The holiday tradition of building and decorating gingerbread houses inspired crafty Mom, Cheryl Albers, to try her hand at making houses from scratch and throwing decorating parties. Immediately, party and gingerbread house requests started coming in from friends and friends of friends. Cheryl had uncovered a demand, where people not only wanted to continue the holiday tradition, but also wanted fresh, homemade gingerbread that wasn’t just edible, but tastes great. “I truly sell fun,” said Cheryl. “Young, old, who doesn’t love decorating a gingerbread house?”
The demand for the houses sent Cheryl looking for a place to expand beyond her home kitchen and she landed on Main Street in Oregon City. Gingerbread Traditions, Inc. ran operations from there for eight years. Yet the small footprint provided many challenges, including that pallets had to be loaded and stored outside prior to pick up. In a state known for its rainy weather, this proved to be unpractical.
Now, 15 years after throwing her first party, Cheryl is settled in a 3,200 square foot space with six employees. Over the years Cheryl has morphed her seasonal business into a year round affair. Through developing new products like chocolate gingerbread pirate ships and sugar cookie princess castles and contracting with local schools to produce cookies, the demand for Gingerbread Traditions continues to grow.
Cheryl had visited SBA Resource Partners before for mentoring when she needed help with marketing and determining where to relocate. When Cheryl heard about the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Initiative, she thought it seemed like a great way to figure out what was next for Gingerbread Traditions. Despite having a degree in business and years of experience, Cheryl thought it was time for her to actually step back and work on her business.
The Emerging Leaders Initiative is a federal training initiative that specifically focuses on executives of businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities. The initiative provides these executives with the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote economic development within urban communities.
Cheryl’s efforts at working on the business are paying off. Gingerbread Traditions recently fulfilled their biggest wholesale order yet, 80 pallets, which were sent to a chain of hotels across the country. Gingerbread Traditions is seeing a rapid growth in both new wholesale orders and smaller orders from the public. The increase in demand has Cheryl expecting to outsell 2012’s record of 30,000 houses.
“The Emerging Leaders Program really helped me to evaluate my business from the outside,” said Cheryl. “I’m looking at my business differently now, instead of seeing where it will take me, I can’t wait to see where I can take it next.”