REAL Home Bakery Heroes: How Tiffany Grew Therapie into a Full-Time Home Bakery Business
Home bakers often ask me if they can be a successful home baker if they don’t bake cakes.
Without hesitation, I always answer with a big fat YES! And one of the main reasons why, is because of Tiffany and her Home Bakery – Therapie.
Her Home Bakery focuses completely on making pies. EPIC pies.
And the first time I saw one of Tiffany’s pies I wanted to face-plant into it… with ZERO shame!
The PIES look incredible…
A golden buttery crust filled with the most heavenly fillings:
Flakey Brookie Pie (a brownie and choc chip cookie pie. I mean… WOW)
Grandma’s Apple Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Greek Honey Pie
Cookie Dough Cream Pie
Are you drooling yet?!
Not to mention, she has the cutest son in the history of mankind!
But one of the things I love most about Tiffany is that she understands the VITAL role baked goods play in people’s lives.
The human heart NEEDS baked goods. It does something to help give us perspective and comfort in difficult times. Home Baked goods are like therapy for our souls.
And that’s why I’m so honoured and excited to share this interview with you today!
Therapie embodies the message of DELICIOUS, COMFORTING Home Baking to me. She’s a REAL Home Bakery Hero!
She’s also one of my STAR students in my online course Home Bakery Startup 🙂
I’m confident that her story will comfort you, excite you and above all – inspire you.
Here we go!
For those who don’t know you; who are you, where do you live and what do you do?
My name is Tiffany Oppelt. I live in Kansas, United States. No, I don’t know Dorothy, but I do know there’s “no place like home” (Wizard of Oz joke). I am the owner and official pie lady of TheraPie, a licensed pie home-bakery in Manhattan, KS.
Where did you grow up and what were your childhood experiences of cakes, desserts, and baking?
I moved around a few states in the Midwest, but home was always near my Great Grandparents farm in Southeast, KS. As a young girl, probably starting around 6 years old, I would always ask to help in the kitchen.
I come from a family of amazing cooks (on both sides) and my Aunt and Grandma on stepmom’s side were crazy good bakers.
I spent a lot of time with them and LOVED being able to learn from them. We baked a little bit of everything really and had weekly family dinners on Sunday. We were a very close-knit family with a love of food.
Who first exposed you to baking?
My Aunt Karen and my Grandma Thera first exposed me to baking. My stepmom refused to bake because her mom and her sister were such talented bakers that she didn’t feel the need to learn. So, I went to them.
It started as doing little tasks and watching, then it was doing all the prep work like slicing apples and peaches and cracking pecans from our pecan tree. Then, they taught me how to take the reins and showed me what they knew.
What were your school years like; how did you feel about yourself, about life and about other kids?
Kindergarten through 8th grade (pre-high school) were all very hard for me. I came from a split home and experienced a lot of trauma as a child, and it left me feeling unworthy. We moved every year or two, so I went to so many different schools. I was very smart, but quiet and would turn red and cry when I had to speak in front of the class.
I was bullied quite a bit in 4th-6th grade. I never felt like I was “good enough” to be liked.
Of course, I had a small handful of REALLY good friends and they helped me through. When we moved to Parsons, KS to buy the family farm right before my 8th grade year. My parents said it would be the last move until I graduated from high school.
I decided that a new town that I would stay at for 5 years was the time to stop being scared and just be me. I tried out for a musical (my parents’ jaws hit the floor when I came home to tell them I’d done that) and got a leading role in Annie; I was Miss Hannigan. I was introduced to some nice girls and quickly made friends.
I took debate and forensics (acting/public speaking) and quickly found that I was good in front of an audience when I had control of the situation. I was State Champion in humorous and dramatic interpretation and went to Nationals twice in more than one category. I was “weird” but also made friends easily and was friends with everyone. I was in the “popular crowd”, but I made a point to sit with and be friends with the unpopular or “special needs” crowd.
I started to grow into myself in high school, even though I went through a lot of family/personal struggles during those years.
