Cookies Born in Buenos Aires, Made in Oakland
[ Article was originally posted on www.sba.gov]
Wooden Table Baking Company Success Story
Wooden Table Baking Co. is an Oakland-based bakery, dedicated to crafting the
“Our cookies are hecho a mano, con amor. We are a learning organization,
Andreas grew up baking alfajores with her grandmother, and visiting her grandfather’s deli in Buenos Aires. As a child, Andreas aspired to work in the family business, but it wasn’t until she was 41 that she decided to turn her hobby of cooking into her full time job.
Initially she sold her alfajores door-to-door to coffee shops in San Francisco. Whole Foods invited her to sell through their Northern Californian stores. Started in 2011 with just two bakers, Wooden Table Baking now employs seven people. As their clients’ orders have grown, they needed more people to help with the baking, packing, shipping, running the office and production. Today Wooden Table Baking cranks out 6,000 cookies a day.
Wooden Table Baking is unique in that there are few commercial bakeries in the United States that focus on making high-quality alfajores and conitos. In addition, they put their own spin on traditional flavors, offering Argentinian-American fusion flavors such as Espresso Chocolate, Snickerdoodle and Peppermint Chocolate. Andreas, is always experimenting with new recipes.
Wooden Table Baking sought counseling from two of the Bay Area’s Women’s Business Centers along the way. Andreas took classes at Women's Initiative, and her wife Citabria Ozzuna, Director of Marketing, later took classes at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. At Women’s Initiative in 2011, Andreas took the business course and created a business plan for Wooden Table Baking Co. Andreas had been considering making empanadas as well, but when she learned about all of the regulations around handling and preparing meat, she focused on alfajores instead. The counseling provided Wooden Table Baking with financial planning skills, legal counseling, and marketing savvy – all of which helped them avoid pitfalls and get their business on its feet.
At Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, Citabria took the Business Planning class where she wrote a comprehensive business plan. Paul Terry, a counselor and teacher at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center was a particularly supportive mentor. “Paul was especially helpful because he is a hands-on teacher who is dedicated to the success of his students. He can always be relied upon to provide sound advice and extra cheerleading,” recalled Citabria.
After getting the Whole Foods contract, Andreas did a Kickstarter campaign to get a chocolate coating and cooling tunnel because she could no longer keep up with demand by hand. She successfully raised $33,000 dollars. A few years later, she received a 7(a) loan from Wells Fargo, which allowed her to buy a former boxing gym and build it into her own custom commercial bakery. Wooden Table Baking finally had a “home” and no longer needed to worry about paying rising rents.
Andreas and Citabria give back by supporting local organizations that are doing great work in communities that are important to them. Wooden Table Baking donates cookies to events and helps with cross promotion for causes ranging from the East Oakland Youth Development Center to Abrazo Queer Tango.
Wooden Table Baking recently went through the process to become a certified Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Transgender Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) through the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). They have also become members of the local LGBT Chamber, the Golden Gate Business Association (GGGBA). “We've experienced a lot of support here in the Bay Area. We are lucky to live in an open culture where our identities are not a barrier to our growth,” Andreas said. Her business debuted at number 49 on the top 50 LGBTQ-Owned Businesses in San Francisco Business Times’ Business of Pride issue for 2017.
Citabria acknowledged that there are both advantages and challenges to working with one’s spouse: “It's important to make boundaries around personal time. Sometimes it's hard to know when to stop talking about the business.”
Andreas advice more generally for someone thinking of starting a business is simply, “Love your product and the people you work with. Make it the best you can.”
Wooden Table Baking’s treats can be found not only in high end grocery stores, delis, and coffee shops, but also online. They ship gift boxes all over the country. Wooden Table Baking is also able to provide large custom orders for weddings, parties, and events.
Company Name: Wooden Table Baking Company
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