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A Sweet Interview with Retro Bakery’s Kari Haskell

We recently blogged about using mobile for local businesses. Today, we’re interviewing one of my favorite Las Vegas businesses – Retro Bakery. The owner, Kari Haskell, has parlayed her gregarious nature into successful social media outreach, garnishing her press coverage and increasing her business. Here’s the inside scoop on the content side of this crazy bay-kah!

First of all, why did you start your business?

I started Retro Bakery because I was a stay-at-home mom for nine years, my child was getting older, and I was wanting something of my own. My husband had been in the restaurant industry for the same amount of time, and I knew that we could run the place successfully just because of that alone. They were building Retro’s current location, and I knew it was just time to go for it. Our neighborhood needed a sweet spot!

Why did you start your “Building a Bakery” blog, and why before the shop even opened?

I started the blog initially just to have a place to get my thoughts together and update my family back home. They were all curious and nervous for us, so I really did want to keep them in the loop without repeating myself 20 times. It also allowed me to keep lists and keep organized with all the things you have to do before you open your doors. It is very daunting. I used to blog twice a day just to make sure that my sis-in-law knew what was happening, and that I knew what I had accomplished for that day, whether it was test baking or just meeting with our contractor.

How has blogging helped you personally and the business itself?

The blog has been amazing. It lead me to our webmaster, who had a blog herself, and who just happened to live a BLOCK away! We met up and became friends, and she ended up running our website. The blog has also shed a lot of light on how cupcake shops aren’t the easiest thing in the world to run. I keep everything very REAL there, because I really don’t want people to “chuck it all” and open their own shop only to realize it is 100% harder than they think. I didn’t want a “shiny, pretty” blog. I wanted a down and dirty, real-life, this-is-how-it-really-is approach. I’m very focused on reality, since there is very little of that in actual media of any kind.

Does the blog drive traffic to your regular store site? Does it get people to the physical store? How do you know?

I meet blog fans every day. They travel from around the world to come to Retro! I am lucky that I live in Vegas. I doubt anyone would travel to my hometown just to meet me and eat my cupcakes, but Vegas provides the perfect excuse to have a good time and take a drive to Retro to “meet this crazy baykah who I’ve been reading about every Sunday.” They come in. They eat cupcakes. They take pictures. It’s been great! I’ve had one particular couple change their wedding venue SPECIFICALLY to Vegas JUST to have Retro at their wedding! They’re huge fans and bakers themselves!

Do you track your blog’s traffic at all?

I honestly don’t. I see how many people are marked as “followers,” and that’s about it. I do check to see which posts have been most popular, but it’s generally due to the theme of the cakes pictured. My most popular post was very content-light, but it had an “Alice in Wonderland” themed cake, so it remains my most-seen blog.

Do you measure success there by folks saying “I saw your blog….”?

YES! I think it’s successful even if I hear that once a month.

How long does it take for you to create and post to your blog?

I try to blog once a week on Sunday mornings. I always try to reflect on the week prior, and I showcase the cakes that I manage to get photographs of. Sometimes I’m too busy to take pics.

Most post subjects are not planned at all. It is always about what really happened that week.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

I don’t necessarily have writer’s block, but content block. My blog is about building a bakery, and now it’s been five years. It’s been the same week over and over and over again. The cakes change, but my days have been pretty consistent. It has been a real challenge to keep it fresh and new. I’ve tried to maintain my honest approach, including telling my readers that I’m just as bored with it as they might be reading it! However, some weeks I have cake scams to report – yes, we get scammers – or celeb cakes we get to do. That’s exciting and makes a great post!

You got on board at Twitter and Flickr pretty early. How has each of those sites influenced your business?

Circuit Board birthday cake

My goal for those sites was simply to get the word out about Retro. When you have zero advertising budget you look for anything free. Flickr is just a fabulous way to organize photos and get them more searchable for web traffic. Twitter is my first love. I adore it. It connects me with so many different people. It allows me to get things off my chest or just include people in the great things we’re doing at the shop. It’s just a constant conversation I’d never get to have otherwise.

Which social media sites send you the most traffic and the most business? How do you know?

Facebook is the granddaddy of them all. People can view pics, talk to each other and rant and rave all in one place while telling hundreds of their friends.

My current fav is Instagram, however. People seem to really love pictures of sweets, and if I post a certain cupcake on there it generally sells out that day. It’s pretty amazing.

Do you look at your Twitter stats?

I’ve never looked at stats for Twitter. I must say that I do get more feedback from Instagram simply because I feel like more people are active on that site because it is new.

Your family is very important to you. How do you keep the balance between baking, blogging and being a mom?

This is the hardest part of it all. When you work 80-90 hours a week with one day off, the kids can feel it VERY deeply. Brian and I both try to take them home, be with them, do homework and keep it relatively normal. But they know they live a different life. There are no long weekends, no long vacations – that’s been the hardest part. I pick Lucy up from school every day. My mom is a huge help with Abbi (our oldest), picking her up every day. It is a collective effort to keep the family together. Sundays are our days.  They are sacred.

How do you make time for yourself? 

I get up early. It’s a blessing and a curse. I have lots of time on Sunday morning, but it’s my only day off. I have to pack in laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning and blogging and logging in all the pictures of the cakes of the week on I never post cakes of the week until the event has passed because those cakes belong to the customer, and they should always be able to showcase them first.

Where do you see your business growing in the next few years? 

We will always be growing with cakes. Design changes through the years, and it keeps it fresh. Everyone has a milestone in their life that requires a grand cake or cupcake tower. We’re also adding new products like My Pies (individual pies) and cookie cakes just to keep it fun for the walk-in crowd. And we’re always coming up with new and exciting cupcake and cookie flavors. I love a new cupcake flavor!

Would you ever think of accepting orders online?

Funny you should mention this! We JUST LAUNCHED our online ordering! You can go directly to our site and order cupcakes, cookies, and daily cakes right from your phone.

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