BELDING — Jenny Bennett has always had a flair for baking; she describes it not only as a hobby, but as “a way of life.” She’s happiest, she says, when she’s in the kitchen, the rich, sweet smells of yeast and sugar dusting the oven-warmed air.
But there are only so many hours in a day, and for the past 25 years, Bennett worked full time at Hansen’s Music Store in Greenville. When the store closed early last summer, Bennett suddenly found she had plenty of time on her hands, as well as a need for a new source of income.
“I was fortunate enough to find a job here in Belding, where I’ve lived for 30 years,” Bennett said. “I’m working at Independent Bank in the operations center. But now I have some free time and after doing some research on Michigan’s cottage food law, I decided this might be a fun way to test the waters on starting my own business.”
After years of working retail at the music store, Bennett discovered she missed the daily interaction with customers. Also, Bennett admits she’s always had a little “entrepreneurial spirit,” and had dreamed of having a business of her own
Finally, last March, she decided to stop dreaming about it and take the plunge by opening Blue Ribbon Bakery. Thanks to the state’s labyrinthine laws and licensing procedures, it took Bennett a while to get her new business up and running.
“I had to get ordinance permission and go through the state for the permit,” Bennett said. “I also had to register with the state, but late last March, I started it up pretty much on a shoestring budget.”
Bennett has been counting heavily on word of mouth and social media to get the word out about her baking business, and so far, that seems to be working. She has enough business to keep her busy part time, at any rate.
Fiercely dedicated to supporting and promoting local business, Bennett has done what she can to partner with other local businesses toward the betterment of both. For instance, once a week she sets up a small sales stand at Belding Hardware.
Hardware customers shop with her and her bakery customers frequently buy things at the hardware store.
“My customers add to his business and his adds to mine,” Bennett said. “It’s beneficial to both of us.”
Bennett also spent much of last summer frequenting farmer’s markets with her home crafted treats and plans to have a booth set up at this year’s Winterfest in Lakeview, set for Feb.22. She will have booths at both Lakeview Middle School and the Lutheran church.
Because of state cottage laws, Bennett’s wares must be baked goods that are not temperature sensitive, such as breads, pies and cookies. If she does decide to expand the business, which, she says, is always a possibility, she might branch out into other products. But for now, she’s more than happy with the amount of work that’s coming her way.
“It’s been about as good as I want it to be,” she said. “I’m at a point now where I have to decide if I want to keep doing what I’m doing or do I want to go to the next level, which would be opening a storefront and preparing things in a commercial setting.
“I am very happy with how my business has grown in the past year. I have had the privilege to bake for special events, such as graduation open houses, birthday parties, weddings, school parties, employee appreciate events, holiday gift giving and even Belding High School’s Marching Redskins band camp last summer. We also developed a loyal following at many farm markets last summer.”
More information about the bakery is available by calling Bennett at (616) 255-7146 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.