Holly's Sweet Treats Receives Small Business Award
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Congratulations to Holly Thomas with Holly’s Sweet Treats for receiving the April Small Business Award!
In 2010, Holly’s cousin was getting married in Beloit, Kansas, and she offered to make a cake as a gift, which turned out to be literally a cake wreck. However, two weeks later, one of her cousin’s best friends reached out telling her she loved the cake and asked her to make her wedding cake. Holly quickly began to practice, recreating her parents’ wedding cake for their 40th-anniversary celebration, and began baking mostly for friends and family. Through the years Holly has learned her craft through tips and tutorials on YouTube and Facebook, and she’s experienced a few more disasters that somehow worked out. More importantly, she has been commissioned to do many grand cakes that she is proud of, including replicating the Sports Arena, Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, Wesley Towers, and 2 Life-sized Stanley Cup Trophies.
Holly’s Sweet Treats is more than just a bakery–it is an experience. Holly specializes in creating and designing desserts with a creative and artistic flair to suit any and every occasion imaginable–from birthdays to weddings to corporate events, and everything in between. Holly’s Sweet Treats is located in the heart of Hutchinson’s downtown district and offers a large variety of specialty cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and desserts sized to customer requests. More recently, she has hired an experienced baker who has helped expand their baked breads to specialty artisan breads, including decorated Focaccia bread, braided Challah, Everything Seasoning bread bowls, Khachapuri (Turkish Bread boats), and much more!
In addition to baked goods, Holly Sweet Treats also serves lunch all day, catering to those who wish to dine-in or carry-out, and offers curbside service as well. Daily lunch offerings include sandwiches, egg casserole, bierocks, soup of the day, stuffed buns, and more. Additionally, Holly’s Sweet Treats caters to those with Vegetarian, Keto, and gluten-free needs with lunch and dessert options. Spring through fall, they offer soft-serve ice cream so customers can pick up a cone or a quart to-go with their birthday cake or treat. They also offer cake-decorating classes for adults and children.
In the bakery there is also a back room available for hosting meetings, small events, or birthday parties, complete with games and books and an area for kids to enjoy. Holly loves Hutchinson and wanted to create a space where people could come for fellowship, where they would feel welcome to sit and relax, meet with friends and family, and enjoy a sweet treat.
Overcoming adversity seems to be the Thomas mantra. When Holly left her full-time job in 2017 to open the storefront, they believed the bakery would be fully open and operational within six months. However, the opening date was postponed for nearly two years due to issues during the remodel of the building. While not ideal, it gave Holly time to dutifully construct a thorough business plan, grow her customer base, and hone her baking and decorating skills. Also during that time, a competitor opened a store about a block from their location, and one of her largest competitors opened a storefront on the north side of town shortly after she opened her storefront. While many would perceive competition as a major barrier, for Holly is has proven to be a compliment: when schedules are full, they refer customers to each other, they reach out to one another if they are short on products, packaging, or supplies, and they lean on each other when needed.
Their greatest challenge thus far has been COVID-19. In March 2020 when the NCAA canceled their tournament and NJCAA was uncertain, Holly knew something big was happening. She decided to shut her doors to the public and create an online store, which she launched on March 16th. Coincidentally, her husband left his job that same week, a move that enabled him to help her at the bakery and help with their kids’ online education. During the months of March and April, she had over $7,000 in custom cake, dessert, and food orders that canceled. However, she was raised with the philosophy that when you are faced with adversity, you pull up your bootstraps and put the work in to overcome it. Through her newly created online store, she was able to allow customers to buy products, including meals, cupcakes, and cookies, and choose a scheduled time to pick up their order. This model turned out to be quite successful and Holly said that despite all the challenges she’s faced, she knows she learned a lesson from each one and will continue to grow and thrive.
Holly had initially planned it would only be her working at the bakery with her mother and mother-in-law occasionally assisting. However, 18-months after opening the storefront, Holly’s Sweet Treats has nine part-time employees and four volunteers. Even though managing employees’ schedules, pay, personalities and skills have been challenging at times, it always works out. Most of her employees are high school and college-aged students and she invites them to be part of her business decisions. She is open with them about sales and expenses, providing them with knowledge about what it takes to run a business. Her employees are encouraged to offer suggestions for the business, from food offerings to marketing strategies, and have created a culture that is about honesty, fun, and growth.
While COVID-19 has impeded Holly’s physical involvement in the community, she has tried to find ways to give back since she can’t currently give her time. Every week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she donated 10% of sales to a local non-profit. She currently serves on the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber board and also volunteers at her children’s school.
Over the last few years, Holly has had to swiftly customize her product offerings and optimize them to satisfy her customers. Holly says she is still learning and pushes herself out of her comfort zone so she can continue to challenge herself and grow. In the end, she believes being flexible in business makes her resilient and better able to deal with issues and challenges that come her way.