December 2, 2021
Shelley Gupta & Carla Medina Jacobson
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 September Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Shelley Gupta and Carla Medina Jacobson, co-founders of BāKIT Box.
They are the tenth qualifiers for the 2021 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Shelley and Carla for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Welcome everyone to a chat with our latest Amber Grant winner. Today, we’re speaking with Shelley Gupta and Carla Medina Jacobson, who are Co-Founders of BāKIT Box. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, a WomensNet Advisory Board member. So Carla and Shelley — tell us about your business. Tell us about BāKIT Box, and what services you provide.
Carla: BāKIT Box is an all-inclusive baking kit. What that means is that you order a box and you get everything you need for one recipe. So for example, if you ordered our brownies, you would get everything already included in that mix and you would just bake it yourself at home.
WomensNet: Can you show us a sample?
Shelley: Absolutely. I actually have our classic pretzel recipe in front of me. So what you get in your box is a recipe card that looks like this, with all of the steps included and pictures of what the steps are to make it really easy. And then in your box, you’d get all the ingredients pre-measured. So it’ll look something like this. You have your yeast, your salt, your sugar, or your flour in this case for the pretzel recipe. And it’s all pre-measured. So there’s no mess and no waste, and you can bake from scratch at home.
WomensNet: Tell us about where we can find BāKIT Box.
Carla: Yeah. So we have a website, and right now we are delivering into the Chicagoland and the greater Midwest area. So even some cities like Milwaukee, or some cities in Michigan as well. Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana… but primarily Chicago, today. And you can also soon find us in grocery stores in the Chicagoland area as well.
WomensNet: So you mentioned pretzels. I know I saw chocolate chip cookies and brownies. What other kinds of recipes are there?
Shelley: Yeah. We also focus a lot on cultural and diverse bakes. And so right now we actually have our first gluten-free cranberry oatmeal cookie on the menu right now. We also have an enamel bar, which is like a chocolate custard bar, that is known as a snack in Canada. And we’ve done a lot of different cuisines and ethnic items on our menu that we rotate on a monthly basis.
WomensNet: How did you come up with this idea?
Carla: We did a lot of baking over the pandemic, as a lot of people have. One thing that I found as I was baking was that I had so much flour and sugar leftover. I’m pretty sure I still have chocolate leftover from a cake I baked for my husband at one point. Then I was like, ‘there’s gotta be an easier way to get the ingredients that you want’. And, another thing was just the recipes. So when you look up a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, there’s like a hundred different opinions as to what’s the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I’m like, it’d be a lot easier if someone gave you everything plus the recipe in one place and you don’t have to go through the depths of the internet to find a good recipe.
WomensNet: Who is your target market for the boxes?
Carla: It’s people like us. So we found that a lot of people, young professionals, really love this because again, you don’t have to store all that flour. You don’t have to take up room in your pantry, in an apartment, in a big city. And then there’s other folks like, young families. So I actually have a three week old now, and I can’t wait to start baking with him eventually. But yeah, so young families really love to do this and grandparents/grandkids. That’s kind of where we found our little niche right now. And it’s really because we are an alternative for an activity that you would otherwise do with your family.
WomensNet: Awesome. Well, it certainly reminds me of the subscription meal boxes that I get on a regular basis, but you don’t have to subscribe to get a monthly shipment, right. You can just buy as you want, right?
Carla: You can do both now. So you can do a la cart where you get different recipes. You can pick whatever you want, but then we’re also doing subscriptions as well.
WomensNet: So tell me how you heard about the Amber Grant, and what made you decide to apply?
Shelley: We heard about this even before Carla and I went into business together. It was always kind of a goal on our list as we would scroll through the finalists and the winners. We actually applied a few times, and I encourage people to do that as well. We’ve grown a lot in the last year and we’ve put our application in a couple of times and, you know, we felt really strongly about our company and our growth. So we’re really, really, really excited to have been chosen for September.
WomensNet: How are you going to use the $10,000?
Shelley: It’s so critical. So again, we’re so thankful — the $10,000 is going to actually go directly towards our retail investment. So as Carla mentioned, we’re going into stores for next month, around Thanksgiving, in the Chicagoland area. And there’s a big upfront investment that’s involved in getting into retail stores because you have to prove your concept before you even make a sale. So, it’s going directly towards all of the inventory, all of the custom packaging and demo, demo kits and demo sales that we can provide stores to secure our spot on the shelves and also to provide some samples for our first launch around Thanksgiving.
WomensNet: So looking ahead, what are some of the future plans that you have for the business?
Shelley: As Carla mentioned, we just launched our subscriptions, which is a new feature and channel for us where you can go in and pick as many kits as you’d like on a monthly basis. We are also working with pastry chefs on developing some really, really great holiday and seasonal items that will be coming out for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, as well as beyond, into 2022. We’re really excited because we’re also going to be working with pastry chefs in the Chicagoland area to create some more unique, and special recipes that are coming from some known names in the Chicagoland area for exclusive ideas and exclusive ways to bake at home.
WomensNet: So you’ve really made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. Do you have any advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Shelley: I would say it’s really, really important to be passionate about your idea and work really hard at it. But I think what’s helped Carla and I especially is having really great mentors and people, not only women, but men and other executives that are in your field or have touched your field and can really, really help you hone in on the idea and get really smart. [And] practice your pitch, practice your messaging and your verbiage, and just be really, really sharp. It’s challenging. There’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot of other entrepreneurs competing, potentially, in the same space. So definitely mentorship, definitely practice and keep working hard at it.
Carla: And I think just saying yes to anything that’s thrown your way. We’ve talked to a lot of folks who have said, ‘have you talked to this person?’ Or can I send you this list of potential people to talk to? And you just say yes, and you say, thanks. Just be very, very open and accepting, because you never know which is going to be the right door.