Meet Anna Helm Baxter of Poppikit
This month we speak with Anna Helm Baxter, one of the entrepreneurs behind the fun, kid-friendly baking kit company, Poppikit.
Anna and co-founder Jade Zimmerman met as neighbors in Brooklyn while raising kids the same age. Not only did they live in the same apartment building, they're both trained chefs. They eventually worked together developing, testing and styling recipes for Woman's Day magazine, where they often talked about starting a food business together. In 2018, they took the plunge, naming the company for each of their daughters, Poppy and Peridot.
After a year of production at Garden State Kitchen, Poppikit can be found on the shelves at Kings and Balducci's and boasts growing online sales. The company has also been featured on Good Housekeeping.com, NY Families and in Woman's Day magazine, with their custom kits sold in six states.
Here's Anna telling Poppikit's story:
Garden State Kitchen: How did you come up with the Poppikit concept?
Anna Helm Baxter: My co-founder Jade and I have four children between us, so we've attended hundreds of birthday parties! We've also made the cakes for many of these parties. We were constantly told by other moms that they could "never do that" so we felt there was a gap in the market. As parents who regularly bake for our kids, we wanted to be able to share the joy you feel when baking for loved ones. Poppikit brings that experience to life - not just in learning a new craft, but also by making (or baking) happy memories.
GSK: How did you discover your niche?
AHB: We realized that kids love to bake, but parents are often hesitant to get kids into the kitchen - worrying about mess mostly! With the rise of new shows like Nailed It! and Sugar Rush, we found that our biggest sellers have been our line geared toward kids learning to decorate cakes.
GSK: How has selling helped you refine your concept?
AHB: Our best sellers are our mini cake kit and our newly launched cookie pop kit, which is super quick and easy, and makes a great party favor. Because of the lower price, the cookie pops are an impulse buy and it's easy for us to market them for different occasions.
With the mini cake kits, we've had to work to increase our profit margins. We've launched seasonal kits with fun new designs to get repeat customers.
The great thing about online sales is that it's very easy and quick to pivot. For instance, recently we adjusted the names of some of our kits to have more descriptive titles and immediately saw a boost in sales.
GSK: How do you and Jade divide responsibilities running your business?
AHB: Our roles and partnership are ever evolving since we first went into business not really knowing anything about business! It took us a few months to figure out what each of us likes to do, what we are each good at, and how to communicate effectively. Jade handles our social media content, website, photo editing and builds our instructions. I handle more of the operations, finance, sales, photography and big picture work. Together we come up with content ideas, ship orders, run demos, pack kits...as a small business you really do have to do everything!
GSK: You participated in The Formula last year. What's the most important thing you learned?
AHB: I'd always worked on the media side of food, so I was pitched products that had already launched by people who were looking for press coverage. I had literally no idea how those products made it onto the shelves and what went into negotiating profit margins, testing, shelf life, etc. The Formula was a great launchpad for me. It opened my eyes to what it would take and how to think about it.
Most importantly, it helped me make a couple of very important connections which helped us get our business up and off the ground. I've found that people in the food industry are super helpful and want to chat about their experiences and there is ALWAYS something else to learn. I think meeting and speaking to new people is one of the best things you can do when launching a business.
GSK: What's the key to a successful partnership?
AHB: The most important thing is to work out how to speak to each other. We are still constantly trying to better our communication styles and checking that we are on the same page. It's not always easy having the difficult conversations, but they are important to have.
GSK: What's been your biggest challenge and how did you address it?
AHB: Oh man, every day there is a new challenge. Entrepreneurship is truly a rollercoaster ride. I think our biggest consistent challenge is profit margins. Most of our business is direct to consumer, but consumers now want free shipping with quick turn-around times (thanks Amazon!). For us to ship a kit to California costs around $16! As you can imagine, that quickly eats into our profit margins.
GSK: Using sustainable, natural and organic ingredients and packaging that can be recycled is important to you – how is this part of your concept?
AHB: As moms, we care deeply about what our kids eat as well as the planet - because this is their future! It's super important to us to use good quality, mostly organic ingredients. I
t's also important that the tools in our kits are sourced from the USA, unless it's impossible for us to do so. While nothing is truly eco-friendly or sustainable, we think that companies and consumers should be doing what they can to lessen their impact on climate change. This is something that we do with Poppikit, but we have a ways to go. It's very difficult as a small company to meet order minimums when it comes to "eco-friendly" packaging which is already much more costly. We do our best.
GSK: You've said that you're developing a fondant made with natural dyes. Any news?
AHB: We love working with natural food dyes, but there isn't an affordable or delicious naturally-dyed fondant on the market. A few months in, we thought about cutting the fondant from our kits so that we could be completely dye-free, but the kids LOVE working with it because it's like edible Play-Doh! We're not at a stage to reveal anything about a new product yet, but hopefully we will be able to share more soon!
Find Poppikit online at www.poppikit.com and follow on social media: