Age: 24, 23, 23
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Job: Varies, Read on to find out!
I was connected with the ladies at Sundays Bakeshop through Taylor, a YoPro we interviewed earlier this year. They all went to college together, which is where this journey started for the bakeshop. This interview was a little different than most, since it was the first time I interviewed more than one YoPro (which is very entertaining, I might add). Kayla, Ciara, and Emily started Sundays Bakeshop out of their college apartment as a way to get together each week and catch up. Their weekly hangouts soon turned into a business idea that is now a reality in Oklahoma City. Not only have these three taken their friendship and created a business together (while all working individual full-time jobs), they have managed to stay close friends through it all. All of this is evident in their dialogue, which I think you'll find below.
Give us a brief background on your brand and how Sundays Bakeshop got started.
Ciara: The idea has been there since the beginning of college, where all of us were roommates at the University of Oklahoma. Actually, it was even there before college, as best friends in high school. I always liked to bake and baking sort of turned into a stress relief for me. Every Sunday was my baking day and it just became part of our routine where we would all hang out while I baked. It allowed us to spend some quality time together, and so one day we thought, hey, we can actually build a business out of this, and then we did.
Emily: We just created an Instagram account and it started from there. We had such good fresh connections from college who knew about the product, so that is really where most of the first orders started.
Ciara: People knew I liked to bake, so I’d find myself baking birthday cakes and other random assortments, and people knew they could count on me to make something good, so we started to build our brand that way. I could not have started this business on my own, specifically since I have no Instagram aesthetic at all. Emily and Kayla really brought it all to life.
You all have full-time jobs. Can you briefly touch on what you do?
Kayla: I work full-time as an advocate for The Dragonfly Home in OKC. I am in charge of everything business/administration and keeping the other two organized at Sundays. I am the behind-the-scenes boss lady and the one behind all of the emails.
Emily: I currently work as the Director of Communication at Victory Family Church in Norman, Oklahoma and I am the Creative Director for Sundays Bakeshop.
Ciara: I am a child welfare specialist for DHS, so I just transitioned from a non-profit into the state. I'm the baker for Sundays.
When do you find time to work together when you all have full-time positions at various organizations?
Ciara: I think it's just a lot of making the time. We are all really fortunate that in the beginning, we started fresh out of college and kind of had this grace period before the “real world,” where I could spend a lot of time developing recipes and a plan. I dedicated a lot of time to Sundays initially and then once I got a full-time job, I was able to pick up more responsibility, and now it just looks like flexing my hours to make Sundays work. Sometimes it looks like going into the kitchen or going into work at 4:00 a.m., or it might be late nights in the kitchen all together. It just depends, but it comes down to just making it work and managing our time.
How do you divide your roles to make Sundays stand out?
Ciara: Basically with Sundays, what you see is the product. That's the main thing that we're marketing, so you initially see a lot of fancy cakes, cookies, and my creations. The main thing to mention here is that it would not be possible without the other two. My specific lane is the product, but you wouldn’t know about my cakes or cookies without Emily’s marketing and communications. We wouldn't even be a functioning successful business at this point without Kayla and her putting in the hours and figuring out what it's like to run a business. I didn't even know what an LLC was before this, so as far as my lane goes, the product stays front and center, but it’s the other two who really bring Sundays to life.
How did you go about creating your own business and what did that process look like?
Emily: As Ciara puts it, it was a lot of “winging it”, which is true. Bringing it to life was really just coming up with how to represent the three of us, three different personalities, and figuring out how to make an extension of the three of us in one aesthetic. As you can tell, we’re all as different as our roles, and that's why we kind of stay in our lanes. So from my end on a marketing and a branding perspective, figuring out how to translate those personalities into one brand was kind of where the process started for me. We have definitely evolved since we started, since we were only 21 and 22 at Sundays inception. Being fresh out of college, we were really just trying to figure things out, and so as you can imagine, we've evolved and developed as we have learned more about ourselves post-college. As we kept figuring out who we were as individuals, the brand kept developing as well, which even led to totally rebranding from our original design and logo to what we are today. This impacts how we style things for marketing and the editing of the photos, and really everything has changed from the date of inception.
Ciara: We do still have those kinds of conversations today about where we're headed and where we want to be moving forward. Something we do keep foundational, no matter what, is our three “Why’s”, which is something that we all sat down and came up with from the beginning. We came up with answers for when it gets hard, what do we fall back on that keeps us grounded, like feeding people and serving the underserved. We are also firm believers in running a life-giving organization, so even those three Why’s are things that we bring up in our meetings to filter what kind of projects we want to take on, if this is something that is furthering who we want to become, and where we want to go. That’s kind of how the process works for us.
You mentioned serving the underserved. Do you donate to local organizations?
Ciara: From the beginning, we set an amount of 15% that we give out of our profit each year to local organizations. On top of that, we do try and focus on certain organizations, but we're always open to learning about more. We're very involved in the nonprofit world already, so we all kind of have a feel for our community and the needs there. In the beginning it was a lot of donating cookies, but now we make sure where we donate is furthering our three Why’s.