Did you always plan to be a baker, or did you have other career plans at first?
I did not always plan to be a baker. I always planned to have a career centered on Hospitality and food and imagined I would have my own Bed & Breakfast somewhere beautiful.
Do you have any baking or business qualifications from a college or university?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant Management and Institutional Dietetics (Hospitality Management) and a minor in Business. During college, I spent a semester in Florence, Italy studying culinary arts and eating my way through 7 countries.
Not all of it was focused on baking, but it was all focused on food. It was the most incredible four months!
What happened that made you consider baking for a living? What was that “oh wow! I could DO this!” moment for you?
I’ve always wanted to own my own business (Bed & Breakfast was the goal). In 2018, I started baking pies as a form of therapy.
I was under a lot of stress at work, and it just felt good making pie and being in the kitchen. When I started, I just couldn’t stop.
I started with Grandma’s Apple Pie (still on the menu) and then started following every pie person I could find online, watching videos, reading cookbooks and just experimenting.
As I was posting pictures and giving pies away to neighbors and friends, I started to have people ask me if I sell them and it hit me like a ton of bricks…yes, I could sell pies.
How did Therapie start?
TheraPie actually started out being called “Pies by Tiffany”. It started in my home kitchen, a pie or two at a time with a max of about 10 pies a week when I was “SUPER busy”. During that time, I was baking and doing EVERYTHING in my power to prepare myself to start turning it into a functional business.
In my head, I had two different options, moving into a brick & mortar or figuring out a way to be able to do it from home.
The challenge that I faced was the cost of renting commercial spaces in this town and needing to be fully licensed for cold pies. I toured so many different spaces. I talked to our local Small Business Development liaison at the Chamber of Commerce and started working to develop my business plan. Then I worked directly with the Department of Agriculture Food Safety Department. I also did a lot of research of other business models of people that I followed online or knew in person.
This was also the point that I started taking the Home Bakery Startup course with Aurelia, because I found that several of the places that I wanted to talk to about their experiences, either didn’t have time to talk or didn’t want to give me insider knowledge.
When I saw everything her course included, I saw the value in it.
I did all of these things while working about 50 hours a week and being a mom of a 2 year old. During that time, I did a lot of thinking (basically 24/7) about pies and what I wanted my brand to encompass.
The business name I operate under currently came to me while I was at the sink doing dishes at 9pm. It was an epiphany moment, and it was perfect.
Were you scared to start your baking business and how did you deal with that?
Yes. I was absolutely terrified of starting and failing.
Aurelia and the group of Home Bakers were great at helping me stay motivated and believe that I could. I felt like it was a safe spot to voice my fears and know that I’m not alone in feeling that way.
I’ve had a lifelong belief that I’m not worthy and being in a spot where I was claiming to be “the pie lady” in town was scary. What if there were better pie makers out there?
How did your family and friends respond to your desire to bake for a living? And how did you deal with that?
Part of my family didn’t believe that I’d make it into a business and firmly believed that I needed to keep my job at Kansas State University as it was very stable and had great benefits.
My parents believed I could do it, but were worried about me taking on too much with my other job and being a wife/mom. My husband was happy that I was excited about it, but didn’t want it to take over our lives and was worried that it would come before him and my son.
I had a lot of really hard conversations during this time. I had a lot of self-doubt. I also had a huge determination to make it happen, so just kept moving.
What were the first bakes you ever sold? To whom did you sell them?
My church put in the first order of 5 pies for a luncheon they were holding within the Diocese. They posted a positive review on my Facebook. After that, I had neighbors and friends of friends starting to purchase them.
How did you feel once you made your first sale? And how did it influence your life & plans?
I felt triumphant.
Like I could definitely do it long term, but also that I still had a lot of things to figure out. It pushed me to find focus in all the different areas of my planning/dreaming mind for the business.
Did you ever feel any pressure or expectations to bake something other than pies, like fancy wedding cakes? How did you deal with that?
Yes. I was asked so many times to do items that weren’t on my menu.
