Updated: Aug 5, 2022
The issue of diversity in the restaurant industry isn't scrutinized enough. Black and Brown people indeed hold a disproportionate number of the industry's lowest-paying jobs. They are more likely to work in low-paying, quick service or back-of-house positions, with limited opportunities for upward mobility. This is something that Auzerais Bellamy personally experienced as a fine dining pastry chef in some of the most renowned restaurants in the world. She left the prestigious kitchens of Bouchon Bakery, French Laundry, Per Se, and Danielle's in New York because she wasn't being challenged or promoted.
Auzerais said, "I kind of got fed up with the industry because there was no one in leadership positions that looked like me. All my bosses were either white women or white men, and I wanted to grow and be challenged, and excel in my industry. And I wasn't being given that opportunity after being with the company [Bouchon Bakery] for three and a half years. So I just left."
Auzerais started Blondery, a direct-to-consumer virtual bakery specializing in blondies by accident. For the last ten years, she's been perfecting her pecan and salted caramel blondies, sending them to family and friends. After announcing that she had created a website, she had 500 orders. She said, "It was a lot, but I was like, oh, this is something that they want and that the people will purchase. So then I just started growing from there and trying to scale the company."
But Blondery isn't only a bakery. It's a statement to the world. It's a moment to envision what it looks like to democratize fine cuisine and make the fine dining experience accessible to everyone—even at home. You'll experience this when you order a blondie that includes chic, classy packaging with a passion for flavor and quality.
What fears did you have along the journey?
Auzerais had several fears, such as someone stealing her idea and whether people would buy it or would they hate the product. She feared talking to people and selling her product. But most importantly, would people buy it at the price point she wanted?
She said, "I think that's something actually that a lot of people struggle with is pricing their goods for what they're worth, not what the market says they're worth, you know, or what you need to charge basically. And I talk to my followers a lot about that. It's running rampant, especially as a person of color. Like sometimes, we're afraid to charge. So I tell them, charge how much it will cost you, and double it so you can make a profit."
What's the biggest risk you've taken?
Hiring was a big risk for Auzerais. The hiring process leaves much room for uncertainty and the question if someone is trustworthy or not. Auzerais also wondered if someone would steal her ideas and, most importantly could she support a new hiree's salary. Last year, she had to fire three people and has had some not-so-positive outcomes with the hiring process. Hiring and delegating is a different space for most entrepreneurs who are accustomed to being solo.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Blondery?
Auzerais is proud of taking the risk to launch a business during the pandemic. In 2019 her company generated $14k, yet in 2022 they did $208k. The complexities of what was happening worldwide inspired people to support more Black-owned businesses, and she thought it would be temporary. But Blondery continued to explode, and she went from having a job and Blondery to stepping into it full time. Even through the flour and sugar shortage, her business pushed through. She's grateful for the growth and is excited to serve new and regular customers.
So tell us about any major setbacks and how you recovered.
Early in the business, with rampant orders coming in, Blondery had to move all her supplies from a kitchen she leased in eight days. Finding a turnkey bakery in New York City posed a severe challenge. Restaurants have kitchens. However, not all can handle baked goods, especially to that volume.
The space she found was two hours away from New York, and she had large commercial products that required a specialty move. Their mixer alone weighs 1,500lbs. They had to purchase specialty freezers and refrigeration. The move caused them $30k. They raised $5k, and she gave $6k to her kitchen manager because they didn't have a vehicle to make the two-hour commute. Because of this setback, it took them months to recover. But they had to continue to move forward because some of their biggest months for orders were up ahead.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Auzerais has pitched before. However, it was a long time ago. They didn't make it through the first round. Then a spot opened up, giving Blondery the opportunity they needed. She said, "The day before the first practice call. And again, when an opportunity presents itself, we have to go for it. Because I'm like, oh, the prize is $10,000. And you know, we just went through this move. I'm definitely going to do this."
She had the confidence, but condensing everything about her business in 3-minutes was the challenge. Auzerais said, "I think the practice pitches were super helpful. Feedback from the other founders who have participated and run their own companies was super helpful. And I mean, the day of, I was nervous, but I felt very prepared. And I think that the pitch wasn't even the hard part, though. It was getting people to vote for you after.
I saw that your network really does play a huge part in your success. And I was texting people I haven't talked to in years, like, Hey, can you please vote for me? That taught me to keep those relationships fresh because some people just didn't respond to the text, you know?
I'm working on sending out a happy new year's text. I've never been that person. Because if I don't have anything important to say, I don't want to take up your time, but I realize that that's kind of important when you need something from someone, such as $5 for them to vote for you so you can win $10k. That's very important to have those relationships and those connections fresh. I'm actually working on it right now, sending out holiday gifts to some of my biggest supporters this year.
I made some cannabis-infused blondies, some body butter, and some soap like I just made a few different things because your network really does play a huge part in you winning things like this and getting people to do something for you."
Her advice to those looking to pitch is to start networking now and building authentic relationships or nurture the ones that you have. She said, "Start buttering people up now. You don't have to mention that you're doing a pitch competition yet. Just start saying, hey, how are you doing? Saw you got a new puppy or saw you had a baby like you really just have to start doing that right now. And I think that, even if they don't respond, at least you have reached out, and networking is about building relationships."
