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Meet Christine Nguyen of The Sweet Boutique Bakery in Sugar Land

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine Nguyen.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was an elementary school teacher when I found my passion for cakes while pregnant with my fourth child. A couple of friends and I enrolled in a beginner cake decorating class at a local craft shop for fun and to learn the basics. I watched endless hours of cake shows such as Ace of Cakes and Cakeboss to learn their cake decorating techniques. I made cakes every chance I could for family and friends to practice my skills. Soon afterward, I started getting orders by word of mouth and found myself staying up late hours on the weekends designing cakes for customers. In 2009, The Sweet Boutique Bakery started off as a home business. For the next two years, I worked hard to build my cake business on the weekends because I was still a dedicated teacher at that time. Caring for four young children, sleepless nights working on filling cake orders, and teaching during the day started to take its toll and I had to choose one career path to pursue. In 2010, my husband encouraged me to open my own bakery but we had no prior business experience. Banks turned us away for loans and we passed on two opportunities to open in a lifestyle location because it didn’t feel right.

Finally, in January of 2011, I received a phone call from The Sugar Land Town Square telling me space was available for rent and they needed to know if we wanted to take it. The risks were high and we could lose everything. We had a huge outpouring of encouragement from family and friends but we also heard a lot of negative remarks and people telling us it was a bad idea. We cashed in all the money we had (which was not much from two teaching salaries) and family loaned us the rest. The management company took a chance on our mom and pop bakery and gave us a generous lease agreement to help us get started. In June of 2011, I took a huge leap of faith and The Sweet Boutique Bakery finally opened up its first brick and mortar bakery.

On opening day, we had a line of about 100 people at our door. We sold everything we could make that day and had to close early because we ran out of ingredients. We didn’t expect such a huge crowd on day one. From the very start, we have had such great support from our Sugar Land community and beyond. Through the past seven years, we have had some amazing opportunities like making cakes for local celebrities including a birthday cake for Dwight Howard when he was playing for the Rockets. Cirque du Soleil invited us to partner with them to help promote their production of “Kurios” when they were here in Houston. We are the cake sponsors for the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball team. And, we have been featured on our local news station, in the Houston Chronicle and several other publications.

Has it been a smooth road?
There was definitely a learning curve and some bumps in the road for TSB. In the beginning, it was figuring out how to price our products so that we could remain competitive with other bakeries. A year after, a second location in another lifestyle development opened up. The second bakery stayed open for four years and we closed that location due to changes in our life. We found that managing two bakeries was extremely difficult and it was cutting into our family life. We didn’t want to be the parents that never saw their kids and our family started fostering children as well. Family life became a priority for us. We decided to scale down and keep the original location and focus on doing things well there. We prayed for the right people to join the TSB team and it finally started feeling that our prayers were answered. Finding the right staff is very important and they are an integral part of TSB succeeding. One of the most difficult challenges has been to find talented and dedicated cake decorators to keep up with the demand that our customers have for our custom cakes. We have had to turn away many cake orders because we just didn’t have enough help. Today, we have a great group of cake designers and we strive to fill every order that comes our way.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into The Sweet Boutique Bakery story. Tell us more about the business.
The Sweet Boutique Bakery specializes in custom cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, decorated cookies and french macarons. Our mission is to bring happiness to others with our sweet treats while serving our community as well. Being a mom and pop bakery gives us free range to incorporate other products to our bakery line up as well like brownies, drop cookies, and pies during the holiday season. I’m always on the lookout for new trends in the baking world such as cake pops, macarons and now Cream Tart Cakes which we are able to offer at the bakery. The custom cakes are what I’m most proud of. Lots of love and attention to detail is what I enjoy putting into my cakes. I have customers whom I have made baby shower cakes for who then has returned to get birthday cakes for their child every year since we opened. We are truly a little gem in Sugar Land and are well received by our community. After Harvey, we had a group of teachers from a nearby school that came to help us decorate cookies for charity. It is important to us to give back whenever we can.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Baking trends are happening all the time and as a bakery, you have to be able to adapt to those changes. There are customers that want new and exciting products and there are customers that love their cupcakes still. The custom cake requests that TSB is getting lately are bigger and more elaborate than ever. Having an elaborate cake as the centerpiece of their party and coordinating cookies and cake pops to wow their guests is huge right now. The Sweet Boutique Bakery is their one-stop shop for their dessert table spread. TSB is currently working on building our wedding cake clientele and shipping our products to other parts of the U.S. We just signed up with a non-profit organization called IcingSmiles to become a Sugar Angel so that we can donate birthday cakes for children that are impacted by illness. With a bigger decorating staff, I will now be able to focus on these areas and grow my business.

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