What do your individual organizations think about your side business?
Emily: It has always been something that has been acknowledged since we started at our current roles and I think people are excited about it. It's something that's very much out in the open, too, like it's not something that's hidden at all. People that we work with follow the account, people talk about it, people recommend us and support us and stuff.
Ciara: I think Em is being modest. I think Victory, the large church she works at now, was incredibly supportive, especially in the beginning for launching us. They really gave us a boost and took a chance on us, like this little baby business. It really got us rolling, so it was absolutely crucial. And then Kayla's organization that she works for, The Dragonfly Home, use us for their galas and try to use us as much as they can in other capacities, so they're very supportive. I think our current jobs are great connections for us and I'm thankful for everybody that we've met. The state is a little different, but there were so many awesome people where I worked previously who supported us with good hearts, so I'm super grateful for the line of work that we're in.
Can you share a hardship you have experienced since starting the bakery and how you grew from that experience as a group?
Emily: I think one that we can all agree with right off the bat was learning how to balance all of this. Specifically, being friends and being business partners simultaneously. When we first started this, we were all living together and this was our first living situation outside of college while owning a business. I had already started my full-time job, which left Kayla and Ciara actively getting the business off the ground at the time. All of this early on was difficult for us. I think having a major lack of separation from being friends and being business partners really kind of took a hit on our dynamic. We quickly realized about halfway through the lease that maybe it would be best if we figured out a new living situation just because we very much wanted to keep liking it (and each other).
Ciara: One of the main things that was tough for me was that it seemed so surreal. I just I couldn't believe that Sundays was brought to life so quickly out of college. It was something that we sat down and were intentional about in college and we decided that it was something that we really do want to do. But it all happened quickly and we got orders right away, so it was just kind of off the ground immediately and it almost didn't feel real at times. We started building that trust that all of us are in this early on, and being so young as a company, that took some time and was difficult at the beginning sometimes. That trust continues to grow and so just knowing that each of us are there and we're in this has been really helpful.
What advice do you have for friends who are looking to starting a business together?
Kayla: Do the damn thing! People aren’t always going to believe in your dreams, goals, aspirations…but that is ok. All three of us didn’t share this dream with anyone but ourselves for a long time because we wanted to protect it and not let anyone rain on our parade. It is also okay to not have things figured out. Don’t feel pressured by society’s timeframe on where you should be in life.
Ciara: Don't put your ideas in a box. Even if it's like wild and it doesn't make sense at the time or you don't see anybody else doing that, just go with it. I think that was really important in the beginning. We thought that we needed to look a certain way, which goes back to the point about our branding change, like we thought our pictures needed to look a certain way, but Emily really got us to have an organic look, which turned out to be better for us in the end.
Emily: I would just say that it has always been worth the risk. I think the things that we've learned, just as human beings, has been always worth it. I'm so glad that we went through with this idea from college, because we can always look back and say we tried it. I can't imagine being where we're at if Sundays had not come about, and just thinking, “What if?” Maybe it goes back to just being young and feeling like we had nothing to lose, but I'm just so glad that we did it. I think there really is something kind of freeing about bringing that thing in your imagination to life and just seeing it come to fruition.
Where do you see Sundays going in the next five to ten years?
Ciara: Oh, lots of places. I think it goes back to not putting your ideas in a box. We have some wild ideas and basically, we want more. We want a storefront.
What is it like being young professional in Oklahoma?
Emily: Our current jobs are a little bit unique because we did not jump into a corporate field, like most young professionals. They are a little more lax in some ways, but it is also a lot of really hard work. We all chose difficult fields that are really taxing, and we recognize it, but I think we're all really passionate in our respective fields. So we have Sundays and we're completely passionate about it, but we’re also so into our actual jobs as well. I think it's good, though, being a young professional and having a focus in other places as well, other than just your one role and not letting one job run your life. I totally enjoy going to work and I enjoy my role in the business, and I think that's what I love about being a professional. Just being able to play to my strengths every single day. I'm not in a role that I hate, and I feel very blessed that I have that and am in a side business that I love too. It is not normal and we are very aware of that.
What is your favorite thing that you make at Sundays?
Ciara: Mine is the original, the O.G., our chocolate chip cookie. This was my first recipe and I dedicated hours and hours for like years before I got it and it's my favorite cookie.
Emily: I really love Ciara’s Macaron, which is a special event item. For a typical menu item, I think I would have to go with the Caramel gourmet cookie. I'm not a huge chocolate fan and I'm not always in the mood for frosting, but gosh, I love Caramel. Just pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds, and oh, it'll get.
Kayla: My favorite is the KOKO, which is our double chocolate cookie with sea salt. I am a huge chocolate fan and when you add a little salt, amazing.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- Starting your own business is a lot of "winging it"
- Something that we keep foundational as a team is our "why" behind everything; this is what keeps us grounded
- Learning how to balance being friends and business partners was tough at first
- Just do the damn thing! (on what advice they have for someone interested in starting a business with friends)
- Don't put your ideas in a box
- Don't let one job run your life