To do the work you love, you’ve got to unlock a few doors. UNLOCKED Stories are honest conversations with 20 and 30-somethings who chose a path + made it happen.
A note from Ellen: I’m thrilled to spotlight Anna and Lenore of Three Babes Bakeshop in today’s installment of UNLOCKED Stories.
These two women have overcome incredible challenges, together ― they’re a perfect example of what real friendship + partnership is all about.
Read on, and don’t miss the powerful reflection questions at the very end.
And if you happen to live in the Bay area, visit these gals at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, every Saturday ― their pies are simply amazing!
What do you do?
[Lenore / Anna]: We own Three Babes Bakeshop ― a pie shop in San Francisco.
(The name is a bit of a misnomer ― there are actually only 2 of us! But that’s a story for another interview…)
We bake seasonal pies using local, organic, sustainably grown ingredients.
We’ve been super lucky with press and have been honored as one of America’s best pie-makers in a whole bunch of magazines, including Food+Wine, The Huffington Post, Saveur, Travel+Leisure, Bon Appetit, Rachael Ray Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Esquire, as well as on The Cooking Channel and The Today Show.
Where did the original idea for your pie shop come from?
Lenore: We have been best friends since childhood, and we used to bake together all the time, just for fun.
We both went away to different colleges, but kept in touch … and we always talked about starting a food business together.
A few years after college, after a few career twists + turns, I moved back to San Francisco to start a business. I picked San Francisco so I could be close to my mother, who was battling cancer.
Anna was already living in San Francisco ― so, for the first time since high school, we were both living in the same place. Anna decided to start a business with me- which was wonderful on so many levels.
After shuffling through LOTS of ideas, we decided on pies because they’re one of the foods that we loved making with our families when we were younger (who doesn’t love pies, right?) and we believed that pies would give us a way to create a business that reflected our values. We decided to keep that first summer low-commitment and just do a pop-up pie shop for a few months and see how it went.
What were you doing before you founded Three Babes?
Anna: After college, I worked for a small chain of organic grocery stores. Then I went to culinary school. And after that, I tried to start my own Mexican restaurant. It didn’t get off the ground, so I moved back to San Francisco and started working for a natural foods co-op. And then … it was pies!
Lenore: I had a much more eclectic career path than Anna. I worked as a luxury wedding planner in New York, in solar sales and marketing at Chevron, as a substitute Spanish teacher … at one point, I even had a job at Google!
After bouncing around for several years, I realized that I was unhappy working at corporate jobs. I really wanted to become my own boss. I wanted to find work that gave me a sense of purpose, and entrepreneurship turned out to be the right fit.
What was your biggest “locked door” moment?
Lenore: Opening a bakery is not cheap ― or easy.
It takes a lot of money and an incredible amount of energy + persistence to get things going.
For a long time, it was really hard to make enough money to pay ourselves a decent salary. And then, right at the end of our first year in business, my father died. Then my mother ― who was dying of cancer ― lost her home.
No matter what kind of career you choose, that kind of grief + loss can seriously knock you off course.
I’m so grateful that I had my best friend + business partner, Anna, right by my side. We cared for my mother as she died, and somehow, we kept the business going. It was exhausting. There were many, many moments where we considered calling it quits.
But you didn’t quit. How did you get through that dark time … and find the courage to keep going?
Lenore: After my mom died, we closed up the pie shop for a few weeks and I took a trip back to the East Coast to meet with some friends and mentors.
During that break, Anna and I both realized that even though our pie shop wasn’t where we wanted it to be yet, we had built something really beautiful. We’d worked so hard, and we had every reason to be proud.
So, we decided to stick with it and get back to business.
Running the shop is still an incredible amount of work, for not-too-much money, but we love it.
Every day, we just roll up our sleeves + keep baking those pies!
You’ve already overcome so many challenges, together. What’s the next big door that you need to unlock?
[Lenore / Anna]: Our next big step is opening up our first brick + mortar pie shop here in San Francisco.
Up until this point, we’ve been working out of a rented commercial kitchen space, baking pies and then selling them at farmer’s martkets, or delivering them to local businesses. But there wasn’t anywhere for our customers to gather + hang out!
We’re looking forward to finally having a “coffee shop”-style community space where people can get together and enjoy our pies, seven days a week!
Getting our own space requires a significant amount of money, so lately, a lot of our work has been figuring out how to fund our growth.
This will completely change our business model ― but we’re so ready!
Last but not least: what’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to stay motivated, do amazing work and unlock major doors?
[Lenore / Anna]: For us, running a successful business is all about relationships.
Relationships with friends, mentors, people in your community, and of course, with your customers.
When you surround yourself with positive, encouraging people, it will absolutely impact the work that you do ― and help you get through hard times, too.
Seek out people who are already on their path, doing great work.
You’ll get inspired … and eventually? You will find your own way.
Three questions to think about, write about — or talk about with a friend.
1. Anna and Lenore have been friends since childhood, and they loved baking treats together … even way back in high school.
: What’s something you loved to do when you were younger? Have you ever dreamed about turning that passion into a business, or a side-business?
2. After Lenore’s mom passed away, Anna and Lenore closed up their shop for a few weeks and took a break, to see if staying in business was really what they both wanted. Soon, they found clarity ― and got back to work.
: Are you long overdue for a break? How could you give yourself a little extra “down time” to rest, breathe and get clarity, this week?
3. The gals from Three Babes Bakeshop believe that surrounding yourself with positive, encouraging people is THE secret to success.
: Who are three people who love you ― and support you unconditionally ― no matter what? (Maybe it’s time to say “thank you” for all the support!)
For more UNLOCKED interviews, click over here.
Know somebody that ought to be spotlighted? Write to me here.
See you next time for another inspiring conversation!