What is your full name, title, and business name?
Samantha Strange, Owner, The Cheesecake Girl
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
The Cheesecake Girl is a local bakery where everything is made from scratch. We source local ingredients when possible and strive to build a culture and community around creative ideas and nostalgic treats.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I was minoring in culinary in college for fun and we had to make a fat free cheesecake in class – it was terrible and I went home to whip up one full of flavor. From that point on I was baking them for every special occasion and event, people started calling me The Cheesecake Girl and I rolled with it. I was looking for a job out of college and couldn’t find anything ideal so I decided to try opening a little catering business based on the cheesecakes. Now here we are!
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
We had opened our first location in Hilliard last year April 2020 right at the beginning of the pandemic. I remember thinking no one was going to show up. We had lines out the door for weeks until we sold out every day and I realized I had to grow and adapt quickly and knew there was something really special about this.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Picking yourself up a lot. You’re not always right, you won’t always make the best decisions and you’re constantly learning and growing. I have to remind myself every day, “today I’m going to do a job I’ve never done before” because every day is new and different. Cut yourself slack and be open to learning. It’s a lot of hard work, long nights and early mornings, but it’s all worth it to be growing this team and this career.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Everything. I grew up here and love the energy and the community. The relationships with other businesses, the regular customers, it’s a wonderful place and I’m so thankful we are here.
Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
I was looking for jobs in Atlanta and Nashville after graduation and couldn’t find anything so moved home for a bit to figure it out. Thankfully I did, the support from friends and family here encouraged me to take the next step with TCG.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
You’re never too good for anything. Do the dishes, do the busy work, know when to hand it over but know you’re not too good for it. Expect of yourself what you expect from your staff.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
I wish I took a business class – there are a ton of terms and policies I had to learn on the fly and would have liked to be more prepared for.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
Honestly I just worry if my staff is happy. Your business is only as good as the people working for it, and if they are content in their jobs our product is better & our customer service is better. We can grow together every day if everyone is in the same mindset.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
Forgetfulness. I will tell myself 8 times I need to do something and still forget. I get so caught up in everything going on, my sister says I need someone to follow me around with a notepad so I don’t forget anything. I have very detailed lists to get me through every day so I can assure everything is handled.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I’m not sure honestly, there are days when I think I’m failing for sure. I think it’s just grit and the ability to adapt. Especially due to covid it’s like everyone had to flip and I know it’s hard for people to change how they are doing things, but you just have to be open to change and growth in areas you’re not familiar with. The comfort zone is a dangerous place to be.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
We had just opened in Hilliard and our walk in fridge with all products in it shut down and we had to toss over $3,000 worth of product. We had been selling out daily at this point so it left us with very little stock for customers as well which didn’t make anyone happy. We now have bluetooth devices in all cold storage to track and alert us when the temperature drops to stop that in the future.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
Restaurant365 – it’s a program that tracks all accounting, pricing, inventory, sales and labor. It’s taking a lot of work to implement and I’m still getting used to it but it will help us as we expand and understand this business more.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
I was working 16 hour days for the first month we were open and I had two people on staff working that hard right beside me. We knew we couldn’t carry on like that much longer so we filled the gaps. I now have over 20 people on our staff, most of them are full time employees. We ran out of room in our kitchen honestly – we knew we needed more production space so we started the building process in Dublin. Every time we’ve grown it’s been out of necessity which makes me feel stable in these decisions. It’s either, make this change and grow or cut off orders and tell the customer no.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
I committed 100% – I was working a part time job and kept trying to make it work and then realized if I give this all of my attention I can really make it work.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
I can’t think of anything specifically – there are definitely things that didn’t work out as planned but I’ve learned valuable lessons from them all so I consider it worth it! I had a “year of yes” the second year into my business where I literally said yes to every farmers market, pop up, event, charity, anything and everything. I did over 100 events within the year with countless donations and I think that was a TON or work but a lot was learned.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Ingredients – locally sourced when possible but the quality is very important to us.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
Shipping! We are working with Goldbely to hopefully get a shipping department up and running within the next year – it takes a lot of time for a product like this.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Instagram – I started our instagram from behind the bar working our first pairing event at Ill Mannered Brewery and it has organically grown over the last 4 years and I have been the only person running it – it’s a great way to connect with customers directly when I can’t be everywhere at once.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? Please provide name and business name so we can give them credit!
My staff – I have some key staff members who have helped me make decisions and find the right path, I know that sounds generic but I want my best resources on my team.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
Friends & family when I want sympathy, fellow business owners when I need the reality.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I’m along for the ride. I didn’t expect to be at 3 locations within a year of opening so sky’s the limit. Ideally we would get a larger production facility open for shipping and bulk ordering.
What was the single worst decision you made regarding your business and how’d you recover?
When I was still growing from catering I was doing wholesale to markets and shops around Columbus, I was willing to do anything to get my cheesecake out there so I was offering our products at wholesale prices on consignment and losing a ton of money from it. It was decent exposure but looking back it was a lot of work for very little to no pay.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
Prayer, deep breaths, my dog and wine. Every problem passes, just fix it and move on. When there is a lot on my plate my dad always says “well how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
You don’t get to do whatever you want or make your own schedule. You are at the mercy of whatever your business needs. Eventually you can get to the point of more freedom but you need to be prepared to make more sacrifices than you think.
What’s your end goal with the business? Is this something you want to pass down to your kids or would you like to eventually sell?
I want to stay a part of it forever. I’ll grow it as much as I’m able to then hand it over to people more experienced but I never want to stop being a part of it. My family is all over the place Texas, Kentucky and Georgia – I would love to “FAMchise” haha
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
I would send them on a progressive dinner meal around downtown Dublin.
This is a lot but I think it sounds delicious –
Reuben egg rolls & moscow mules at Dublin Village Tavern
Arachini & Rose at Mezzo
Devils on Horseback & Old Fashioned at the Pearl
Tacos & Margs at Local Cantina
Dessert at The Cheesecake Girl (duh!)
All local and amazing 🙂