We had the good fortune of connecting with Lara White and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lara, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Baking for me started as just a way to relax and take my mind off school, and as a way to share tasty treats with friends throughout college and grad school. All along I’d get people asking if I sold these baked goods I was making, and telling me I should start a business. I honestly resisted turning my stress relieving past-time into a potential stress-inducing business for years. I didn’t want to loose the magic and fun of baking and creating by putting obligation and a price tag on things I made. Though in the last year or so I’d been warming up to the idea of taking orders and testing the waters to see if I could maintain the joy I find in baking. For the last 4 years I’ve been baking desserts and donating them every week for the More Than a Meal program at The Joy Bus, with very few missed weeks. That really allowed me to expand and play more creatively with what I bake and allowed an outlet for all the desserts! Then earlier this year I made a quick batch of Blueberry Jam to use as a filling for some vanilla cupcakes I made for my birthday bake for The Joy Bus. I’m allergic to blueberries (even though I love them), so I brought the extra two jars of jam to The Joy Bus Diner when I delivered the cupcakes to share with the folks there. A week or so later they said they liked my jam and asked if I could make jam to supply the diner (their previous supplier retired and they needed jam to serve with breakfasts served at the diner). I thought I could give it a shot – I’d been making small-batch jams for gifts, bakes, personal use for a couple years now and they were delicious so why not share that with others and see what they think of them. So PErIODyC BaKEr was started. Initially I just supplied the Joy Bus Diner with jam for serving and the plan was to make some smaller 1/2-pint jars too and sell them at the diner to customers as well. Then Covid-19 hit and all restaurants closed, so selling at the diner has been put on hold for now and I worked on navigating selling online (made my website and store there, and tried building the Facebook and Instagram pages up.) I had also hoped to start with making and selling jams. preserves, fruit butters, and marmalade and grow to include taking orders for my baked goods – I’ve done some of that on an order by order basis. Long story short really is it took me a long time to go for it and take the leap to start a business, did it right as a pandemic was kicking up, and now I’m still working on it.
What should our readers know about your business?
With PErIODyC BaKEr, I make small-batch, handmade, fruit-forward jams, preserves, fruit butters, and marmalade as well as baked goods (cookies, brownies, pastries, sweet breads, cakes/cupcakes, & more). Flavor and texture of my jams are super important to me and I strive to make jam that tastes like the fruit on the label and use quality in season fruits for the best flavor possible. I also love to play with non traditional jam flavors (for example my Bourbon Peach Jam, Blueberry Earl Grey Jam, and Nectarine Cardamom Preserves) and add that unique twist that makes people eager to try a flavor combination that maybe they hadn’t thought of before. I also take pride in finding ways of incorporating my jams into my baking and in savory applications and hearing what different ways customers have used my jams (like dipping coconut shrimp in my Bourbon Peach Jam). Business-wise, I feel PErIODyC BaKEr is still just starting to find its way and it has been a very bumpy road. Starting a business as a pandemic was taking hold in this country has been very difficult. Everything I initially planned to get my name out there and get my jam into the hands of customers was utterly thrown out the window and stuff I was planning to do down the line a bit was pushed to the front of the queue. Suddenly navigating making a website and selling via the site and social media took precedence because I made all this jam to sell in person at The Joy Bus Diner and suddenly everything was closed and that wasn’t an option anymore. So the learning curve got very steep, but I’ve got the website now with the store (that I’ll be adding my holiday jams to here soon) and it works (periodycbaker.com)! I’m not the most internet/social media savvy person so making a website and maintaining it is frustrating but with help and a lot of trial and error I think it’s better than I could have hoped for in the beginning. Lessons learned: It takes a lot of trial & error, and perseverance to get going and faith in your product and its quality. Patience – sales don’t roll in immediately, it takes time to get not only the idea of the product out there but to get positive word of mouth out there to grow your customer base. And most importantly, the lessons are never over, there’s always more to know and new things to experience and learn. This business journey is really just starting for me so I know there is a ton of stuff waiting for me to learn! I mostly want people to know I honestly love to bake and make jam. I love putting a smile of indulgence on people’s faces when they try something I’ve made. I want anything I make to taste amazing, be of quality, and be that “hit the spot” treat for whoever enjoys it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a homebody mostly but I do enjoy a few places. Welcome Diner near downtown. I’m absolutely in love with that place – the food is amazing, the atmosphere is perfect (from the patio seating to all the decor inside on the walls to look at), the drinks are quite tasty (I’m a fan of the Jitterbug cocktail), but the pies…oh my the pies, sometimes I order one slice of each type available that day (I would love to learn from the genius who creates those pies!). Being a baker I’m around sweets and baked goods a lot and I don’t often get dessert when I go out because I get enough sweet smells and tastes just making my own so when I find somewhere that has amazing dessert that says a lot. The Joy Bus Diner. When they reopen, I may eat there everyday for a week or two, haha! I miss their breakfast and the atmosphere there a lot. The people make you feel like family, the food is absolutely delicious, and it all supports a fantastic cause. Not much better than that. La Piazza al Forno for pizza in downtown Glendale. Thin crust, Neapolitan-style pizza with gooey cheese, not too much sauce, and super hot out of the oven! Probably my favorite pizza, and I end up there often when the craving for pizza strikes! I’m a huge fan of music – all genres and time periods. The one thing I miss the most right now that has shut down entirely due to the pandemic is live music – whether it be a large arena tour show of P!nk, a smaller theater show or going to a local bar and seeing a smaller artist or band working on making it bigger – I miss everything about live music and how wonderful it made me feel. But say things were improving and things were opening back up: I’d take a friend to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) to explore all things music – instruments from around the world, influential people, and their special exhibitions. The acoustics in their theater are amazing as well, so seeing a performance there is wonderful. Hiking would also probably be involved. A trip over to Camelback Mountain, or a day trip up to Sedona for some sites and get cooler weather, or down to Tucson to hike in the Catalina Mountains. And then there should also be a picnic mid way through a hike so that you can just be in nature and enjoy the surroundings.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Jennifer Caraway and the folks at The Joy Bus. They’ve always been so welcoming and encouraging of my baking and jam. They give me honest feedback and without them I wouldn’t have taken the leap and started PErIODyC BakEr. Several friends of mine who’ve over the years encouraged and requested I start this business. In particular a shout out to my friends Paul and Michelle Switzer, fellow small business owners in Tucson (Switzer Family Chiropractic), who had the idea for the name periodic baker based on my background in chemistry and my love of baking (I just added the nerdy flair and spelled it out of periodic table elements so it now reads PErIODyC BaKEr) and they were also excellent testers for many bakes while I lived in Tucson. Finally, my mom, Elayne White. She taught me to bake, she’s my partner in crime for road trip adventures, and is always there with business advice and support while I’ve gotten PErIODyC BaKEr started (she even helps me clean up the dishes when I’ve spent all day baking!). I honestly couldn’t have started my business without her help. Thanks mom!