Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Business Feature: Anna Lynn’s Bakery & Chocolates - Metro Detroit – Lynn Montry

Continuing my series of interviewing businesses to hear from the owners directly, I interviewed someone I met at a networking event over a year ago.  She caught my attention since I love nearly anything sweet.  (I know that they are not good for me, but this is not a blog about nutrition.) She has a unique angle, because she not only makes things edible that taste good, but she is an artist.  So these look as good as they taste.

This Week’s Featured Business: Anna Lynn’s Bakery & Chocolates (Westland, MI)

Lynn Montry moved to Michigan from California, and she learned the hard way that her California business was not going to work in the Metro Detroit Area of Michigan.  So she changed her business into selling cakes and chocolates, but these are different.  She stayed true to her artist’s roots, but today she creates edible art.

If you would rather read than watch a video, below I provide some of her background and summarize the notes I took during my interview with her.  She works full-time; so she has some unique challenges and insight.

An Introduction to Anna Lynn’s Bakery & Chocolates

I met Lynn over a year ago at a networking event at the Eastern Campus of the Wayne County Community College District.  She was one of the vendors at the event at my monthly Internet Marketing Roundtable club.

Lynn was easy to remember for several reasons, but the biggest is that she brought samples of her chocolate for all of us to try.  Never underestimate the power of tasty free samples!

She’s an artist at heart, and she started her ceramics and porcelain business here in Michigan but soon realized that this was not the place for that.  Metro Detroit didn’t provide the same market that her previous Los Angeles suburb did.

Notes from the Interview

Started Company: 2002

Type of Company: Food – Bakery: Designer Cakes & Hand-Painted Chocolates

Paint Chocolate with Chocolate in Different Colors

What made you decide to go into the Chocolate-making business?
“When I came from California, and I used to (have) a ceramic and porcelain doll business, and I did quite well at it…When I came to Michigan in 2002, I thought, well, what the heck?  I could open a ceramics shop in Michigan, but (we) don’t have a market for it here.  So I found out that everything I could do in ceramic and porcelain, I could do in cake and chocolate, and my goodness, you can eat it!”

“I can mold chocolate.  I can sculpt anything in cake or chocolate.”

“I like to color.  I like to play with things.  I like to do chocolates with ceramics cards I used to paint on shirts.  It just kind of comes natural.”

Do you have an easier time selling cakes or chocolates?
“It’s about a 50-50 pace.”

“Now the cakes I can’t ship, but if (you) want an arrangement, I can do an arrangement in chocolates for birthdays, doctors, nurses, lawyers, princesses for little girls, superheroes for little boys, dinosaurs, animals…I can do Noah’s Ark...Anything you can imagine, and I try to make it look as realistic as possible.”

“I also do (chocolate) boxes where you can put trinkets in them, and then the lid comes off.  Sometimes I fill (the boxes) with chocolates as well.”

“For Valentine’s Day, I have heart-shaped boxes.  I also have a suit and tie for gentleman, if the ladies want to buy a man a piece of chocolate.”

 “There isn’t anything that doesn’t go well with chocolate, from pretzels to potato chips.”

What did you do to attract customers when you first started your (new) business?
“Mostly word-of-mouth.”

“It’s still mostly word-of-mouth, because it’s hard to imagine what chocolate tastes like if somebody doesn’t tell you.  You really (have to) go taste this.”

“I’ve done some advertising.  I have my website on Google.  I go to different venues.  I’ll do shows.”

“I do trade shows.  I have to be careful where I go.  They do have to be indoors, because, unfortunately, chocolate melts.  I have to be picky about what shows I do and where I go.”

Which shows are most valuable (for selling)?
“No.  Actually, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve pretty much done well, because I do the suckers.  I do truffles.”

Her custom made chocolate cars do really well; she even make a chocolate Porsche.

What makes people want to refer customers to your business?
“The taste, mostly, because I have flavors that a lot of (other chocolate makers) don’t have…I have a pumpkin pie.  I have a cinnamon cream cheese.  I have marshmallow chocolates…I can flavor anything to what you want.”

“I also customize my chocolates.  The hardest thing people find is that they don’t want to eat it, because it’s too pretty.”

“I’m very persnickety, a perfectionist, you might say.  If it doesn’t look right, it’s not going out the door…I will discount (an imperfect product), because I know there is a flaw in it.  It may just be where the color bled a little bit or something trivial that nobody else notices, but I do.”

What advice would you give to people looking to start a business?
“Find where your niche is, because you’re going to find (that) just because you want to do a business, (it) does mean that the area will support (that business).”

How did you teach yourself so much about making chocolates and cakes?
“Actually, it came kind of (naturally).  (Since I was little) I’ve always done arts and crafts of some kind, and my mom did, too.  So I guess I just inherited her skills.”

She would try recipes at home, and “and developed my own (recipes), and if it tasted good, I guess I kept the recipe…I would throw something in there and throw it together (and tested things one recipe at a time),” and she writes down her recipe afterward if it works.

How to Connect with Anna Lynn’s Bakery & Chocolates

Phone: (313) 468-8946

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