Today we “Take 5” with Sarah Tuohey Brigham,
owner of SnL Sweet Escapes Bakery.
Sarah graduated from Albion High School in 1996 and attended college at GCC, SUNY Brockport, and Empire State College – she began studying Graphic Design and after changing course, she earned a BA in Human Services. She is also a Certified Activity Director through NCCAP (National Certification Council for Activity Professionals). Sarah married Tim Brigham in October 2006. They have two children – 7 year old Sawyer and 5 year old Lily – and a 10 year old miniature Dachshund named Nova. Sarah began her career as an Activity Director at an Assisted Living Facility in Greece until her son, Sawyer, started kindergarten – at which time she decided to become a stay at home Mom. Sarah’s hobbies include baking, gardening, cooking, painting wine glasses, and reading. She has always had a love for baking and cooking, but never thought about making a career out of it…..until now! This summer, after about four years of fulfilling custom orders only, Sarah started expanding her business by offering her baked goods for sale at The Hazy Jade Gift Shop on Main Street in downtown Albion.
Sarah Tuohey – Senior Portrait, 1996
And, now, let’s “Take 5” with Sarah Brigham:
1. Tell us about your bakery – SnL Sweet Escapes:
I have had my bakery – SnL Sweet Escapes (named after my children, Sawyer ‘n Lily) – since 2010. I have always had my bakery built within my basement. It took me about 6 months to complete the project. My brother designed the bakery and built it. I then had to get approval through the Health Department, which is inspected yearly, as well as being inspected yearly by the Town Building Inspector. I then had to get approval through both the Town and County Board since Medina is located right across the street. I had to get my property changed to Commercial as well and get Liability Insurance.
I originally started just doing cupcakes but that has changed through customer requests. I am a “Custom Order” business, so everything is baked fresh for orders, specifically for the customer. As people have requested items, I have added them. I now offer, besides cupcakes, cakes, cookies, whoopie pies, cake pops, cake balls, brownies, push pops and chocolate covered items. In the future I will be adding pies, breads and more! I also am opened to special diets such as Organic and Gluten Free. I can not currently sell Whole Sale or through the internet – this requires another yearly inspection through the Department of Ag in Buffalo, although, I will most likely be doing this in the next year or so.
It is just me in my bakery although I call my husband, Tim, Quality Control and my Business Director. My children also enjoy making their own creations.
2. What made you want to start a bakery business?
I never considered opening my own bakery, but I was gently pushed by a dear friend, Nancy Harris, who had more faith in me and my creativity than I did. She would buy me pans and equipment and tell me to practice. Honestly, I would just laugh at her. I have always liked to bake, but usually just as a special dessert. As I started to consider staying home with my children once they started school, I needed to find some way to try and replace some of the income that I would be losing. Nancy bought me a TON of different books and sent me YouTube videos. I taught myself through trial and error.
Growing up, my mother would have us bake and I would show the items in the 4-H fair. I remember that I always loved to make blueberry muffins and would even have them go on to the State Fair. My mom made sure that we knew how to cook, bake, can fruits and veggies, etc. Growing up on a farm, we always made sure that nothing went to waste. Every year we would make zucchini bread with the tons of zucchini we got from the garden and freeze them. This way we could have it throughout the winter. The same with banana bread. If the bananas became too ripe, we would make banana bread and freeze that. I also remember fresh donuts! My parents had a wood stove to heat the home and we would need to go into the woods to cut down wood. When we returned, my mom would have made fresh donuts for us – which, eventually, I would like to add to my product line, as well.
My plans are to eventually open up a store front. Right now I am “testing the waters” at Hazy Jade Gift Shop. I’m really trying to figure out if it is something that is feasible in the future. Owning your own store front is a HUGE step both financially and physically. There would be a huge upfront cost for rent, utilities and to revamp whatever store front I went into. I would need to design it to fit my needs as a Bakery, including a kitchen, as well as a seating area in the front. Plus, I would have to consider hiring help because, realistically, I would not be able to do the whole thing myself. I would like to have a combination Bakery/Coffee Shop.
I’m trying to get a taste for what kinds of things people are looking for from a Bakery. I also have to do what is best for my family, since that is the main reason why I quit my Director job in Rochester. Right now, it is working perfectly because I am able to drop my items off with Lisa Stratton at the Hazy Jade Gift Shop and still able to go to my kids school events, doctor’s appointments, etc.
3. How did you get started with Lisa Stratton and the Hazy Jade?
I had been asked to open a location because there is no bakery within town. However, that is a huge investment that I am not able to make currently. Plus, with my children being so young, I need to be home in case they are sick, to get them to school, etc. I do not advertise and am strictly word of mouth referrals. I have done a lot of weddings and other special orders. But I wanted my business to grow. Lisa contacted me for a meeting and I fell in love with her gift shop. It is so beautiful! Although I have lived in Albion my whole life, I had never heard of it before. Currently, this is the only location that I sell items from other than through my custom orders.
I think that once people realize that I am around and taste some of my products, I will become more well known in the area. My orders have already increased just in the short time that I have been at the Hazy Jade. My products are made from scratch so they do not taste anything like the store brands that are often brought in frozen.
I would also like it to help businesses like The Hazy Jade Gift Shop and others downtown. Albion needs to have more unique businesses to draw people into the Village. We are the County Seat and I think with it’s historical roots, it needs to be busier.
4. How can we contact you for custom orders?
You can find me on Facebook, as well as my web site: http://snlsweetescapes.com. Orders can be placed by calling me at 585-750-6986 or via email at email@example.com. We offer free delivery within a 10 mile radius.
5. Do you have any advice for our current HS students and recent graduates to help them succeed in their future opportunities?
I think there are 2 main things to remember. Never Give Up and Believe in Yourself. I know that it’s cliché but it is so true. I have been reading a lot of Personal Development Books lately and it really does help. It’s these obvious things that end up helping us so much in the long run. You have to find something that you love to do or you will become burnt out fast. Think of dreams you have or some that you have never considered! A lot of times, it takes listening to other people pushing us and believing in ourselves to really make us think. Sometimes, we believe that we could never do something, we could never have our business, it will never work, etc. But it is taking that first step, that first leap, that directs us to our goals.
Thank you, Sarah, and good luck on your future business successes!
Posted by Kim Wright Pritt
Photos courtesy of Sarah Tuohey Brigham