Every week The Grindstone interviews an influential woman in the world of business. We scour our brains and hearts to come up with strong, successful women who not only inspire us, but will also inspire you. No industry is off limits, no interview subject too controversial.
Like many women, Mia Bauer had loved baking as a child on her parents’ farm in Israel but never really considered pursuing it as a career. After college she went to law school and then worked as a legislative counsel in Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s administration, aiding in writing bills that eventually were put into law. Baking was still a hobby at that point but Mia and her then-boyfriend, entrepreneur Jason Bauer, wanted to turn it into something more. They opened up the first CRUMBS Bake Shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2003, featuring a menu of Mia’s specialty: really big, delicious cupcakes with amazing icing toppings (I may be a little biased considering I am an icingaholic).
Those delicious cupcakes led to that one CRUMBS store becoming a national neighborhood bakery with 35 locations and the largest US-based retailer of cupcakes. Inc.,named Crumbs one of its 10 Breakout Companies in 2010 and earlier this year Jason and Mia received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in the Retail and Consumer Products category. Now married to Jason with two young kids at home, Mia opened up to us about changing careers, embracing her passion and working with her husband.
What is the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in your career? Finding a balance. Luckily, having to be up at the crack of dawn with two little ones pays off in the world of running your own business, but it is always hard to make sure that Jason and I have family time as well as our time in the office.
What is the most important piece of advice anyone has ever given you? I was taught to never believe that something is impossible. While I never imagined that my little bakery on the Upper West Side of Manhattan would turn into this, I also have never shied away from doing what I love and giving the business world a shot.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to women who have their eye on eventually reaching the executive level, what would it be? Surrounding yourself with a great team is so important. Not only do I have Jason with me every step of the way, but we have five amazing district managers as well as a fantastic director of store operations. Its hard to be everywhere and do everything I’d like to for CRUMBS, especially now with a family at home. In the beginning, Jason and I were like passing ships, working at the bakery in some way, shape, or form 24 hours a day. Today, I’m lucky enough to know that I work with people I can trust who truly understand the CRUMBS mentality.
What was your first job?
My first job was actually in a bakery at age 13 and I never could get the string boxing machine right, but I was fascinated with all the baking going on. Years later, I began my career as a lawyer doing political and legislative work for the New York City Council. After six years of working there, while Jason and I were just dating, I realized my passion for baking was something I couldn’t ignore. While I never had any professional baking training, I thought with my creativity and Jason’s business experience we could really make something of this little hobby. We jumped right in without giving me much time to second guess if this was a logical career choice. I can happily say I have no regrets.
What personality traits of yours would you say contribute to your success?
Well, besides my limitless appetite for desserts, I would have to stay a strong sense of self. Starting a new business is like having a child, and it will bring about every challenge imaginable. Being sure of your convictions and confident in yourself is essential, and especially who you’re working with, makes all the difference in the world.