By Gretchen Reese
Small businesses are common in south Minneapolis. For one woman, a hobby turned into a successful business soon after she made her son’s first birthday cake.
“I have pretty much always worked in the food industry,” Healy said. “But when my daughter, Meg, was five and my youngest, Matt, was one – I felt as though I needed to make their birthday cakes instead of buying them. The business basically fell in my lap.”
Diane Healy is the mind and hands behind Sweet, a baking and chocolatier business that she runs from her own kitchen in south Minneapolis. Originally, running her own business was not the forefront idea – she was a full-time working mother negotiating restaurant contracts. Healy’s baking hobby started when she was quite young. She started making birthday cakes in middle school, and the hobby only grew from there. It cultivated over the years, and her talent grew along with her love of baking. When she had her first child, Meg, Healy was still working full-time negotiating restaurant contracts. It wasn’t until she had her second child Matt that she decided to quit her job to stay home with her kids.
“It really was a blessing to be able to be home and spend so much time with them,” Healy said.
When Matt turned one, the cake that Healy decided to bake for him was what would then lead to a successful business that is now Sweet. She has been running her small business for nearly 15 years, each year bringing in more customers and orders than the year before.
One of Healy’s favorite moments in her baking career was receiving an email from BRIDE magazine wanting to feature one of her wedding cakes in an issue.
“It was just so cool! I still have the copy at home,” Healy said.
As people saw the cakes and truffles Healy created, the requests started coming in more frequently. Previously using Facebook to bring traffic to her website, Healy now primarily uses emails and phone calls to receive orders. She’s never had the ability to place orders from her website, as she values one on one communication very much. Her business is mainly advertised by word of mouth, primarily client referrals to their friends and family, and then on to a larger circle of people. Due to the location of most of her cliental being in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Healy will often send orders via postal delivery or some clients prefer to pick up their packages directly her.
As her business continues to grow, Healy still plans on keeping Sweet local to south Minneapolis. Even though her kids have grown up and moved on to college, Healy still stays in touch with the community where her business first took off. Both of her children attended Annunciation Catholic School when they were younger. She stays in touch by taking the time to send gift-boxes full of baked goods to each person away at college who has attended Annunciation or whom her kids befriended during their years in high-school.
Anna Nelson, a University of Minnesota student and Annunciation alumni, has known Healy for many years. Childhood friends with Healy’s daughter, Meg, they stayed in contact throughout Nelson’s high school years and now into university. Nelson invited Healy to her high school graduation party, not knowing that this came with a special gift during her university’s welcome week.
“The cookies in the welcome package were one of the best surprises of welcome week,” said Nelson. “The chocolate chip cookies were probably my favorite part!”
Healy works from her kitchen at home and does not rent any additional space. One of the challenges that she finds organizing big orders within the small space. Everything is in reach, but the space does not have nearly as much room to work in as a standard bakery’s kitchen would have. While Healy does face some challenges working out of her kitchen at home, there are some perks to it as well.
“I can leave when I need to be at work, and arrive when I need to be at work – so that’s quite nice!” Healy said.
Even though her kids are older now, Healy has no plans of slowing down her business. Especially with the holidays coming up, she is fulfilling nearly 20-40 orders each week. Her chocolate truffles are exceptionally popular as a holiday party treat.
In terms of inspiration, Healy typically will turn to the internet for the vast majority of her designs. Browsing the internet does hold inspiration for her, she also finds inspiration in her clients as well. One may not originally think of a design that is completely out of the box, but she recalled a time when her client asked her to do just that for her birthday. Asking for a ‘Tweetie-bird rainbow heart cake’ likely is not a request heard regularly, but she loves the creativity that her clients inspire.
“The kids make it fun,” Healy said.