The Difference Baker
Alyssa Sobecki found success by making a difference. The Difference Baker, the business she launched for individuals struggling with food allergies, is doing well in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. With multiple food allergies herself, Alyssa found it difficult to find restaurants that catered to gluten, soy, or nut allergies. The solution, she decided, was to open one of her own. “I wanted a local place where gluten-free families could come and enjoy delicious baked goods, sandwiches, and wraps,” she says.
After locating a building approved for a commercial kitchen, Alyssa and her husband, Jason, went to the Loudoun SBDC. “We worked with them from the inception of our business,” Alyssa relates. “We met with Eric Byrd, manager of the Loudoun SBDC office.” Eric gave the couple an overview of their proposed business and advised them on rules and regulations. “Eric walked us through the entire process,” Alyssa says. “It was awesome — help from A to Z even before we signed a lease.”
The Difference Baker officially opened November 7, 2019. Five months later, it closed due to COVID-19. “We were closed to foot traffic for six months,” Alyssa notes. If customers couldn’t come to her, Alyssa reasoned, she would go to them. “I started doing deliveries,” she says. “That summer was slow, but we were able to keep afloat.” Helping with that effort was the Loudoun SBDC. “Eric reached out to see if we were okay,” Alyssa adds. “He kept us informed about all the assistance that was available.”
During the shutdown, Alyssa looked to her marketing team to maintain sales. “One thing I didn’t do was let my marketing team go,” she explains. “That helped us reach new markets. When something like a pandemic happens, you have to find new ways to market your products.”
The Sobeckis also depend on a bookkeeping team to manage the financial side of the business.
“I know what I’m good at doing and what I’m not good at doing,” Alyssa comments. “What I’m not good at, I outsource to professionals.” The Sobeckis consider the SBDC to be a valuable part of their team. “Eric Byrd has been the bridge when I need a point of contact,” Alyssa says. “All I have to do is reach out to him, and he’ll put me in touch with the right people.” It’s a business relationship the Sobeckis plan to continue. “Just last month I had a coaching call with Eric to go over the future of the company,” Alyssa relates. “He’s already in the process of making some connections toward the path of our growth.”
In addition to baked goods and sandwiches, The Difference Baker offers freezer meals to take home, such as chicken pot pies and baked ziti. The menu is growing and continues to change. “My mission goes beyond what you see in our kitchen,” Alyssa says. “The main focus is to bring peace to those who have to deal with food allergies.”
The Sobeckis are glad they made the decision to visit the SBDC early on. “I connect with a lot of people who want to start a business,” Alyssa concludes. “The first thing I say is, ‘Go to the SBDC.’ I’m so glad we did.”