Interview: Desert Bloom Bakery
Entrepreneur Endeavor by Heather Dillard
The following is the transcript of an interview with Heather Dillard at Desert Bloom Bakery desertbloombakery.com. She runs a gluten-free, dairy-free bakery from her home in Plainview, Texas. Heather explains in the video how she started her business and what she has learned through creating delicious treats. A video of the interview is included.
Hannah Marie. - Hi! Welcome to the very first Hannah Marie video chat, and today we are interviewing Heather Dillard at Desert Bloom Bakery.
Heather, tell us a little bit about you.
Heather Dillard - Well, I happen to be your twin, in case people can't tell that already.
HM - Yes, I appreciate you for taking the time. I'm so, so excited!
HD - Yeah, well thanks for asking me! So I started my bakery three years ago in February; I guess that was February '18. And I work for myself, so I'm self-employed. I have a part time counseling practice. That's what I went to school for. I'm a licensed professional counselor and I do that part time and then I have a home bakery here in Plainview. I also go to the Wolfforth market on Saturdays. That's where I meet all my Lubbock people when they come and pick up treats from there. My bakery specializes in gluten-free and dairy-free baked goods so I've got cupcakes, cookies, bagels, biscuits, baked doughnuts; that sort of thing.
HM - They're all delicious, by the way. If you have any recommendations-- I don't have any recommendations, because every single thing I try is better than the other, so-- they're all really good.
What was one of your first cooking experiences?
HD - The first thing I remember learning how to bake is lemon bars. And well, we called them lemon squares growing up, and so I don't know if that was the first thing I learned how to bake. But that's the first thing I remember learning how to bake. So then it became my favorite thing because it was like the one thing I knew how to do by myself. I've since then learned how to make the lemon squares gluten-free and dairy-free and they're part of my menu. So that's fun, but that's what I always think of, or at least that's what I tell people. I don't know how accurate that is, like when you're a little kid your memory may be off, but I always tell people, "This is the first thing I learned how to bake."
HM - I agree. I think that might have been one of the first things. At least that's what I remember you making. I'd make mac & cheese and you'd make lemon bars.
What are some of your favorite parts of Desert Bloom Bakery?
HD - Well I've been gluten-free for about ten years I think --10 or 11--and so I like that part as far as being able to make gluten-free things that make my gut happy and that taste good. A lot of people think gluten-free doesn't taste very good. It can taste like cardboard a little bit. So that's the one of the things I like about the bakery. I can show people that no, you can actually have good things that tastes good, that don't make you sick. So that's one of my favorite things. Not all my customers are gluten-free and dairy-free. Sometimes they just like what I make and so they come and get it because they like my carrot cake cupcakes, or whatever. But I like that; when I meet customers who are either gluten-free, dairy-free or egg-free or whatever. They're like, "Oh I haven't been able to find anything that tastes good!" It just makes them happy that they can still enjoy something like a treat that doesn't make them sick afterwards. So that makes me happy.
HM - I've heard a lot of people comment, the same things when I'm explaining, "Hey, my sister has a gluten-free, dairy-free bakery." And they're surprised because, number one, they do gluten-free, dairy-free stuff. A lot of the times it's too dry or or it's just not quite what they're looking for.
What was your very first experiment that you did, either dairy-free, gluten-free, or both?
HD - When I first went gluten-free I would experiment a lot with weird ingredients and I don't do that as much anymore. I mean, some of them are kind of different if you're not used to baking gluten-free.
HM - Like what?
HD - When I first started going gluten-free, I would use my flour blends and stuff. I would get recipes that had sorghum flour and buckwheat flour and teff flour and things like that. Sometimes I'll still bake with those, with certain cookies and stuff. For the most part I have a standard gluten-free flour blend that I use and it's pretty basic flours. Some of them are weird I guess if you're not used to baking with them, but I don't do that as much now. I pretty much have my standard "this is what I get." That's when I first went gluten-free. I would do just all sorts of weird things that now I'll look back and be like, "Nope, not gonna make that. That's too much work." I would just put a lot of time and effort into these recipes that didn't always turn out that great. I've just maybe gotten lazier, I don't know, but there's certain things that I won't. It takes too long to try to do.
HD - But when I first started the bakery, I did cupcakes first, so and I guess I thought, it's portable and small. It's something small that I can start off with. But I'd never made gluten-free cupcakes ever before, and I'd never piped with a piping bag and star nozzle. I didn't even know how to pipe cupcakes! And so I had to learn that different recipes; what worked and what didn't and how. I've learned since then how to make icing where it doesn't just fall off to the side. You can't just follow the recipe and think that it works. You still have to see if the texture is right because temperature will make the texture different. You can't just think that the recipe is going to work and then just start putting on the frosting, you know. You sometimes you have to say, "Well it's a little bit runny, so I've got to add some more powdered sugar." That sort of thing. And I didn't know that at first. I would just be like, "Well, that's what the recipe says," and I'd start piping and icing would be falling everywhere! It was very bad! So I've gotten a lot better at that, just trusting my instincts of "Okay, this will work," or "This won't work," or "Let's tweak this." That sort of thing. That's what I started with. Cupcakes and muffins.