Aurelia helped with the wording of how to encourage them to visit other bakers that I know and trust for those items. We have SO many talented bakers in our town, so if someone wants a pretty cake, I have a name for them.
I told them that even though “I can” bake other things, pies is where my passion and expertise is focused.
How did you grow your baking skills the level you’re at now?
PRACTICE practice PRACTICE.
AND….reading cookbooks, watching online tutorials, following bakers who are more experienced than I am. All these things were extremely helpful in me growing as a baker. I still grow, with every item I make.
How long did it take before you could bake full-time?
It took between a year and a half and two years to be able to get to a point where I could bake full time. During the middle of that, we moved into a new home specifically to build a commercial kitchen.
We were able to have done our homework enough that we got it done in about 4 months (talk about a messy and expensive project!), ending with a license as a food establishment and food processor.
The transitioning to a full-time home baker was something I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to, and then, it happened faster than I had planned.
Which books, podcasts or online courses helped most to grow you as a business owner? And how did they help you?
I am a constant learner and am always trying to improve myself. Aurelia’s Home Bakery Startup course was the most helpful resource.
I also attended an entrepreneur workshop designed for women that was hosted by the Small Business Association and it was a great class.
All of these resources helped me for different reasons, but a lot were about confidence in myself, how to overcome fear, how to deal with competition and how to be a successful businesswoman. I will also mention that I have a degree in Hospitality Management with a minor in business!
What are the 2 best decisions you’ve made in your Baking Business?
To capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing,
and to strongly identify my brand.
What are the 2 worst mistakes you’ve made in your Baking Business?
1. Saying yes to too much to the point of overwhelm,
2. and letting competition make me feel weak/small/less than.
What are the 2 most valuable lessons you’ve learned about running a home bakery?
1. You don’t have to be the biggest fish in the sea with an established brick and mortar to establish yourself as an expert in your craft.
2. If you are overwhelmed, your systems need evaluated and you need to consider hiring.
What are the 2 most valuable lessons you’ve learned about yourself in this process?
I’ve learned that I can absolutely do very hard things,
and that sharing who I am is part of my brand.
What are the 2 most valuable lessons you’ve learned about people/clients in this process?
1. Clients will always ask and take chances because they won’t know how your business works unless you tell them clearly. And if they know you always say yes, they’ll especially take chances. 2. AND if they aren’t functioning in a way that works for your business, you just have to put systems in place to communicate better; make your rules clear on your site and say it in person.
What are your plans & dreams for Therapie going forward?
I would like to figure out shipping because there is a demand for it in my business, but I’m not rushing with the way our post is running right now.
I would also like to host pie making workshops with licensed therapists/counselors talking about the therapeutic side of cooking/baking to tie in my knowledge, my community, and the focus on mental health.
I would like to continue growing and have some form of a store front at some point, but not necessarily a full-on bakery, but more of a place to gather to pickup/enjoy.
HOWEVER, I am actually a lot less hardcore about getting a brick & mortar since I have wholesale accounts putting me in various locations of town (2 coffee shops and 1 full service restaurant) and the farmer’s market.
This Home Bakery model is working VERY well for myself and my family.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a Home Bakery, but feels they aren’t “good enough”?
The only person who can decide if you aren’t good enough, is you.
There will be more than one time in your journey that you are going to doubt it and let those negative thoughts deter your growth, but that’s just your thoughts and you 100% are good enough.
You do not have to be perfect and have a flawless Instagram feed with perfect lighting. You need a good product, good branding and a good mindset and a good work ethic. If you have those things, you can ABSOLUTELY do this.
Wasn’t that just AMAZING? Don’t know about you, but I feel super inspired now!
🌟 And if you’re a home baker that would love to built a part-time or full-time Home Bakery Business like Tiffany, then check out the Home Bakery Startup course that shows you how to do it! The course opens in May & November every year 🙂
What was the most valuable thing you’ve learned from Tiffany’s story? Tell me in the comments below!