Only a certain kind of person refines a recipe for ten years. Auzerais Bellamy is exactly that kind of person. A former pastry chef for Michelin-starred restaurants, Bellamy now runs her Brooklyn baking business, Blondery, around a blondie recipe that’s been a decade in the making. She’s focused on sustainable growth and community involvement, and she’s extremely intentional about all aspects of her business – even our meeting spot.
Of all the coffee shops in New York, Bellamy suggested a Starbucks in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. As it turns out, the location is one of Starbucks’ new “Community Stores,” a concept that really resonates with her. The stores are built with the intention of supporting the local community. “Entrepreneurs have a responsibility to look at who’s working with us and how we can help them.” She says. “It’s easy to focus on growing the business, but how can we grow our communities? They’re our teammates. Don’t waste time thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll help when I’m bigger. Start now.’”
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Why the blondie?
I’ve been baking since I was 8 years old. I love making cakes, brownies and candy. But the blondie stemmed from the New Orleans pecan praline. I fell in love years ago when an older lady brought them to a church that my parents went to. And I’ve been trying to recapture that memory for years. The original blondie recipe was introduced to me by a friend; we made them together, and I added on to it. My blondie is topped with pecans and salted caramel, like the pecan praline. I captured the flavor I wanted, but it’s also something new and unique.
You’ve had some pretty prestigious pastry jobs. How did you know you were ready for entrepreneurship?
Well, I got fired – twice. Being fired is usually a sign that you don’t like your job. After it happened, I thought, okay – what do I really want to be doing? I knew that it was something in pastry. I tried to launch a pastry consulting firm and I knocked on doors and was like “hey, you need me.” But the problem with consulting is that you need something you’ve done in the past to prove your concept works. So that failed, and I fell into personal assisting.
While I was a personal assistant, one of my friends said, “You’ve been making blondies for me and my friends, and everyone loves them. It’s time to get in or get out.” It’s been two years since that conversation with him, and I just quit my personal assistant job last month. Now I’m full-time Blondery. I like the pace that we’re going – I’m gaining so much experience that I know will help me for a long time.
Is there anything that you miss about the day job lifestyle?
No. You have to take a hard look, and be honest with yourself. I was not being honest with myself when I was a pastry chef at Michelin-starred restaurants – I didn’t want to be doing that. I wanted to learn the skills, but long-term that wasn’t sustainable for me. So I’m taking a more honest approach to my life and it’s been nothing but rewarding.
Many foodpreneurs don’t have a formal culinary background. Besides techniques that you use, is there anything from culinary school that you use daily as an entrepreneur?
Culinary school teaches you discipline and teamwork. Going to culinary school was like the military. It’s a little more lax than working in a Michelin-starred kitchen, but they’re both militaristic. I still wake up early! We also worked as a team a lot in culinary school, which I love now. I hated it then, because I was like “why are we being judged on something that we made together?” but in a kitchen, it’s very much like that. One person prepped your meat earlier, and you’re cooking it later. One person measured your ingredients, and you mix it later. If you fail, that’s a team fail.
You’re a big advocate for women and people of color. How do you think entrepreneurs can be good stewards of the communities and causes that they care about?
Look at statistics about what the population is like in back of house – it’s mostly immigrant workers. That’s the dirty secret of the restaurant industry. Don’t ignore that; provide opportunities for your team to grow. I don’t want people to come into my kitchen and forever be a dishwasher. That’s what a responsible employer and entrepreneur should be doing – giving the people in their lives the opportunity to be more.
Your social presence is very honest about the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. What do you think the advantages are of that?
Someone told me I shouldn’t be so honest! She works for a big company, and she said “it can’t be political, it can’t be racial, don’t post this.” But being honest makes me feel comfortable. I do take feedback, and I may dial it back. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I always want to stay true to myself. I’m going to continue to be honest because I think that’s missing in entrepreneurship. We’re all sold this idea of “I built my business in ten months and now it’s a billion-dollar company!” It’s not realistic. I’m a perfect example. If I were me ten years ago, I’d want to be looking at me. This is real. I didn’t grow up rich. I’m making it work with the bare minimum. A lot of us are doing that.
What’s a typical day for you like?
In the morning, I wake up, and I say thank you to the universe and God for what I have right now. I go to the gym, because I’m trying to stay active and keep my mind and body in sync. I also meet with a lot of people. I’m really trying to figure out my SEO right now, so I watch and read a lot about that. I spend a lot of time learning every day.
How much of your time is production?
I’ve been making them for ten years, so I have a process. If I have one order to ship out, it’ll take maybe an hour. Right now is our slow season, so it’s maybe 4-5 hours per day. I produce at night so I can ship out in the morning as fresh as possible.
What tools do you use every day to make Blondery possible?
Google Docs! UNUM, a social media platform for planning and scheduling. I use SnapSeed to edit photos. And my Shopify app – that’s how all my orders come in so I’m always checking.
What sorts of media do you use for your business?
I listen to How I Built This! I just listened to the Dollar Shave Club episode and he mentioned that he did improv and that it helped him create his viral commercial. So now I’m looking for improv groups to attend. For my SEO obsession, I utilize YouTube a lot.
What does success mean to you?
Freedom. Freedom to get up every day and say, ‘today I want to go to my job.’ The ability to travel with my parents and spend time with them. And freedom to explore other things I’m passionate about. Money is a tool, and what matters is how you use it. I want to use my money to support the things I’m passionate about.