HM - That's awesome. And I do remember your jumbo muffins. The lemon poppy seed was my favorite. I think that's still a seasonal cupcake right?
HD - I have a lemon coconut cupcake in the springtime.
HD - I'd like to eventually bring muffins back. Probably not the jumbo muffins because it takes too much batter. It wasn't worth the expense because it was a lot of batter for the jumbo muffins and then just cost of ingredients. It wasn't conducive to running a business. But I'd like to bring regular size muffins back, maybe in sets of four and do it that way. I've thought of that. I've gotten a request to bring muffins back so I'm hoping to, eventually. I just haven't yet.
HM - Well, we'll look forward to that.
What are the hardest parts of running or starting a business?
HD - I didn't go to school for business, so all of it I've had to learn from scratch. I've had a couple of really good business coaches over the years. So about three years ago I started listening to a podcast of a lady that helped women in business, specifically, women learning how to make money. Her tagline is Christy Wright (christywright.com).
HD - I will say that because I will recommend her to anybody who wants to learn how to do a business. She has a book called Business Boutique, http://amzn.to/2V40Guw and it was [about] helping women make money doing what they love. I did that for the first three years. That's how I learned through her videos and being in her coaching group and [reading] her book and listening to her podcast. Back then [the website] was more focused specifically on business. It's a little bit different now. But that's how I learned how to keep track of money and how to feel confident selling and not be weird about it. Now I have a different business coach that's helping me go in a different direction, as far as continuing to grow my business. But that's how I learned how to run a business was reading books and listening to business podcasts and things like that. That was probably the hardest part at the beginning, just because I didn't know any of it. I had to learn all of it from scratch. So I'm just having to be willing to learn and tweak things as you go and ask questions.
What is a utensil that you use all the time in your bakery?
HD - A friend told me about this! It is called a Danish dough whisk (https://amzn.to/3hz2RxT) and I use it for my oatmeal cream pies, which is a customer favorite. I cannot keep up with the oatmeal cream pie demand. Literally, I make them and they sell out! I was complaining to a friend one day, "They're hard to make and they're kind of complicated because it's like two cookies in one, plus buttercream inside the cookie." There's a lot that goes into it. Also just making the dough itself is really hard because I do it by hand. I said, "I don't want to do it with the mixer because my mixer stops." It's too thick. Some people will do it with the mixer but I was like, "No, I still want to do by hand," She told me about this and it doesn't look like much, but you still use it like you would a spatula. But it gets to the bottom and it mixes a lot better. Then it just makes it easier on me while making that. So I use it for that and I use it for the cranberry granola cookies. It has been one of my very favorite, new discovery utensils.
HM - That's awesome! I really want to buy one of those. I've seen advertisements for them and I thought about buying them. If I cooked more I would, definitely.
HD - You can use it for breads and stuff; any kind of thick batter. I have a link for it, so you can use that (see above).
How is your business different than it was a year ago?
HD - Well, last year was the year of Covid, so I had a hard time getting some of my ingredients. I had to take stuff off the menu for several months, even cupcakes. I couldn't get my dairy-free margarine and I usually get really big tubs of it. Even powdered sugar and things like that were sometimes hard to find. I go through a lot in a month. Some things I had to take off of my menu. But then also I got to add some cookies. Some of the cookies on my menu ended up being added during Covid because I had run out of ingredients, so I had to figure out how to make these using these other different ingredients. If I didn't have my dairy-free butter well, could I make these with my grape seed oil? And figuring out how that worked.
HD - And then this year I have started an online baking class. And I have a waitlist for that (www.desertbloombakery.com/online-baking-class). I'm revamping my baking class because I had started with beginning of the year or in the spring and I am putting the current one on pause, but I am revamping it and hopefully will be releasing the the new and improved version in a couple of weeks. I have a waiting list on my website for that, so people can go ahead and get on the waitlist and get the email. When it opens back up in a couple of weeks, then they're the first to know that this is what I'm doing! That's one thing new that I'm doing this year, learning how to do things more online, too, and not just [needing to be] present at markets. I still go to markets and have my home bakery and everything. That's what my business coach now is helping me with. Learning how to grow with social media and how to sell things online more. Things like that. With my home bakery, I can't sell online, so that's kind of a bummer, with Texas laws and home bakery laws in the state. But I'm trying to figure out other ways that I can still do that and make money.
HM - Perfect. And that gives people options as well. If they're interested in what you're doing, then they can look online, they can see your videos. They can kind of follow, along with what you do through either recipes in your books or your videos or your website. And that way they get the benefits of what you offer, even if they can't see you face to face. That's a good option, especially now that we're so much into social media and stuff right now.
Where would you like to be in five years?
