Owning, operating and building a small business can be a marathon, not a sprint as April Sibley, founder of Magic City Baking Company, knows.
Sibley, 36, who graduated from Ramsay High School and Tuskegee University and Pepperdine University, said she has learned a lot over the past few years.
“My goal is to have a brick and mortar to not only have baked goods, but also a place of community gathering,” said Sibley, who founded her company in August 2015. “If you just want to have a cupcake and a cup of coffee and chill out, I want to create the atmosphere for you to do that.”
Sibley is familiar with marathons. She is currently preparing for December’s Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii, her first full marathon.
“I have about 80 days,” she said. “Running is a mental sport rather than a physical sport. I’ve done 10 half marathons and in this training, I have to prepare my mind to run longer. My preferred distance is 10K.”
Since she does not have a storefront yet, keeping up with everything associated with a small business can be a challenge, Sibley said.
“I expect to have orders during the holidays, but it’s the other months that don’t really have much going on,” she said. “So, I have to get creative with marketing and engaging customers to figure out how to sell my product.”
Sibley offers cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, cookies and various pastries.
“They’re a homemade taste, and that’s what makes them special,” she said.
Her company is a natural for her and can partly be traced back to a design cake for her daughter’s third birthday.
“For years prior to that, I had always been asked to make desserts and cakes for the family,” she said. “So I started taking cake decorating classes and became interested in doing more.”
Her daughter’s cake was her first project. It was a Hello Kitty themed cake and earned positive reviews. After that she made desserts for different people and decided to open Magic City Baking Company (MCBC) in August 2015 with the help of Co.Starter with REV Birmingham, a platform to help communities grow local business. Participants enter into a facilitator-led, collaborative process with a small and supportive group of like-minded peers.
Sibley said her grandmothers were always great cooks, but her maternal grandmother was a good baker.
“I would sit in the kitchen and watch her,” she said. “With older relatives you ask how to make something, and they say, ‘I don’t know, a cup of this, a pinch of that,’ so I sat and watched her, and learned from her.”
Sibley’s mother would also buy cookbooks and let her try recipes from scratch, she recalled.
“If it was good I’d make it again, and if not, I’d try something different,” she said.
Sibley, who was born and raised in Birmingham, said she wants to recreate the homemade feeling with MCBC.
“You can always go to Wal-Mart or Publix and get a themed cake,” she said. “What I want to bring forth through my products is that homemade nostalgia from when you ate something your mother or grandmother made, and reminds you of those happy times.”
Sibley’s background is engineering.
“The mixing and combining is fascinating,” she said. “I get to take my engineering background and marry it with the culinary side and it’s the perfect recipe.”
Sibley credited family for helping in her professional and personal life. She has children ages 14, 10, and 1.
“If you have a partner, having that support system in place is very important,” she said of her husband of 10 years. “My husband has been super supportive and super helpful with me. If I’ve got five orders I’ve got to get out, obviously I can’t get to those orders and get the baby to bed and that’s where he steps up and helps me manage my business.”
Sibley said she hopes that people will continue to support small businesses.
“We are an important piece to economic growth and economic development, and I think that when it comes to it, we need that support,” she said. “Being a small business we’re not afforded the access to capital and resources that big brands have, so we depend on those customers.”