Baking the World a Better Place

Posted on 03/03/20 by AARP Volunteer Sherree Lucas

I met Kirsten Fuchs, founder of the Baked Pie Company, at her store in Arden, NC. She had me at hello. I’ve seen pictures of her in a couple of local magazines that featured her story. Kristen projects joy, a fun-loving nature, and happiness in her photos, and it was the same in person. I also found her to be honest, thoughtful and personable, easy to smile and laugh.

Kirsten is 53 going on 40. When we talked about her business, she spoke passionately. But she was also strategic, smart, and had business savvy galore. The time I spent with her was delightful, thought-provoking and entertaining. Here is her story:

After a career that included general management, free-lance photography and owning a social media agency, Kirsten was ready to do something else. Every day she was thinking, “What could I do?” She didn’t want to do retail. She thought about opening a franchise but didn’t like the idea of following somebody else’s rules.

In the summer of 2016, while she was still running her social media agency, she was driving around with her daughter. Her daughter said she wanted to get a piece of blueberry pie. When they realized they had no idea where they could go just to get one slice of pie, the “sliver” of an idea was born.

She asked herself, "What about opening a pie shop where you can buy slices of pie? But would it work?"

She remembered what her husband told her and what she had learned through her own business. If you’re going to have your own business, stick with one thing, become an expert at it, and you’ll succeed. She set her mind to be the best pie maker in the Greater Asheville, North Carolina region!

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Okay, but selling slices of pie? As your only revenue? Pretty unheard of. And get this: Kirsten did not consider herself a pie maker. She baked, but a pie maker? No, not really. Here is another example of her entrepreneur mindset.

She thought, “I just need to learn how to make a pie crust, and I’ll go from there.” She had a friend who was a baker so she asked her to teach her how to make pie crusts. They started testing crusts by varying the type of flour and butter they used. From there, Kirsten looked up old family recipes and began preparing them in her test kitchen, especially her great aunt’s recipes, which she remembered from her childhood.

Another thing Kristen didn’t know was the restaurant business. But she did know how to work a register and take inventory. For her, that was enough to move forward and learn the rest as she went along.

So now, in typical Kirsten fashion, she was ready to turn this idea into a reality. Kirsten knew a lot of people liked pie. And, in her words, “If it wasn’t supposed to happen, it wasn’t going to happen. I prayed. I had faith.”

As I soon as I met Kirsten, I knew she’s a mover and shaker. She has the energy of a tornado. After she signed the lease on an old Subway shop, she quickly found a builder, and started looking in magazines and on Pinterest for the “look and feel” for her store.

“Pies tie you to past generations, taking you back in time to things your grandma or, in my case, a great aunt, used to make,” says Kirsten.

She already had a love of vintage décor and could have been an interior decorator in “vintage chic.” When I walked into her shop, it felt like I was walking into another era with the comfort and warmth of my grandmother’s house. I totally felt at home. And I’m almost sure I was smiling through the entire interview.

To market her business, she used her proven social media and photography skills. Soon, word of mouth took over and she was off.

Kirsten’s business was a quick success. Shortly after opening, she realized two things: 1) she was running out of pies at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon; and 2) some of her customers loved her pies so much, they wanted to take whole pies home. (Here’s the problem: her pies were in glass pie pans!) She easily solved those two problems and has continued to grow her business.

There were three things Kirsten wouldn’t compromise on: a really good product, outstanding customer service, and the perfect atmosphere. And I can honestly say, Kirsten has not compromised. Her success reinforces she was right in identifying those specific three things and making sure she never lost sight of them.

People drive from far away just for a piece of pie, to talk with friendly staff, and enjoy the warm atmosphere. And now you can get her pies elsewhere. She has expanded her revenue streams to include wholesale. She sells her pies to restaurants, caterers and breweries (yes, breweries…pie pairs nicely with an IPA) around the area. Baked Pie Company is now in the Asheville Airport. And she recently opened a second location run by her sister and new business partner, Ingrid Cole, in Woodfin, NC. By the looks of it, entrepreneurship runs in Kirsten’s family!

When I asked Kirsten to name the one trait that she believed has helped her the most in entrepreneurship, she replied, “Discernment. I have a sense of what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve been right more often than not.”

My last question to Kirsten was: What advice would you give to other encore entrepreneurs? She quickly replied, “Don’t let fear––such as fear of not having enough money, not knowing the business or industry you want to enter, fear of failure––stop you from pursuing something you love. There are people who will help you for free…you just have to ask.”

I’d say this is pretty good advice. Now let’s go get a piece of pie, enjoy a little nostalgia, and stay awhile.

Thinking of starting a business as your "second act?" You aren't alone. According to the Small Business Administration, over 25 percent of new businesses are started by people ages 55-64. To help you get started, AARP has resources and information for older entrepreneurs.

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