Recently, food prep and delivery services such as Blue Apron have become popular as alternatives to the traditional grocery shopping trip. Blue Apron mails a kit with ingredients and a recipe to your doorstep in order to “enjoy delicious, unforgettable meals, cooked from scratch,” as their marketing claims.
Melissa Stefaniak has created her own twist on this style of food consumption with Single Baked Sweets, curating single portion dessert ‘kits’ that can be quickly combined and baked at home. “Single Baked Sweets provides single-serving bake-at-home desserts that come with the premeasured ingredients and necessary bakeware,” Melissa explains. “This makes it easy for our customers to enjoy a delicious made-from-scratch dessert without the hassle of having multiple ingredients on hand or wasted leftovers.”
Melissa is a longtime resident of Virginia, growing up from a young age in Manassas, Virginia, and attending Virginia Tech for her undergraduate studies. She looks back fondly on the food she had at home: “Growing up, my mom was a cook and a baker, so we were lucky to always have homemade meals and baked goods around.”
“However,” Melissa adds, “once I grew up and moved to New York City, I was living in tiny apartments with even tinier kitchens. There was barely any counter or storage space to work with. That's how Single Baked Sweets got started -- being constrained by a small New York City apartment and wanting to bake a variety of desserts with real ingredients.”
Eventually, Melissa realized that there was potential to bring single portion baked goods to a larger audience. “Usually, when you bake, the recipe calls for making a large cake or a whole tray of brownies that feeds multiple people, but if you live alone or as a couple that’s already too much food,” Melissa states.
“So as I was just trying to solve this problem for myself, I realized other people might also have the same challenge,” she continues. “Single Baked Sweets makes it easy for those who want to enjoy a quality, homemade dessert without the hassle or the guilt. Whether you’re constrained by cooking space, not a confident baker, or are just looking for an indulgent, portion-sized treat, Single Baked Sweets can help.”
Melissa also discusses the effect the iLab has had on planning her business strategy. “At the beginning of my first week, I met with a mentor who really encouraged me to get my product to market as fast as possible as opposed to making it perfect first,” she remembers.
“Through this advice, I’ve been fortunate to launch Single Baked Sweets at the local Charlottesville farmers’ market which has has been a fantastic way to engage with customer and prove that people are willing to buy it, which is awesome! I have also been able to capture valuable customer feedback on how to improve the product, from packaging to communications or identifying new potential audiences. If it weren’t for the support from the iLab, I don’t think I would have accelerated going to market as fast as I have been able to this summer,” Melissa concludes.
Melissa’s current hurdle is dealing with the “growing pains” of scaling a food startup. “There's a big gap between direct sales and e-commerce or retail, and there are a lot of steps I need to take in order to ensure my desserts are safe, shelf-stable, and easy to transport,” she elaborates. Those are the things I'm most challenged by right now.”
However, the experiences created through sharing her desserts are what keep Melissa grounded and striving to do more. “I received an email with two photos from a recent customer who made our chocolate chip cookie dessert with her five-year-old. She told me it was a fun and easy activity they enjoyed together and I could see that it was a sweet memory they shared. The fact that Single Baked Sweets was able to be involved in this experience is such an honor,” she said, smiling brightly.
To follow the journey of Single Baked Sweets, check out their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. To know when and how to purchase a Single Baked Sweet, you can sign up for their mailing list on their website, www.singlebakedsweets.com.
About The Founder
Melissa Stefaniak is an at-home baker and lover of desserts! She was born in Springfield, Massachusetts but grew up in Manassas, Virginia. She received a B.S. in Management from Virginia Tech and brings with her nine years of management consulting and new venture strategy experience from time spent at Booz Allen Hamilton and Ernst & Young. She is currently pursuing an M.B.A. degree at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business while working on Single Baked Sweets.
About the Author
Christopher Nelson is a rising second year at New York University in Shanghai, China. He has experience in business operations as well as legal research and contract work. Christopher is currently interning at the UVA Darden School of Business Innovation Lab this summer as an interviewer and journalist.