Helene Godin worked as a high-powered attorney for over two decades, and as much as she loved it, in 2010 she was burnt-out and wanted to make a change.
What did she do?
Years before pivoting became a trend, she started a bakery.
“I quit my job on a Friday with no plan,” Godin shares. “And I was going out of my mind after a mere four days away from work – including a Saturday and a Sunday! So I came up with this crazy idea that I was going to open a gluten-free bakery. Even though my family rightly pointed out that I didn’t know how to bake.”
Godin says she didn’t see her complete lack of experience in the kitchen as an obstacle, which may not make sense. Once you get to know her, though, you realize that it was no obstacle at all.
Godin spent the first eight months after leaving the corporate world experimenting in her home kitchen. Keeping lawyer’s hours, she worked from seven in the morning until nine at night seven days a week, teaching herself to bake. She focused on developing recipes that were gluten-free and dairy-free. Using the “bake-bite-throw out” method, she worked tirelessly until she achieved her goal – products that tasted as good if not better than their conventional counterparts.
During that same period, she threw herself into cost analysis, store design, branding, customer service, and more.
Godin recalls, “I didn’t want to buy a business, and I didn’t want to hand everything over to consultants. I made sure my hand was on all the elements of the endeavor from the biggest to the smallest. Because whether it succeeded or failed, I wanted By the Way Bakery to reflect my vision.”
The first By the Way Bakery opened its doors in 2011 with a 400 square foot storefront and a 400 square foot kitchen in the back. Now, the company has four retail locations. You can also find By the Way Bakery’s baked goods in eighty Whole Foods Markets throughout the Northeast and New England. And there’s more growth on the horizon.
Godin’s drive and determination aren’t the only reasons for her success. Ten years in, it’s her willingness to continually reexamine every aspect of the business to see if there’s a way to do it better. “I know there’s no one right way of doing things. Sometimes, even the smallest change can reap a huge reward.”
She’s also obsessed with quality. “Whether you’re buying a single cookie or a thousand-dollar wedding cake,” Godin says, “our goal is to delight you and keep you coming back for more.” She’s been known to stop strangers on the street who are carrying a By the Way Bakery shopping bag to say, “I’m so excited that you’re bringing my baked goods home.”
Are the strangers surprised?
“Probably, because it’s New York,” Godin laughs. “But I’m four-foot-ten inches tall, so I’m not exactly threatening.”
Godin is proud that her company survived the pandemic without laying off a single employee. “When we didn’t have enough customers, we baked for the camera,” she says. “The decorators created magical cakes that we added to our portfolio.”
But now, with the world reopening, her employees are incredibly busy. Her custom cakes are selling better ever, and with so many weddings postposed for 18 months, the bakery’s wedding cake business has exploded.
Godin says that she is logging as many hours as when she was practicing law, but she finds herself so much happier than she did in the final stages of her legal career. And the fact that By the Way Bakery has more and more customers every day?
For Godin, that’s the icing on the cake.