Company: Sweet Flour Bake Shop
Year started: 2009
Industry: Retail Food
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada (production kitchen and retail store)
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Activity: Gourmet baked goods sold online and at a Toronto retail shop.
Annual Revenue: Over $500,000
Attended: University of Michigan
Degree: MBA, Marketing & Strategy, 2003
Company website: sweetflour.ca
“For me, it was figuring out the right time, idea I was passionate about, and a lot of schooling and work experience behind me.”
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Kim Gans dreamed of being an entrepreneur in the Willy Wonka business—owning a candy factory. She was the kid who regularly sold candy and set up a corner lemonade stand. Confessing to a lifelong sweet tooth, Kim had an itch to get into the retail food business, but needed to get the right education and work experience before she could turn her dreams into reality. She studied economics and business as an undergraduate and worked in consulting to develop her analytical skills and knowledge of internet strategy.
Kim earned an MBA from the University of Michigan as the next step of her development, helping her gain the well-rounded knowledge base she needed to become a successful business owner. After graduation Kim worked for General Mills Inc., gaining experience in product innovation and strategic marketing. Both the university’s MBA program and General Mills had similar cultures, emphasizing problem solving and teamwork to achieve results.
By 2009, Kim was ready to open the Sweet Flour Bake Shop, a gourmet baked goods company specializing in cookies and cupcakes sold online and at a retail store in Toronto, Ontario. She picked Toronto because it could support the company’s growth and was near family members.
“The U-M entrepreneur program—the work, classes and experience—was a huge foundation for me.”
While at the University of Michigan, Kim was part of the entrepreneur program and won the Dare to Dream business plan competition. The original plan was close to what she eventually developed for Sweet Flour and evolved over time. Kim’s goal was to get people to bake their own candy and learn about the process.
When Kim Gans first opened Sweet Flour Bake Shop, she knew above all else that she wanted to offer a unique, one-of-a-kind experience that would surprise and delight every customer that visited her bake shop, and that’s how the custom two-minute cookie—the ultimate “wow” experience—was born. The proprietary baking process includes three doughs and more than 20 mixes, and results in over 15,000 combinations. Customers can personalize the cookie to their own tastes, making a unique product every visit. Sweet Flour has consistently innovated since opening, adding new fresh baked goods, each with a modern twist on baked classics like cupcakes, bars and shortbread.
“I love cookies because they make people smile, and I love being an entrepreneur,” says Kim, who plans to expand the business to other locations. She says U-M’s entrepreneur program encourages big-idea thinking in a structured way, applying research, analytics and business planning. She says success comes from having support from knowledgeable advisors, building a strong team and being financially and strategically prepared.