Minot baker makes her mark
It is important when starting a new business, to really establish and explore what your niche will be. How will you stand out in the crowd and make people take notice of your service or product rather than every algorithmically driven ad or boosted Facebook post?
For local baker Elizabeth Sund, it took a scroll through one of her social media feeds to discover what hers would be: painting the frosting on cakes with an artist’s palette knife.
“I saw one online. And I just thought, ‘That looks so cool!’ The idea that you could even paint a cake was so interesting,” Sund said, “My friend Roxy Mathis is a local artist. She and I got together to make one for the Great Tomato Festival. She actually did the painting. I watched her try it out. She had never done anything like that before either. I thought. ‘Oh, maybe I’ll try a few myself,’ and then by October I was selling them.”
Hailing originally from the Black Hills of South Dakota, Sund has both a master’s and a Ph.D in philosophy, studying at the University of North Dakota and eventually at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. After getting married and starting a family, she and her husband moved back to his hometown in the Magic City after the flood in 2013.
“You realize how much you just want to be with your family. We were living on the other side of the planet for three years, and we had our daughter while living there, which was really awesome. But it also made us think maybe it’s time to move home,” Sund said.
Always an ambitious home cook, Sund began taking home baking seriously around a year ago. Inspired by the Netflix series, “Great British Baking Show,” her production became so prolific she had no choice but to start a business, mostly because she was running out of willing mouths at home.
“I love to bake cakes, especially tall, really fancy cakes, and my family was tired of eating them like I couldn’t make as many as I wanted,” said Sund, “I had to start sending them out of my home if I wanted to make all the cakes I had in my imagination. That was really why I started in it and it really took off and I’m just in love with the process. It’s just been great.”
Christening her business Sundbakes, she approaches each cake and customer individually, using their personality and interests as a jumping off point for what the final look will ultimately be.
“Some people want to show you a picture of a cake they’ve seen online and they just want you to make a recreation and I don’t do that because it’s no fun,” said Sund, “So usually the way I like it when people order is they can tell me a little bit about the person.”
Operating out of her home, Sund has taken a keen interest in all the aspects of operating a modern business, even one as quaint as hers. She has thrown herself into maintaining a robust and functional website that streamlines the ordering process, and includes a blog series to boost impressions through search engines like Google.
“I never used social media before very much. I didn’t even have an Instagram account before I started this, and I just love it. I love sharing the stuff and food photography and putting things out there for people,” Sund said.
“I didn’t think I would when I started, I thought if people hear about me then that’s great. But it turns out I really love being an entrepreneur. It’s not something I ever studied before but I love all of those little bits of it, including building the website,” Sund continued.
Her interest in engagement extends beyond just potential customers, with Sund working with fellow bakers in the area to improve their own promotional skills. Sund has hosted classes at the Foundry in Minot, teaching other bakers how to properly photograph and showcase their bakes.
“Some people make excellent bakes. They can’t sell them because they can’t make them as beautiful as they are in person. So, I did a class, which might be considered teaching my competition all my secrets, but it was so fun that it was worth it.” Sund said, “They do such good work and I could just see that they just needed two or three tips to be able to take pictures that show the true beauty of their work.”
In addition to her elaborate creations, Sundbakes offers home-baked macaroons, and painted cookies, made to order. Her custom creation can be ordered at www.sundbakes.com.