This is part of an ongoing series on the how, where, and why behind some people making and doing awesome things in the Midwest.
Kristina Lau is the owner of Bakeology in Fargo where she makes amazing cupcakes and cakes with some crazy flavors. Her Margarita Cupcake was my first and I was sold after that. You could definitely taste the tequila. After starting with a partner, she has since been running the business on her own. Here's some of her story:
Zach: Tell me who you are and what you do.
Kristina: My name is Kristina Lau. I’m the owner of Bakeology and I make gourmet cupcakes, cakes, and mini cupcakes in both gluten free and regular. I’ve been doing this for three years now.
It all started back at Unglued, we had the Christmas pop-up shop and we were talking about how awesome it would be to have a coffee shop/bakery kind of vibe going in there so that people could sit down and enjoy themselves and enjoy the atmosphere and the creative process going on there. And the business partner that I started out with, her husband overhead us talking about that, so she contacted me about starting a bakery and we started collaborating and that’s how Bakeology was born. We’re always testing out new flavors and different things because we feel like that’s our main mission, to have great tasting cupcakes that are unique and make your taste buds have a new experience that you would get from a cupcake most other places.
Zach: Why do you like to bake?
Kristina: The whole reason that I love to bake so much is I love the joy and happiness it brings to people when they have something they really enjoy and can make their day a little better. I’m doing this on my own now so it’s a lot more work than when you have someone else that you’re doing it with but seeing people’s reactions what I get to work at Unglued is always really rewarding.
Zach: Have you always liked to bake?
Kristina: I’ve always loved to bake! I started baking on my own when I was in second grade. It actually started because in school they made an announcement that PTA moms were supposed to bring cookies for this fundraiser event and my mom was gone that day. I went home and I was like, “She hasn’t made any cookies!” so I made chocolate chip cookies and I cut them out with little holiday shape cookie cutters. We brought them to the school for this event and that was like the start of my baking career and all my teachers were saying things like, “You should open a bakery one day called Kristina’s Kookies!” I always had really great support from all of my teachers because I would bring them apple pie and cookies.
Zach: How do you come up with new recipes?
Kristina: Lots and lots of testing. Usually inspiration comes from what’s in season or what’s in season or just the world around us. There are so many thing that can be inspiration, like my brother because he loves breakfast and bacon or it could be the blossoms at springtime and the fruit and newness that the Pamona was inspired by. Or the holiday season that inspired our entire holiday lineup. What do you want to see at your Thanksgiving dinner but different? That’s why there’s Marshmallow Sweet Potato and Pecan Praline and different takes on tradition classics that are now in cake form like Egg Nog.
Zach: What’s your favorite flavor?
Kristina: Well, it depends on the season. In the summer I’m obsessed with the Lemon cupcake, it’s just light and refreshing. In the fall, the Sweet Potato one, it’s just warm and delicious and has all the components that make a nice flavor. I really like almost all of them.
Anything with peanut butter frosting though, once I smell it, I can’t not eat it. Like Chocolate Peanut Butter, oh my gosh!
Zach: Did you grow up in a creative home?
Kristina: Yes, my mom is currently a teaching artist at the Plains Art Museum and my dad builds houses so I always grew up with both of them having really creative energy with building things or making things. My parents had a small crafting business when I was young where they’d make dried flower Christmas ornaments and arrangements so I would always collect the leftovers and make my own.
Zach: Describe your workplace and work style.
Kristina: So I bake out of a commercial Kitchen called Square One. There’s two kitchen halves that are available so someone else might be working in the space at the same time. It’s very industrial. I feel like it gets messy when you’re baking but I’m a slightly clean baker. I like my space to be manageable and I make sure that I try to make it semi-clean all the time because when I am working with Gluten Free I have to very careful. I have a pretty clean space but it get’s a little crazy.
Zach: What’s the most difficult part of running the business?
Kristina: Probably time management. Getting everything done when it needs to get done and still having a life. Knowing when to say no because a lot of times I’ll take on a lot of orders and then I’ll be like, “Oh my gosh! I haven’t been able to sleep in like three days!” So it’s all about knowing what my limits are and managing my time so that I can get everything done because it’s not just making the stuff, it’s footwork and business stuff too. Fun stuff. (laughs)
Zach: What the most rewarding part of what you do?
Kristina: Seeing people’s reactions and making people’s day better. Sometimes you just need a little pick me up.
Zach: Has much changed about the business since starting? Are you wanting to add anything?
Kristina: It’s pretty similar. Before we started selling at Unglued, everything was very small orders. So I guess scaling, but that happened pretty quickly. Baking by myself is pretty different though. It takes twice as long because there are two less hands working in the kitchen.
I don’t really want to do my own bakery. I like the freedom of having a schedule that I can set and the freedom that comes with not being tied down to a piece of real estate.
Zach: What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in a creative field? Or even in a baking field?
Kristina: Ummmm...I think that having a business partner is not always necessary. A lot of people starting out think that if they have someone else they’re going into this with, that will make everything easier. But sometimes if you and your partner have conflicting life goals and visions it can be a hindrance to your business expansion and plans. So I would say if you’re really passionate about something you don’t have to wait for someone else to come along to pull you through to jump and take the dive. Just have the confidence to do your research, make a business plan, be smart about it before you do it, use people around you as good resources, but you don’t necessarily have to or shouldn’t go into a partnership unless you have two completely different skill sets.