We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexis Griffin and Mary McGinn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexis and Mary, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
We launched our business in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. When the initial stay-at-home orders were issued, everything shut down, including our kids’ preschool. Their school has an abundant fruit and vegetable garden normally consumed during the school year. We saw this food going to waste and had the idea to create a pop-up bakery fundraiser that would incorporate this produce into our baked goods and at the same time raise money for the school which was taking a big financial hit at the time. The response to the fundraiser was beyond what we could have imagined – the community loved receiving homemade goodies delivered to their door during such a difficult time while also helping to support the preschool. We realized we had a gem on our hands and launched our official online bakery a few months later. We modeled ourselves after a weekly CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture) box as we were very inspired by the idea of our customers being able to connect to their food directly and in a way that’s more intimate, without a middle man or large factory involved. We also partner with local farmers to offer their produce in our baked goods whenever we can. In addition, keeping a philanthropic aspect to our business was extremely important to us, so we continue to donate 5% of our revenue to child-based nonprofits, including No Kid Hungry. While we had long dreamed of launching a business, the pandemic actually motivated us to take the plunge, as the needs of the community changed and we saw a chance to offer a bit of joy, delivered in a Covid-safe way, all while supporting local agriculture and raising money for those in need.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
OUR BACKGROUND: Alexis: We took very different paths to get to where we are today. I spent the early part of my career in New York City working for a major book publisher before pivoting into higher education. I’ve worked for The Wharton School of Business and have had roles in production and project management. These roles have actually prepped me well for running a fast-paced bakery business, as time management, organization, understanding branding, and attention to detail have been invaluable. Mary: I have a microbiology background which made bread-making super fascinating to me. I started 15 years ago when I was the owner of a cafe in New Mexico. I’m self-taught and the very early mornings spent baking became my favorite part of running my cafe. After leaving the business and moving to California I continued to spend lots of happy time baking bread, experimenting in the kitchen with pastries and fermentation, etc. Finding time to get a little bit of classic training from the local culinary school sparked my passion again after raising babies for 5 years. Alexis: As far as the creative end, I come from a family of creators. Music, writing, film-making, theatre, journalism – these are all the talents just in my immediate family. So for me, creating a business, creating a brand, and creating baked goods all feels very natural to me. The combination of being raised in a creative family and my business and professional experience has laid a great foundation for being an entrepreneur. When combined with Mary’s baking talent and experience running her own cafe, our partnership has really worked for us. CHALLENGES FACED: Mary: Our business has grown quickly and we are grateful for the success we’ve had so far, and while the pandemic has created opportunity for our business to launch and thrive, it has paradoxically lead to our biggest challenges. Shared commercial kitchens have shut down, there has been ingredient shortages, and hiring and training employees is also challenging when we can’t be in the same space. It has forced us to be extremely resourceful, think quickly, and do a lot of creative problem solving. In addition, we are working out of our homes while also balancing the demands of our households. We both have two small children and no babysitters! I am also balancing homeschooling my children while running my business. OUR BRAND: Alexis: We spent a lot of time thinking about how to create a brand that really reflects our values. We named our business “Madre Made” because we both wanted to celebrate our community of Sierra Madre, CA, and honor our work as mothers. We really value community and wish to amplify other local artisans and small businesses. We’ve recently partnered with Java Madre Coffee Co, a local small-batch organic coffee roaster, to sell their product on our site and are looking to expand and partner with other artisans in the community. We support local agriculture and farmers by using local, seasonal produce as often as we can. And we donate 5% of our revenue to child-based non-profits including No Kid Hungry, which felt extremely important to us as moms.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Our favorite afternoons are spent strolling either the Huntington Botanical Gardens or at the LA Arboretum, followed by ice cream at Mother Moo in downtown Sierra Madre. For dinner, we’d hit up Osteria Mozza (owned by on of our idols, Nancy Silverton) – worth the drive in our opinion!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Mary: Mike Wood, founder of Huarache Farms and urban farmer, introduced us to the idea of Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) and inspired our business model. He was also the first to offer our baked goods through his weekly CSA box before we launched our own website and online ordering system. Alexis: We also want to acknowledge our husbands, who have had to tolerate a bit of insanity while we launched a business from our homes in the middle of a pandemic! They’ve stepped up and handled many odd jobs and have been an invaluable support and sounding board.
Please credit all photos to Jenna Elliott