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Conversations with Nikkie Byrd

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikkie Byrd.

Hi Nikkie, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been baking since childhood in my grandmothers’ kitchen. I remember learning how to make this streusel that I made for any and all occasions, for anyone who did or did NOT want one, just to bake that recipe and try it again and again with new flavors each time. I’ve also always been artsy and love to create in many forms. Drawing, sketching, painting, crafting of all kinds. I learned while taking a cake decorating class with my mom and sister that I thoroughly enjoyed using sugar as an art medium (though not immediately good at it!), I took that experience and kept building on it.

To this day, twenty years later, I am still learning new ways to use sugar to create tasty works of art. The possibilities are pretty endless, it seems. Over the years, as I taught myself more, took a few professional classes, and honed in on my craft, I gained a pretty large local following that continued to push me towards opening my own bakery. Before taking that giant leap, I decided to take a break from the baking and decorating side hustle to study herbalism. Nature and holistic health is important to me, and I am absolutely fascinated by physiology.

The human body is incredible and deserves so much more respect than it’s given. When I finally decided to take that leap, I knew that if I was going to open a bakery, that I had to be able to bake and create this product as clean as possible while still maintaining the art. We bake entirely from scratch using the finest and freshest ingredients. We opt for organic often (including organic all-purpose flour), and always for non-GMO. We never use mixes or preservatives.

We are very careful about allergies, respect dietary preferences, and have a huge selection of both vegan and gluten-free options. I personally prefer food with bold flavor, and I like to get creative in the bakery as well. While we definitely bake the regulars like vanilla, chocolate, lemon, red velvet, we also use lots of herbs and spices that are not often thought of in sweets. Some of our most popular flavors include blackberry sage, cardamom pear, rosemary fig, peach coriander, orange ginger, and more!

As much as I LOVE to bake and decorate, I also love running the business. There has always been that drive deep within me, the inner hustler. I love to do the work, and I love being able to have a vision and see it all the way to fruition. It’s nice being the person that gets to decide how hard we push past the barriers to getting where we want to or need to be, and not really having anyone else in my way except myself and how far I’m willing to go.

I love having the creative freedom to do what I want, to be eccentric, to have fun with life in my work. I have been so blessed to build a team of incredibly talented individuals that back me up every single day. I believe in them, they believe in me, and they would follow me anywhere I lead them.

I don’t know if that is amazing or terrifying or maybe a little of both, but I am so grateful to each of them for helping make my dreams come true each and every day.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I honestly struggled with deciding if a bakery was really the business that I was meant to run. I knew that opening a bakery was an enormous undertaking and that it would take just about everything out of me. I wasn’t sure that I was really wanted to give all of myself to this just yet. While caring so much for the health of humanity and the planet, I felt a sense of guilt for wanting to build a career in the sweets industry.

For a long time, I tried to find the “right” thing for me to do with my life, to find what I was “meant to do.” I wanted to find my “purpose” in something that felt useful and pure and good. Somewhere along this path I read, or heard someone more or less say that it’s not always WHAT you are doing, but HOW you’re doing it that matters.

This really resonated with me, and I still live by it. I care so much about our customers, I care so much about the integrity of our product, and I care so much about our team. What we do at Sage Cakery brings people a lot of joy. It is our honor to be a part of any occasion that you’ll welcome us into, to help celebrate with something sweet and tasty, but also with a work of art that can really capture and portray the spirit of your event.

They say that all is well in moderation, and I think that what we provide is certainly doing good by filling a room and several tummies with joy on special days.

As for opening the bakery itself, I knew we had to open in Urbana, and when we started this journey, there was no real estate available here.

We waited five years for real estate to become available, and it was definitely worth the wait. We love this community, and we are so easily accessible for so much of the DMV area here as well.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
We specialize in custom cakes and custom-decorated desserts. Other desserts include cupcakes, mini cupcakes, macarons, cookies, dessert bars, and more. We have an amazing team of bakers that make some of the most sought-after sweets in town using really unique flavors! Though some of our specialty flavors are bold in concept, they are well thought out and always well-balanced.

We have a decorating team that absolutely loves their jobs, getting to make art every single day for a living. They have a wide variety of training, experience, and talents, and all work so well together to bring each cake to life.

I love hearing and seeing the joy inside of folks when they see and taste a Sage Cakery cake. It makes me so happy to be a part of that joy in their lives, and I am so proud of our team for living out our own dreams while helping to make other people’s dreams a reality too.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Finding other vendors in your industry can be a huge asset to you. Community over competition always. Finding community in anything in life is essential, especially when building a small business from the ground up.

It’s nice to find folks that you can trust to talk to, ask questions, bounce ideas off of, etc. We work a lot in the wedding industry, and it’s been so great to get to know other vendors in that industry and work together to cross-promote one another. We have gained a lot of clients by word of mouth networking within the wedding industry. We do wedding shows here and there as well as other networking events.

We love to work with other vendors to create and publish styled photoshoots. Styled shoots give you an opportunity to do that new thing you’ve wanted to try and to curate new and fresh marketing material for yourselves and the other vendors involved.

Pricing:

  • Custom Cakes – starting at $6/serving
  • Custom Cupcakes – starting at $50/dozen
  • Custom Sugar Cookies – starting at $75/dozen
  • See more pricing information at Sagecakery.com

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Amanda Summers Photography

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