HD - So, as I think Jim Collins says, my big hairy, audacious goal is in five years, I would love to have a brick and mortar store, a bakery here in Plainview. And I would want it to help create jobs for kids coming out of foster care. 'Cause a lot of kids that are in the foster care system if, once they graduate out for one reason or another, a lot of them have have a hard time, especially if they don't have a good support system when they move out. They have a hard time finding jobs or sticking with jobs and finding places to live. I would want part of the bakery to go toward that and helping create like physical, actual, tangible jobs for that. Then also doing like a leadership program alongside it so that they learn business skills. They learn leadership things like communication and working as a team, things that you practice as an employee and part of a team. But it would be very intentional. I would have intentional sit-down kind of staff meetings and that would help grow that in kids [who] might not have had those skills before. And so I don't know if that is, is going to ever come to pass, or what it will look like in five years. But that's what I'm aiming for anyway.
HM - Exactly and it's good to have goals, too because it keeps you motivated and it keeps you working towards something.
What are you learning now?
HD - With my business coaching, she focuses a lot on online stuff and I'm in one of her more intense coaching groups. It's not just general coaching. It's very it's a lot more specific, smaller group coaching. So I'm revamping my website which and also revamping the baking class. That's really what I'm focusing on right now is trying to improve that. Making it more user friendly helping people find things [more easily]. And then also trying to get the online baking class the best it can be so that it's better for my customers that want to learn how to do that. So at least this month, that is definitely my focus and just trying to grow my business that way. That takes a lot of learning, just because you're just tweaking stuff. A lot of its kind of trial and error. You know, "Okay let's try this and see if it works." "Okay, that didn't work. Let's try this." So that's just a lot of it. That's always the case, I guess, but right now that's what I'm focusing on. More of the online-slash-social aspect of it, so that even with the people that are face-to-face, it helps serve them better.
HM - Yeah perfect. Can I ask who your business coach is right now? Can you share that?
HD - Yes, absolutely! Jennifer Allwood. She is on Facebook and instagram, I think just as Jennifer Allwood (www.jenniferallwood.com) and she is a Christian business coach. She specifically helps women with online businesses, learning how to build your business online. Even if you have a tangible business or brick-and-mortar, or anything like that, you'd still want your business to grow online. You want to make sure you have a presence on social media. You want to make sure you know how to make money on the Internet because things like Covid happens. If everyone's stuck at home, I think people know that a lot more now. You have to figure out a way online how to make money, even if you're a brick-and-mortar or a product-based business. But, especially if you're a service based business. Sometimes some people are completely online; that's all they do.
HD - She helps women do that and she has lots and lots of years of experience. But before she became an online coach, she had a painting business. So she was a product-based business back then. And she would do like Trading Spaces [correction: *Extreme Home Makeover] and stuff like those painting companies. That was what she did. That was one of her people. She has gradually phased into being online completely, which is good. That's what I want to learn how to do. If something happened with me or my family or something like that I'd want to know that income was still coming in, even if I couldn't show up in person at market for a couple weeks. So that's what I want to try to grow in and, yes, I would definitely recommend Jennifer Allwood to anybody. Both of my business coaches--Christy Wright and Jennifer Allwood--have been awesome for what I needed them to be, in that season. It's like a counselor. There's certain seasons that certain people work for you and then sometimes it's time to move on. I knew that I needed to start focusing on social media and the online space. I needed to grow in that area and so that's why I switched over to her. But with the first business coach, she helped me learn how to actually run a business too. So both have been really, really helpful. And it's what I needed when I needed it.
How can customers contact you?
HD - I have a website it's desertbloombakery.com. That's where they can find all the information of locations where I'll be when and my menu and my online baking class and my book, which has recipes in it. I don't think I mentioned that, but I do have a book and it has recipes in it (Take a Seat! https://amzn.to/3jBBpBY). And all of that is on my website so that's the best way. Then that has contact information and all the things, and links to my social media. I'm on Facebook and Instagram as @desertbloombakery, both places, but those links are also on my website, too.
Do you have anything special coming up for DBB?
HD - Well, in the next several months, at least till the end of the year, I'm actually scaling back on a lot of things. I usually do some shows here in Plainview, some holiday shows, and things like that. I'm actually not doing any of those this fall which sounds sort of boring, but it's because I'm about to be a foster parent. So I will have kids in my home, and since this is my first time being a parent and first time being a foster parent, I am focusing on that right now and scaling back a little bit. I will still be taking them with me too Wolfforth Farmer's Market on Saturdays. So if you come to Wolfforth, you'll see them. At least we're going to try. I told the market people "We're going to try and see if this works." I don't know if it will work, but we'll try it for a couple of weeks and see. And then my home bakery's always curbside pickup, so that will still be available. I still bring stuff out to people's cars in my Plainview home bakery.
HD - So the fall, not so much exciting going on but that's because stuff is going on with me personally. So I'm just creating space with the bakery and not committing to a bunch of things yet until I just kind of have my rhythm and then in the spring, if shows and stuff come up in the spring, then I probably will do them, but just not in the fall yet.
You can continue learning more about Heather by going to her links and watching her videos or if you've purchased her book, check out more about her bakery and her life. Thank you for joining us today!