For founders to raise money and grow, she believes they need a tribe of loyal followers and fans because each supporter brings something different. Auzerais said, "It's really important for people to take their tribe seriously and start exercising that muscle of getting to know people who are on your same level. Maybe not even on your level and even higher, like you need all three of them, all three of those tiers of people. I wish someone had told me that."
She thanks her network for the growth of her company. The kitchen space Auzerais secured was through her network. The crowdfunding for the move, every part of her business directly resulted from hard work and relationship building. She recommends that entrepreneurs not take anything personally and keep pushing forward in their business.
Auzerais encourages entrepreneurs to be bold and courageous in pursuing their dreams. She said, "Because sometimes I hear people, or I don't want to be that person handing out business cards everywhere I go. But you never know, like you never know. And you have to hustle and treat every day like you don't have it. Like, don't get comfortable. You got X amount of dollars in your bank account. Treat every day like you don't have nothing in your bank account."
Auzerais used the pitch funds to rebuild her website, and because it's their slow season, she's using the money to help float the business to support her core staff. She's also considering entering the cannabis industry and making cannabis-infused treats and skincare.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Auzerais said, "I guess, when I was at Bouchon, like trying to move up the ranks, I was very disappointed in the industry because so the fine dining industry is made whole by the labor of Black people and people of color. So to see that they'll allow us in the kitchen, but you can't go past like a dishwasher or I was an anomaly because I advocate for myself so much.
I leave places where I'm not celebrated or being poured into because I believe that that's the job. An employer is not just, you know, to give you a paycheck, but also to pour into you. So I think the disappointment I felt from having to leave because I wasn't being challenged led me to create one of the best things I've ever created. I feel like Blondery; besides Caviar, my puppy is one of the things I can look to every day and be like, oh, I'm so proud of that. I'm proud of training Caviar, who's potty trained already, but I'm also very proud of Blondery and how it's grown."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Auzerais shared, "To not take things personally. I think that that probably holds so much more weight than people realize. Like it's so hard even to articulate all that encompasses it. But I think that fear makes you take things personally. So, a lot of self-development had to happen. Like in the form of therapy, in the form of taking that trip to Mexico in the form of having really honest conversations with friends and family.
And then also me meditating. It allows me to go out there and just go for it every single day and put out my best effort. It's a work in progress. I will not sit here and say I don't take anything personally. I definitely do. And I'm always having to check myself like, am I offended? Or am I triggered? Like what is it?
I think that is the biggest thing. Just like nothing that anyone does is a reflection of you. It's more so a reflection of how they feel about themselves that day. So even good or bad, if they're super nice to you, it's usually because they feel really good and celebrate that. But just know if they don't respond to your email, it's likely they didn't see it or have time. Like it's not because they don't wanna talk to you."
What is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
Auzerais immediately said, "You have to be able to eat s***. And get back up the next day and be like, I'm going to eat some more s***. You have to be okay for people to tell you no. And you don't even take it as a no, don't even take the no's. Take it as a try again later." She believes that people change over time, so what was a no before might be a yes later and always circle back. Auzerais is committed to playing the long game, and if it's something that she wants, she'll be patient and circle back, even if it's three years later.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Auzerais said, "The future is so big and vast for us. I just went to Per Se, which I don't know if you know that is, but they won the world's best restaurant a few times. And, you know, it was very underwhelming. I have had better meals, service, and drinks at some of my favorite places in Brooklyn.
I feel like our future, especially in the food industry, forget these people and their little list about how good this is supposed to be. They've created their own little game. Let them play their game. We really have a lot of opportunities, and they know it.
That's what I'm realizing. They know this, and that's why they don't include us on the list and stuff because they know that we do more with less. We do so much more with less. And I think that's why it's so important that we support each other because they'll support us, like under the table. But they're not going to be as vocal, but us supporting each other—and honestly, I have experienced so much of that. Don't believe the lie that Black women don't support Black women. Most of my customers are Black women. The most love I receive is from Black women and Black men. So I don't know where that lie is coming from, that we don't support each other, but it's totally not true."
How do you measure success?
Auzerais measures success by the flow of her day. She enjoys having freedom throughout her day to do what feels good to her. She enjoys not being under anybody's radar but her own. She said, "I measure success by my own personal visions that I've had and how much I have manifested this time in my life. Like I've manifested so much, and I'm so thankful.
I'm so grateful for the universe, God, and the people that have come into my life, the opportunities—I'm so grateful."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Auzerais enjoys packing the orders. She'll outsource most parts of her business but not this one. Blondery's packaging is classy, giving you that fine dining experience. She enjoys putting everything together, writing personalized notes, and seeing repeat customers. Auzerais loves to hand off the packages to FedEx.
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Blondery would love to raise $2 million. Auzerais envisions them moving into a production facility and having a storefront. She hopes to have hired more people and focus on the philanthropic aspect of Blondery. She also wants to create an externship so that students interested in the food industry can work for them and get paid.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Auzerais has a toolkit that she developed with her therapist. The toolkit includes meditation, journaling, taking a bath, cooking for herself, and going for walks. She makes sure she turns off her phone and gets plenty of rest. Auzerais is very focused on mental health. At one point, she had two therapists so she could understand various perspectives.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"If you want to take the island, burn the boats."
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Book: The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer
Podcast: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Google Calendar and Mixmax Chrome Extension for scheduling .
Name one food item you have a hard time saying no to.
Bagels or Ice Cream.
What's next for Blondery?
Auzerais said,"I want people to be eating a brownie or talking about brownies and say “Have you ever tried Blondery though?”