I was introduced to Sweet & Simple's brownies at the NYC Bake Sale in April (you can still donate here!) Abby Dodge delivered a box full of huge brownies, both original and with raspberry swirl. Needless to say chocolate itself is a hot item so everything chocolatey was the first to go. But the Sweet & Simple brownies stuck out due to packaging, size, and that delicious look you get on your face seeing a glorious orb of chocolate brownie goodness in your midst! I was glad I snagged some before they completely flew out of the Bake Sale booth!
Michelle Jaffee is the mind and heart behind Sweet & Simple and I very happy that she was excited to do an interview for my site. I'd like to thank Michelle again for her generous donation to the NYC Food Bloggers Bake Sale and helping us secure thousands to aid in the No Kid Hungry campaign and also for creating such delicious goods that really remind one of home. And many thanks to Michelle and Melani Lust of Melani Lust Photography for providing these great photos!
It seems that when starting a new baking business beginning on the internet may be a good point of origin and then branching out from there. Was that your intention when you began Sweet & Simple? Currently your goods are available online and in stores in Connecticut. Do you foresee having a storefront in the near future?
Actually, I thought I would start with farmers’ markets, but I had great, early success with wholesale and never looked back. The online site came over a year later and now I am looking for a small retail space. It has been a very organic process. If I had to do it over, I would have started with both an online site and a blog. I did the best I could, no excuses, but if I had to recommend a plan to another food entrepreneur, I would definitely encourage him/her to have a strong online presence from day one.
Sweet & Simple offers brownies and cookies for order via the Online Store. However, on the Sweet & Simple blog you discuss (and post photos) of various desserts and savory items you make. Are there plans to sell more offerings like blondies, breads, and/or cupcakes?
I started with a much bigger product line/menu and pared it down for the wholesale line. As I grow the online business, and when I have my own retail space, I will be adding menu items back. Blondies are one of my favs (butter and lots of brown sugar, what’s not to love?) and quick breads, muffins and cupcakes are some of my favorite things to bake and will be available as well.
I love the design of the Sweet & Simple website. The brown background and daisy in the logo really create a feeling of Sweet & Simple items being made especially for you from someone’s home, and not mass produced. How did you come up with the design, tagline (“baked with love”), and overall branding?
The logo was created with the help of my good friend, Anne Spencer. I had exhausted so many names in search for one that was not being used by another bakery and “sweet and simple” really just describes so well my style of baking, what I love to bake and the ingredients I use. I originally considered a mixing bowl as part of my logo, but when I saw it, I wasn’t “feeling it.” The daisy was my suggestion, the ultimate sweet and simple flower, and the fluttering heart was Anne’s. It was a true collaboration. Most people who bake really do “bake with love,” and it’s true of me as well. I’ve had so many women approach me in person and say, “That’s what I always say about my baking!” I connect with people through food, and when I cook and bake it is always done with love. This is my dream job.
I never thought about Sweet & Simple as a brand until other people started recognizing the logo and saying, “Hey, I saw your cookies at such-and-such-place.” The logo is really an extension of me, I’m proud of it, it still makes me smile, and I get a kick out of seeing it around town and online. I have very consistent use of the logo online and in print. Part of the “branding” is a modern-vintage feel. So, I have incorporated gingham over the last year as well. For the blog, I’ve been using more and more of my own vintage linens and simple kitchen items. Instead of going out and buying “props,” I just use what I have at home. What’s to me funny is that I am enjoying taking the pictures so much more now that I stopped over thinking the process.
And, speaking of pictures, one of my goals is to improve my photography. Attempting to take decent pictures for a blog is a humbling experience. I’ve had mixed results, but people have been supportive and I appreciate that.
Sweet & Simple also has videos on YouTube. There’s a video discussing the origins of Sweet & Simple and also about social media and having been in the Get On The Shelf contest for Walmart. Are there more videos set to be made about baking or about the business side of Sweet & Simple? Will there be a web series?
I am SO ready to do a series of online videos, but running the actual business takes up so much time I haven’t had the extra hours, or made the time, to get that project off the ground. As I’ve said, I love being in the kitchen and talking about cooking and baking and I see videos as a natural extension of what I am already doing.
Your trademark is “baked with love” and it seems that your family inspired you. In one video you show off your grandmother’s recipe box and an apron your mom made. Having tasted your brownies they are definitely made with care. Do you think baking with care and love are synonymous in a way so that the end result is an overall pleasant eating experience for the consumer?
When love and care go into any project the results are going to be outstanding, how could they not? Whether it’s refinishing furniture, restoring a car, planting a garden or baking a cake – love and care are the keys to success! And, yes, I guess you could say that love and caring are synonymous. I love to bake and I care enough to source the best ingredients possible – I don’t want anything from Sweet & Simple to be different than what I would serve to my family and friends. Sweet & Simple is as an extension of my home kitchen where I am carrying on the traditions passed to me from my mother and grandmother.
Sweet & Simple has a strong online presence. You can find & connect with Michelle Jaffee via these social media sites:
Sweet & Simple Blog: http://mysweetandsimpleblog.blogspot.com
Thanks again to Michelle for this interview and for being so considerate in donating goods not only for NYC Bake Sale but for CancerCare Girls Night Out earlier this year. I know we all appreciate your great desserts and generosity!