We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Gonzalez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimberly, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I think one of the big myths about being your own boss is that because you control your own schedule, that you’ll set the boundaries to live a “balanced” life. I see work as a meaningful and inescapable part of a full life. I personally have always been a very high goal setter and very competitive. As a young kid I always wanted to be #1, the best, go to the olympics and honestly hated anything I wasn’t great at quickly. That kind of thinking led to a lot of stress and anxiety. I think every person and season of life is different and unique in how they find a “balanced” or “healthy” way to spend their time, energy, skills, and gifts. I’ve found that as a highly driven person who loves what they do and has perfectionist tendencies that it’s a steep learning curve to learn to self-manage. Physical cues have been the loudest and most obvious alarms in my career that have alerted me to when i haven’t been setting healthy boundaries with my work as well as the truthful words of people who love me. After a few years in my business, the reality of what it takes to build a sustainable business without burning out physically, and psychologically meant changing the way i think and learning that I alone can’t do it all and get where I want to go. To be honest, I don’t think about the word balance so much when it comes to planning for the future. I think about making decisions based on confidence and the present, not fear. I think about living fully engaged in the way I spend my time. I think about building something that respects myself and my team as human beings. I think about offering something meaningful to the world, in the short time we’re given on earth. I bake for joy, the joy it brings me to create and bake and the joy my baked goods bring my customers.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Bake Up was started 6 1/2 years ago as a home-based bakery, but the love of sweets starting very young and continues to this day. In high school, when I felt the pressure to decide on a career path, I was really unsure of which direction to go. In my free time between work and school I was baking with and for friends on a weekly basis. I had a lot of big questions as a teenager. I often felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I didn’t have all the answers, and I still don’t, but I could bake a pretty great cookie for a friend and just for a moment they felt joy. I still bake for that moment. It may be fleeting, but i think of it as a pretty magical thing. A moment where you are fully present with all of your senses, happy. It’s a particular kind of happiness and I continue to find a lot of meaning being able to provide that moment for my customers. The jump from free-time hobby to tiny business happened when I was working at an independent coffee shop and was encouraged by my bosses at the time to look into the cottage food operator license California had recently made available. They gave me the opportunity and we worked out a schedule for me to continue working as a barista by day and baker by morning. After looking into the requirements of the license, I decided I would give it a go. I made a super basic five year plan. I didn’t know if I would really do it that long, but I did intend to put my all into it and see how it went. I had worked in locally owned food businesses since I was 16, but I didn’t really have professional kitchen experience. I had taken a baking program over the summer, but that was the extent of any formal training. I baked often for friends and family, enjoyed experimenting with recipes, and spent a lot of time taste testing great baked goods everywhere I could. I took about 8 months to prepare a plan and a menu before making my first sale to Sagebrush Cafe in 2014.
Today we are proud to continue to provide pastries to the pastry cases of Sagebrush Cafe as well as Bodhi Leaf coffee bars in Santa Clarita. About a year and half ago we began participating in a weekly farmers market in Old Town Newhall every Saturday. We are proud to offer a unique menu that continues to develop, including what we are most known for like our coffee cakes, pop tarts, cookies, and vegan bars. Each pastry tastes like the high quality ingredients used to make them, not just sweet for sweet sake. We are proud to incorporate locally-sourced and milled whole grain organic flour alongside unbleached all-purpose flour. These stone-ground whole grain flours have not been stripped of the nutrients, protein, and FLAVOR naturally found in wheat. This gives the pastries a more delicate crumb and flavor. We seek to highlight seasonal produce from local farmers as much as we can (preferably organic/or pesticide free), and we also make our fillings and jams from scratch. Like everyone else, we went through a wild ride in 2020, but we have come through with more determination to continue on after making it through and learning so much. We saw even more clearly how important good food businesses are, how important the strength of our local businesses and supply chains are, and our local farms and farmworkers.
Slowly but surely building Bake Up to where it is now has been immeasurably harder than i could’ve imagined, but in some way I’m thankful for that naivety. If i would’ve known about all the ups and downs I might not have been brave enough. I’ve found that i’m more resilient, more creative, and more capable than I would’ve thought back than as a 24 year-old. One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is the endless opportunities to grow. The many challenges keep you on your toes. There is no false sense of security. Growth as an individual is really important to me and I’m super thankful to be able to grow as a person, as I grow as a business. I’ve learned to embrace being a self-employed small business owner with all of its ups and downs with more faith and more joy. I’ve learned that the learning is endless and thats an exciting thing! I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everyone, but i love it more and more.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend was visiting (let’s imagine it’s pre-pandemic) I would take them to one of the many bountiful farmers markets in Los Angeles County, starting with the Old Town Newhall Farmer’s Market for groceries, a breakfast burrito from Fiesta Taco Grill. We would bbq at my house with the bounty of meat and produce from the market and i’d bake them something I’m experimenting with. We would probably drink some beers from one of my favorite local breweries, Lucky Luke and Bravery Brewery. I would take them to Sagebrush Cafe for some coffee on the patio, to Vasquez Rocks by my house for a hike. We would have a beach day for sure, stopping by Friends & Family for breakfast and pastries for later. We’d sunbathe and swim. We would eat deep dish pizza from Masa, get some drinks at Lowboy. We would go dancing at Funky Sole and eat Taco Zone after. We might go to a museum, and we’d probably be at my husband or one of our friends shows somewhere in LA, like School Night at the Bardot.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First, I’d like to dedicate my Shoutout to my husband Mario Gonzalez. We got together really young. This year will be our ten year wedding anniversary and both of us have been working incredibly hard towards our career goals since we first met as teenagers. We are both fiercely independent and passionate, working in totally different, but both risky industries. He has always supported and believed in me, worked alongside me, and been so patient as I have been carving my way as an entrepreneur. His support and belief in me through the ups and downs of Bake Up, means everything to me.
I’d also like to dedicate my Shoutout to June and Eric at Sagebrush Café. As my former bosses and first Bake Up wholesale account, they encouraged me to bake for them and that is what got me started. I don’t know which way I would’ve gone in my career without that very tangible opportunity to get me started. And once I got started, I haven’t been able to stop. I learned a lot as i worked for them from their journey as former teachers, opening an independent coffee shop.