What were you doing at age 22? If your answer is working full-time and owning your own company, then you have a lot in common with Jenna Kincaid. But don’t worry, if your answer was anything else then you have everything in common with the rest of us. Jenna is a true go-getter. One of those people who you wonder how she ever sleeps and yet she’s so bubbly and creative, you know it has to happen at some point.
After graduating from college early, Jenna set out to start her own food cart, completely self-funded. She spent months researching and working with the health department to make sure every aspect of her process was up to code. Since The Sweet Petite launched, she’s amassed a dedicated following with her unique treats and witty branding. And don’t forget—this is all while working a full-time job in IT.
We sat down and picked her brain on everything from what software she uses to manage orders to her inspiration for flavor combinations. Our favorite part? Her answer to the “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” question: “Someone once told me that you shouldn’t be able to completely predict your life’s path because you should always be surprising yourself. I think that’s a really good approach and a reminder that nothing is permanent – you can always mix it up.” Seriously…how is this girl only 22?
Full name: Jenna Kincaid
Current title/company: Owner at Sweet Petite
Education: BA in Management Information Systems, Western Washington University
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
After graduating I moved to full-time at Lulu & Georgia, where I worked during college. I applied for a marketing position and ended up landing a job in IT.
IT? That sounds very different from baking. Tell us a little more about what you do for Lulu & Georgia.
I am actually lucky enough to get to be a part of many different aspects of L&G. The majority of what I do is data administration and site development. I also get to help on the marketing, buying, and creative side of things as well!
So how did The Sweet Petite begin?
I’ve always loved baking, mostly because I love eating. My mom has a major sweet tooth and we always had some kind of baked good in the house. I was obsessed with aprons and EZ Bake Ovens and celebrity chefs. In high school, I did weddings for family and friends. When I went to college, I started a food blog and baked layer cakes in my dorm room. All through college I knew that when I graduated I wanted to grow my baking business.
Do you still blog?
Not as often as I would like. Hopefully I can make more time for content creation in the future!
Once you knew it was time to start, what were your first steps to get TSP off the ground?
In order to open the cart and start my catering business in an official capacity I had to go through lots of health department processes. The first step was to submit a plan to the health department showing how I planned to build the cart and what my product would be. Once those plans were approved, my boyfriend and I built the cart and there was more paperwork to be filed. I had to find a commissary kitchen to work out of, get insurance, and find local suppliers.
How did you finance this? Loans? Savings? An investor?
One of the reasons I chose to go the food cart route, as opposed to a traditional bakery, was because I was able to start the business with my savings alone.
You shouldn’t be able to completely predict your life’s path because you should always be surprising yourself
Once you got everything approved and the cookies in the oven, how did you get the word out about your company?
I tried to take the cart to as many events as I could. I always make sure my displays look polished and fun so that people are drawn in. The best way to get the word out is to get people talking about it!
Do you ever collaborate or network with local businesses? How do you build and foster these relationships and why do you think it’s so important?
I work out of a commissary kitchen where many other local food businesses work as well. I have learned so much about running my business just by talking with others and getting their opinions when I am struggling. I also reach out to other women I admire in different industries and try to collaborate with them on photo shoots or other fun projects. It’s so important to make these connections because not only do you learn from others, but a lot of my business comes from referrals from other entrepreneurs.
Tell us about catering events like weddings. What do you offer and what does it entail from start to finish?
For weddings, I work with my clients to create a menu that is unique to them. I want the desserts to really feel like a centerpiece of the event so I also offer display decor services. I start by trying to get an idea of what the overall vibe of the event will be and asking the client what they envision. Then I make a mood board for the display and give them ideas for fun desserts. From there, we finalize the idea and I get to work!
How do you come up with your unique recipes and flavors?
I love to take trips to Seattle or Vancouver, BC and have a “food day.” My boyfriend and I spend the day checking out restaurants, bakeries, and breweries. Sometimes an ice cream flavor or a cocktail will inspire one of my recipes. I also love to checkout cookbooks from the library and try out new recipes while adding my own spin.
What tools do you use for the technical side of your business? Swipe? Quickbooks? An accountant?
I use Square for all credit card transactions, Squarespace for my website, and Quickbooks for the financial side.
I really value down time and I think the glorification of being stressed is really toxic. My mantra is to ‘work smarter.’
So let me get this straight: a full-time job with L&G, a boyfriend, your own business…How do you manage it all? And do you sleep?
I really value down time and I think the glorification of being stressed is really toxic. My mantra is to “work smarter.” I don’t push myself to work extra long hours on SP if I can’t focus or I’m too taxed from my day job. I am also really trying to plan ahead more. So if I have a really busy week for Sweet Petite and a full week for L&G, I try do all of my menu prep early on so I’m not freaking out when I have deadlines.
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of launching and growing your own business?
Doubt is the biggest challenge I have faced and am still facing. I’m still finding my groove in the food business and trying to decide if retail is the place for me. It’s easy to idealize running a sweet little baking company but in reality it’s long hours and hard work. When you turn your passion into a business there is a lot of ego involved and it’s tough when things don’t go as you expect right off the bat. But it’s forced me to consider better options and how to run my business in more efficient ways, which is always a good thing.
And the most rewarding?
No one is ever angry when they are buying sweets. It’s fun to feel like you’re adding some joy to people’s lives.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the baking business?
Bake! You can learn a ton from books, trial and error, and the Internet if culinary school isn’t for you.
If I don’t live in Bellingham, how can I get my hands on some of these treats?
Sometimes I sell online for holidays—follow me on Instagram to stay up to date! Or email me at [email protected] and we can chat about shipping options!
Your instagram is gorgeous and makes me drool every time I look at it. What tactics do you use on social media to help grow awareness? Apps? Photos? Filters? Witty captions? Hashtags? SPILL.
Thank you! I always use good light when taking my photos and I only use VSCOcam to edit. I try to let my personality show through and I do use popular hashtags. I am still learning and always taking note of what other brands are doing.
I am still learning and always taking note
What’s next for The Sweet Petite?
Specializing—I have something exciting in the works. Stay tuned!
What advice would you give your 19-year-old-self?
You’ll be glad you went to college, even if you don’t feel like that right now. Also, short hair is more your jam—go chop that mop off.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Someone once told me that you shouldn’t be able to completely predict your life’s path because you should always be surprising yourself. I think that’s a really good approach and a reminder that nothing is permanent—you can always mix it up.
In general though my boyfriend and I hope to join forces and someday work for ourselves. We want to be able to travel often and always be challenged creatively. Also, fingers crossed I will have finally mastered winged eyeliner.
Jenna Kincaid is The Everygirl…
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Ina Garten. I would order a BLT and champagne.
Favorite thing about the Pacific Northwest?
The environmentalism, the beer, and the casual culture
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Stop worrying about things you can’t control.
Road trip through Europe, eating everything
Favorite way to treat yourself?