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From Courtroom to Kitchen: Subarzsweets

From Courtroom to Kitchen: Subarzsweets

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From Courtroom to Kitchen: Subarzsweets

Subarzsweets StartUp 101 1
Photo credit: Maryellen Baker Photography

It takes a lot to start a business, especially when it means leaving behind an established career in an entirely different field. Doubly so when your new venture has only ever been a hobby.

But that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying, and it didn’t stop Daphne Subar, the founder of Subarzsweets, LLC.

After 26 years as an attorney, Subar was inspired to open her own bakery by her daughter’s response to an elementary school project.

“I’ve always believed that anything is possible with hard work, perseverance, and unwavering support. Inspired by my daughter’s project, ‘SuBar – all bars, one bakery’ – I dreamt of one day starting a bakery,” Subar. “Fears and excuses held me back, but one day my middle daughter questioned me and challenged me to overcome my hesitations. In 2016 I finally took the leap and left my legal career behind.”

Subar has no formal training as a baker, just the time she spent making treats for her family. One of her three daughters has food allergies, so she learned to tweak recipes and be creative when it came to the kitchen.

Daphne Subarz Founder of Subarzsweets
Photo credit: Ariela Subar Photography

While she initially thought she was starting a bakery, it soon became much more and she followed her clients lead and pivoted to a niche market – corporate gifting.

“I launched as a bakery, which was successful from the beginning, but about 18 months after launching, I realized how many people were sending my products as gifts,” Subar said. “I looked at my business that way and thought, Wow, this is a unique product that can be sent as corporate gifts. Once we honed in on corporate gifting, the business really took off. We ship nationwide and don’t need refrigeration, and we can make the package very personal – we include a handwritten note, which no one does anymore.”

That openness to re-evaluating her business was a key to finding success.

“The product we created, which is kind of a hybrid of a cookie and a biscotti, sells really well, and rather than coming up with a bunch of different products, I just have 21 varieties of the same recipe. It all fits in the same box, with the same packaging and branding, and the shipping is the same,” Subar said. “And this really is more of an online business. People are going to want to send 200 corporate gifts and aren’t going to walk into a bakery and order that way. They’re going to do it online. It’s much easier to sell 300 boxes to one corporate client than one box to 300 walk-in customers.”

Subar was all in on her business from the start. She left her legal career behind and focused on Subarzsweets as a full-time gig, which she said was “terrifying.”

Her saving grace, she said, was that she didn’t fully realize what she was getting herself into.

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that helped me a little bit. If I decided now to do it all again, knowing what I know about marketing and packaging and networking and everything, it would have been overwhelming,” Subar said. “Luckily, I didn’t know what’s entailed in running and growing a small business. That helped me because I only had to focus on the next step in front of me.”

Despite her lack of experience as a baker and business owner, when Subar decided she was in, she went for it.

Subarzsweets Kitchen
Photo credit: Ariela Subar Photography

She pulled on numerous resources to help expand her knowledge. A key milestone was getting accepted to the Goldman Sachs 10000 Small Business Program. Subar said she learned an incredible amount through that program.

She also registered with the local Small Business Development Center to take advantage of its resources. The center, a local outlet of the federal Small Business Administration, assigned Subar a mentor who referred her to certification specialists and helped her marketing efforts as well.

There’s that common refrain that if you plan for failure, you’re going to fail – if you’re opening a small business with an eye on a backup plan, you’re going to need it. That wasn’t the case for Subar.

She said she was pragmatic about how things were going, but she didn’t want to look back later and regret not taking the chance or not fully investing herself in the business.

“I launched in June; I said, let’s see how the rest of the year goes. Then the holidays came around, and it was great, but the beginning of the next year was a bit slow, which (I know now) it always is,” Subar said. “It’s the slowest quarter, so I did start thinking I should go back to law but decided to give it a few more months. It cycled up again, and by summer, things are picking up, and come September, people are thinking about their corporate holiday gifts. It all goes through cycles.”

The knowledge that her market had a natural ebb and flow between busy and slow periods is something she would’ve missed out on without investing the time to see the business through.

That said, there are still moments in the slow periods that get to her a little.

“I have that internal discussion and remind myself I’ve had eight years of slow periods at the beginning of the year, and it’s going to turn around. There’s so much to do and to learn with a small business, I keep myself motivated by learning new things, taking courses, or just networking. It’s a lot of networking,” Subar said.

Standing on this side of entrepreneurialism, Subar said she’s still occasionally surprised when she looks at her success.

Subarzsweets Bakery
Photo credit: Maryellen Baker Photography 

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She never thought she wanted to run a small business, but seeing how much she’s learned and realizing how resilient she can be is amazing, she said. While being her own boss is great, she said, there are other, invisible benefits to opening a small business, like having the time to connect with others who have been through their own entrepreneurial journey, and having shared experiences.

“I have a lot more respect for people who run small businesses. I’ve also learned a lot of small business owners have great stories behind why they’re doing what they’re doing. When I was practicing law I wouldn’t ever have the time to stop and listen to why people are doing what they’re doing and what they’re passionate about,” Subar said.

Entrepreneurship can come from anywhere. Small business owners aren’t exclusively people who’ve dreamed about being their own boss their whole lives. Sometimes, it’s spotting a gap in the market or having an idea and running with it. Sometimes, it just takes someone to say, “What’s stopping you from doing it?”

Your Turn

The coronavirus pandemic showed, and Subar can attest to this, that things will always go wrong, and there’s never a perfect time to make the leap. You just have to go for it and have faith that hard work, a little bit of luck, and an open mind will lead to success, even if it doesn’t look like you thought it would. If you’re facing a similar crossroads in your life, take inspiration from her story and dare to take the next step toward your entrepreneurial dreams. What’s holding you back? Share your thoughts and aspirations in the comments below.

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From Courtroom to Kitchen: Subarzsweets

From Courtroom to Kitchen: Subarzsweets

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