I had the privilege of sitting down with one of my good friends and inspiring entrepreneur, Lea Smye. Much like Ali, Lea left her corporate job to follow her own path to happiness. To Lea this meant becoming a full time baker! “I’ve loved all things baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. Food was always a big part of my childhood. Both my parents were very interested in cooking so I guess I grew up with it.” says Lea.
Lea radiates joy and always welcomes you with a smile! Her small company is becoming known all around Newmarket with special interest in her delicious pies and mouth watering cinnamon buns.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I’m a maker. I make children (Ian’s 13, Devon’s 10). I make a home for my family (including husband, Ryan.) I make yummy things that people seem to love and so pay money for using things I love: flour, butter and yeast to name a few. I am the only female in a home of 5 boys (three aforementioned) plus two cats – Jamie Oliver (named by me) and Indiana Jones (named by my boys.) I also love to knit but haven’t had time lately.
WHAT IS PANTRY BAKED GOODS?
Pantry baked goods (pbg) is the result of my 45 years working to figure out what makes me happy. It’s my accidental but oh so necessary expression of my favourite thing to do – baking.
WHAT PATH LEAD YOU TO PBG?
Ok, so I kept my other answers intentionally short as I knew this one would be a doozy. So here goes….
I’ve loved all things baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. Food was always a big part of my childhood. Both my parents were very interested in cooking so I guess I grew up with it. In my twenties, living with my now husband, I couldn’t get enough of Jamie Oliver and Nigella thanks to the Food Network, which was just starting out. That’s my interest in food and baking became a real passion. But it was still only a hobby then. The path to pbg however, was both a long road and sort of an accident.
For the long road part, I ultimately got tired of working for other people and realized I just didn’t feel passionate about what I was doing…which in my 20s was fine, but two decades, two kids and a lot more experience later, it had started to.
HOW HARD WAS IT TO TAKE THAT INITAL JUMP INTO STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
Because it was more of a slow transition, it wasn’t that hard. Especially as it was born more out of necessity than intention. But for sure, being the sole person can be challenging in its own way because it all has to come from me – the ideas, marketing, production, etc etc.
HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER YOU QUIT YOUR JOB TO WORK ON PBG FULL TIME?
So totally relieved and newly energized. I’d finally gotten to the point where working for other people whose vision I just didn’t share was starting to get me down at the least, and at worst, constantly anxious. I’ve always given 110% to anything I’ve done and after three decades of that, it was becoming increasingly impossible for me to not get caught up in the minutiae and get super stressed out. Needless to say, working for oneself carries its own stresses and major responsibilities, but for me, the hardest part of working for someone else, especially as an Executive Assistant, was that I was always trying to anticipate their needs. And some bosses I could, but some I couldn’t because we just weren’t in tune with each other and that became the crux of the problem for me.
WHERE DO YOU R BUSINESS LEADS COME FROM? HOW DO YOU SPREAD THAT WORD ABOUT PBG?
Definitely referrals and shout outs via social media. Facebook, Instagram and eventually my website all have been huge in creating, maintaining and growing my customer base. The mobility of it all means I can catch new, potential customers and orders wherever and whenever. And the immediacy of it all is awesome. If I’m in the middle of creating something and think “hey, that would make a great photo”, I can make it happen literally in the moment. I love the authenticity that allows because it reflects me and what I try to instil in what I create for my customers.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
The freedom of decision making and the control it allows me. Now I’m answerable only to myself and MY standards. I don’t have to wonder if I’m doing the right thing, or doing a good job. I know when I’M happy with what I’ve created/produced then I’ve done the best I can.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED IN THIS PROCESS? HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH IT?
Honestly? I guess my lack of self-confidence – in tandem with the fact that I didn’t actively intend to create this business… it sort of created itself. I struggle regularly with “owning” what I’m doing and in advertising it. I’ve never been comfortable with bringing attention to myself but when you have your own business (especially a small and fledgling one) you have to do all you can to get the word out. I’m working on that for me personally and for the success of my business.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT PBG?
I think that it truly reflects me. I always try to be as authentic as possible, y’know? I mean I don’t really know how to be any other way. I wish I could sometimes, lol. But when I’m making something for a customer – whether it’s a special occasion cake that requires a lot of time and detail, or a more rustic offering like a pie, I totally put myself into it. As much as I adore baking and am very passionate about it, I take it very seriously. Everything I produce for someone reflects back on me. If it’s not perfect, then I can’t stand it. My greatest pleasure is when someone tells me how much they loved something I’ve created for them. I mean we all love praise but it’s more than that… it’s validation that I’m finally doing what I’m meant to be doing.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE BUSINESS IN 5 YEARS?
My ideal/ultimate would be to have a local, small, but busy store front with a commercial kitchen in the back. My wish is to partner with my sister (who’s a natural cook and baker) and eventually have all of our combined kids working with us. I want it to be a place that our customers come to pick up their orders, stay for a freshly baked something and a nice chat. It would be cozy, comfortable and very personable. A place where everyone gets more than just their goods to take home but a good feeling too.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OTHERS WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS? OR MAYBE FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO TAKE THAT NEXT STEP AND MAKE IT FULL TIME.
Hmmm, I think to trust in their passion; their unique skill. To trust in themselves – because it’s what they bring to it that makes it special and unique, y’know? Someone recently told me that what brought them back to pbg wasn’t so much the product (lots of people can bake well) but what I put into the whole experience for them. That my passion and commitment and personality really came through. That meant a lot to me.
LASTLY, WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TREAT TO BAKE FOR YOURSELF?
Hmmm, that’s a good question…. probably fresh bread – although I don’t eat a lot of bread, haha. I just love the process of it. And I LOVE the smell of yeast when it’s doing it magical thing. Is that weird? haha. Science and math were never my thing (ok, I’m awful at both) but I guess baking has allowed me a way of coming to term with both in a way that I understand. If you follow a recipe, you succeed. Yeast + sugar + flour + salt + liquid = deliciousness. Easy peasy. And who doesn’t swoon at the smell, taste and texture of warm, freshly baked bread? I’m just lucky that my boys devour bread so that I get to make it and it doesn’t go to waste, lol. Either that or I share it with family, neighbours and friends. I’m very popular some days. ; )
I love being surrounded by creative and like-minded people; with Lea being one of them. I love seeing friends thrive in their passions and creating the life they want for themselves.
PHOTOS VIA // Kyleigh Hunter