no way I was giving up the baking. So, I picked up the courage, quit my day job and officially made my side hustle my main hustle. I can quite honestly say that was the best decision I’ve ever made.
R: Bold move, but it definitely paid off! In these first few months of working for yourself, what was your number one concern? And how has that changed today?
S: Oh there were A LOT of concerns! But the main thing I struggled with was fear of failure. Putting yourself and your ideas out there with no guarantees that any of it’s going to work is a really scary thing. The ‘what if’s would constantly hold me back - ‘what if nobody places an order’, ‘what if I make a mistake’, ‘what if I run out of ideas’, ‘what if I have to close in a month’. I had to really confront that self-doubting voice and change the narrative in my mind. There are of course never going to be any guarantees but I believed in my brand and knew I was always going to put in the work and go that extra mile to make it work. In moments of doubt I just remind myself of that to regain confidence.
Now that we’re more established and have grown a loyal customer base, my concerns have shifted more toward how we can continue to evolve as a company and stay current and relevant. I love a challenge!
R: Overall what would you say has been the most challenging aspect of starting your own business?
S: I think maintaining focus has been the most challenging aspect for me. When you start a business, you naturally have a million ideas and goals in your head and it’s all too easy to compare yourself with much larger and more established companies who have entire Sales & Marketing teams or Product Development teams driving their brand. I would often find myself thinking ‘why aren’t we doing that?’ or ‘why aren’t we able to offer that?’ and my focus would all too easily shift from the task at hand to how we can match other brands in our market. Of course it’s healthy to keep up-to-date with what other companies are up to but it’s also important to remember that no company was built overnight.
R: What is your number one marketing tool?
S: Our brand was born on instagram and that’s the main marketing platform we use as its visual focus really lends itself to what we do. We've also recently set up a Youtube channel as we're creating a lot more content around recipes and tutorials and plan to roll out more content of this nature going forward so our audience can bake along with us.
R: Given your incredibly busy schedule, how do you priotitise?
S: It’s important in business to view everything in terms of the bigger picture and not to get too bogged down in the day-to-day, so I try to highlight just three key things every quarter that we want to achieve, whether it be adding a new product, growing the team or improving one of our processes. Anything else has to wait - you can only do so much at any one time! I find that once I’ve identified these 3 key areas it’s much easier to stay focussed and not to lose sight of the path to achieving our goals.
R: How do you slow down? Being your own boss, do you “allow” yourself the so-called chill time in pre-scheduled weekly slots or do you take each day as it comes?
S: I think it’s really fitting that you use the word “allow” because I think anyone who is their own boss tends to associate feelings of guilt to any downtime. I do find it really hard to identify that blurred line between work and personal life because they are so intertwined. The moment I find myself without something to do I feel guilty if I don’t fill it with another task on my never-ending to-do list.
I went through an intense period of working non-stop last year and ended up becoming so ill as a result that I had to take some time off work at a really crucial moment in the business. Not ideal! I’ve learnt that it’s super important to stop and “allow” my mind and body a chance to relax and re-energise. Not just for me but for the success of my business too.
The nature of my work doesn’t really allow for me to pre-plan downtime but I’ve learned to seize those moments as soon as they present themselves. Exercise and yoga play a huge part in maintaining my mental health and I’ve learnt not to feel guilty to just sit and do nothing. Not every moment has to be productive and there can be great value in “doing nothing”.
R: What’s your at-home pamper / de-stress routine?
S: My ultimate de-stress is to put my phone in another room. I just can’t switch off otherwise.
If I’m finding it really hard to detach my mind from work then I’ll light a scented candle, get under a blanket and escape into a novel for the evening. A book will capture my full attention whereas if I watch a TV show or movie I can get too easily distracted and multi-task.
R: What is the number one piece of advice you would give to people who are starting their own business?
S: It’s good to seek out and listen to all the advice you can but learn to trust your own instincts. Just because something works for another business doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
R: What has been the most rewarding experience so far business-wise?
S: Seeing others share and talk about our brand on social media is the most rewarding thing! To know that someone likes our product so much that they want to share it with the world just never gets old. I take real pride in that and in those moments I always think back to sleeping in front of my oven in the early days and think “totally worth it!”.
R: What's next for you and Baked by Steph?
S: Well, we’re just about to move into a bigger premises which I’m so excited about. It’s going to allow us space to expand the team and create so much more! My main focuses right now are expanding our product offering and finessing our order process. I’ve been collating and listening to all of the much-valued feedback from our customers over the past year and now is the time to put it all into action and build upon what we’ve already created so far. I’m so excited for our next part of the journey!
Firedrill Round with Stephanie.
- If you had to describe yourself using three words, which would they be? Passionate, motivated, honest.
- If you had to describe Baked by Steph using three words, would they be the same ones? As a brand, I’d say Baked by Steph is fun, friendly and light-hearted (I’m counting that as one word!). As a person, Baked by Steph is much more organised than regular Steph!
- What would you say is the most interesting thing about you? I can rap every single word to Jay Z’s 99 Problems...is that interesting enough?!
- What about the most random / unexpected thing? Most people in my life call me Steve.
- Top 3 skincare products? Kiehl's Midnight recovery concentrate, Aveeno moisturiser, Dr Lipp Nipple Balm for Lips .
- Top 3 items of clothing? I live in black jeans, black shirts and black boots.
- Most treasured item of jewelry? A gold compass necklace which my siblings gifted me so I can always find my way in life (proof that they are sometimes nice to me!)
- Favourite brunch place in London? Greenberry in Primrose Hill.
- Favourite sweet treat? Anything chocolate.
- Favourite scent? Jasmine.
- What's your earliest memory associated with a scent? My aunt Maria in Sicily picking small geranium petals, licking them and sticking them to my baby nails. The smell of geraniums brings me right back there every time.
- Favourite travel destination? Sicily.
- Favourite in-London escape destination? My bed.
- What does luxury mean to you? What do you indulge on? Food, food food! Eating out and trying out new restaurants is what I like to indulge on.