The entrepreneurial journey is often kicked off by a dramatic life change. After all, it’s not easy to quit your day job and risk starting your own business.
Helen Coates of Westwood, Mass., found the nudge she needed to launch Copper Kettle Bakery when her mother passed away in the summer of 2013.
“When I was a little girl, mum and I used to talk about starting a bakery together,” Helen recalls. “When she passed away, I started making Welsh cakes like a mad woman again. It was probably more a stress reliever than anything else. I was laid off a few months later, so with encouragement from friends and family I got my kitchen licensed and launched my website. The rest is history.”
We recently caught up with Helen by email to discuss her bakery’s rapid growth.
The DRIVE: Let’s start at the top. What is a Welsh cake?
Helen: Welsh Cakes are a traditional breakfast food and tea-time snack from Wales. They’re a cross between a scone, a biscuit, and a pancake. Getting the word out about this “new food” is one of the toughest things I do. The first farmers market I ever did I was terrified. There I was trying to sell an unknown food to people I didn’t know at a farmers market that I’d never been to. But once people tried it, they really got it.
The DRIVE: Thank you for that. Your business has such a personal founding story. How has that story resonated with your customers?
Helen: One of our first customers said she came to meet me because she was inspired by a three-month-old story about me in the Boston Globe. As we chatted, she shared with me that her husband had very recently passed away. Before we could stop ourselves, we were hugging, crying, and chatting about food and why we get up every day and do what we do.
The DRIVE: Wow! Your business has sparked a lot of special moments. What about challenging times?
Helen: As I reached capacity in my home kitchen fairly rapidly, I needed to move to a commercial facility as soon as possible. It was incredibly challenging. It took over six months to find a commercial partner who would take on a “griddled” product. Everyone wanted to put the cakes in the oven! You cannot do that because they will dry out immediately. Fortunately, the baker I now work with really gets it. He totally understands the importance of tradition in creating a quality product.
The DRIVE: Now that you’ve found your kitchen, what are your business goals for the next year?
Helen: We are raising funds to build the business. We’ll add new flavors as we’re able and we hope to purchase a delivery truck in the near future.
The DRIVE: What one product are you especially proud to offer via Scott’s Marketplace? Tell us about it.
Helen: I really enjoyed putting the Welsh cake collections together. The collections include three packages of ready-to-eat Welsh cakes plus one package of make-at-home Welsh cake mix. A lot of customers purchase the ready-to-eat Welsh cakes first and then take the leap to buying the mix. So, I figured why not offer both products together. That way they can have their cakes and make them too.