Written by Arkansas Real Estate
This week we caught up with our dear friends, Denise Hahn and Melissa Monroe, co-owners of Sweet D'z Express. Let us forewarn you, the pictures in this blog will make your mouth water and your sweet tooth crave some of their goodies. Denise and Melissa have been the definition of a "start-up success" that has boomed here in Northwest Arkansas, and their business has grown exponentially over the last three years. We appreciate you both taking time to chat with us this week, and thank you for all you do to bring sweetness to our community!
Denise, tell us the history of how Sweet D'z Express got started...
For many years, I was a FedEx carrier but I had always loved to bake. I would bake for the guys at the FedEx station, and it turns out I was pretty good at it. They would request more goodies, and they were my testing lab, if you will.
Along my route, I loved getting to know the various people in the community and often times I would find myself dreaming of "what I was going to be when I grew up" and the idea that I could combine something I loved in baking and watching people enjoy the things I made seemed like a dream job. I began planning, and got my ducks in a row. In 2010, I left FedEx and went to culinary school in Kansas City. My idea at that time was to come back and have a food truck here in Northwest Arkansas, but at the time our community really had not bought into the food truck movement, so I decided that I would reframe the idea with more of a corporate strategy in catering to company parties, events, etc.
When I came back to Northwest Arkansas, I knew I needed to find someone who could help me with the business side of our operations, the accounting, etc. and I had met Melissa through her husband at FedEx. I knew she was a well-organized and a business savvy gal and she was looking to go back to work after her children were school-aged, so I asked if she might have an interest in helping part-time. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and business partnership, and we both decided at that point to go in 50/50.
In 2011, we found out we could begin baking out of my home under “The Cottage Law” and we began forming several relationships through the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce. We developed a business plan that focused on business to business marketing and networking. Our greatest marketing tool was letting people taste our goodies, which started with a lot of cinnamon rolls. In fact, to date, we have baked over 10,000 of them.
We began selling products in numerous restaurants like Crabby's in Rogers. However, our focus was in selling baked goods - cookies, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bars, etc. and through a complete happenstance we began making cakes, and now that is what we are most known for.
Within six months, we had outgrown baking under The Cottage Law, and the need for a commercial kitchen was necessary.
On April 1, 2012 we moved into our commercial kitchen in Bentonville. We have now expanded to a staff of four, and are producing items for various restaurants, individuals, and companies. The demand is high, and we are thankful to be a part of the growth.
All of our cakes and items are made from scratch. We don't use mixes, and we don't cut corners. For instance, our butter cream takes six hours a week to make. People come to us for some of their most exciting and happiest moments. We get to celebrate with our clients during birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and special events. So when we make our products, we make them with love. We also have several gluten free, dairy free, egg-free, and vegan products that we can make. Both Denise and I have food allergies, so it is important to us that we are able to accommodate all of our clients needs and still make sure they have a wonderful celebration.
As Denise mentioned, when we first started we did not expect to become known for our cakes, and I had never planned to become a part of the creating process of our products, however one day Denise was working on creating some custom cupcakes and asked me for help on the design of an owl, of all things, and I loved it.
For me, someone who majored in Math, I had never planned to do anything in this spectrum but I really enjoy it.
We now say, Denise does the yummy and I do the pretty. She bakes the great goodies, and I take the blank canvas and add the aesthetic touch.
We now are roughly 3-5 weeks out on our cake orders, and one of the things we will be working on as we continue to grow is expanding our cakes since the demand is so high.
What are some of the recent awards and acknowledgements Sweet D'z Express has achieved?
In January, we won Small Business of the Month from the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, and we are a nominee for their Small Business of the Year Award.
In September, we entered the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show which is in the top three baking shows/competitions in the nation. It was our first time to ever enter, and Denise took first place for the baking division with her chocolate carrot cake.
Melissa entered the professional division of the tiered non-wedding cakes for decorating and took third place for her design. We were extremely excited and pleased with the results.
We also found out that we were selected as Northwest Arkansas' Best Bakery for 2014 by Celebrate Magazine.
We are so honored for these awards and are continuously blown away by the community's support.
What is ahead for Sweet D'z Express?
We have a lot of dreams ahead. In the immediate we know that we will be expanding our gluten free products and our cakes.
Eventually, we will need a bigger space as we continue to expand and something with better visibility and accessibility that has some seating options is definitely our hope as we look to the future.
For now, we are just continuing to care about our clients and make their special moments true celebrations. We also have always had a heart for giving back to our community and support some very worthy causes such as Souls Harbor and Havenwood, which we plan to continue to be involved with as we grow.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to be in Northwest Arkansas. Please let us know if you need goodies or cakes for your special events, holidays, parties, etc. Our website is http://sweetdzbakery.com/ and we are located at 1912 S. Walton Blvd. in Bentonville.