We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Samantha Ybarra a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Samantha, thanks for joining us today. Do you manage your own social media?
I manage my own social media currently. I do hope to eventually hire someone to help me, but a lot of the content comes from my working process which spans a number of days. It can be difficult to maintain because we are in a day and age where everyone wants videos and reels. Although time-consuming, I do enjoy managing my social media myself. It requires creativity, and allows me to show people the process of my work from start to finish in just a few minutes. It also provides a space to build engagement with my community through music and humor, which really makes content fun.
Samantha, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I am Samantha Ybarra, and I am a hobby baker in Tampa, Fl. I’ve always had a love for art of every kind, along with a passion for cooking. Growing up, I spent weekends at my grandmother’s house watching her in the kitchen helping her where I could, and for holidays and birthdays, my family bought me cookbooks so I could experiment with different recipes and techniques. When I was in high school, I had a phenomenal art teacher who taught us color theory, a number of skills and methods to create art, and most importantly – that anything could be your medium. In 2017, I decided to combine these two loves and start a business! I have a great friend who, at the time, also had a baking business up in Connecticut, and during an interview, she explained that she learned everything she knows on her own through Youtube and social media. She had no “formal” training, just ambition, drive, and passion. I thought, “if she can do this, what’s stopping me?” I started with small things for family and friends – cookies, different flavored cupcakes, and so on. Looking at pictures of them is a great reminder of how far I’ve come because compared to what I create now they’re terrible, haha. I spent hours and days and weeks on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, soaking up as much information as I could from people who were already successful in the baking industry. I didn’t realize that I would be joining an incredible community filled with such lovely and talented people. Eventually, I chose a business name based on a childhood nickname, started a Facebook page, and started marketing to friends and community groups – and thus Sammie Cakes was born. Through this journey, I have been able to partner with incredible vendors, event planners, businesses, and individuals, such as various NFL Players, NBA teams, and local restaurants like Fresh Kitchen and Green Lemon.
At Sammie Cakes, I make high-quality, DELICIOUS custom treats for any occasion. I mostly specialize in hand-crafted cookies and cakes, but offer a variety of other sweet treats as well, such as macarons and cupcakes. Each order is specially designed to fully encompass any details relevant to our client’s individual themes – big or small. Design details can include logos, invitations, photos, characters, custom color palettes- you name it! Every design is created to bring the client’s vision to life in a unique, effective, and delectable way while making you and your guests feel like you’re enjoying a small piece of art. Orders can be picked up or delivered, and I’m happy to partner with event planners to handle the logistics of your big day.
Can you share one of your favorite marketing or sales stories?
My favorite story is how I started working with Green Lemon. 2020 came, and the pandemic hit everyone hard. Businesses were shut down, parties and get-togethers came to a screeching halt, and people were losing friends and family members left and right. Life hit hard and fast, and everyone was in survival mode, trying to figure out how to make it to the next day. Cinco de Mayo came around and everyone just needed a break. I don’t think there’s a better way to take a break than to drink a bunch of margaritas and eat your weight in queso and tacos, am I right? It would appear everyone in Tampa had that same thought. I ordered Green Lemon for dinner, and was SO excited to pick it up. I got to the restaurant and the city had asked them to pack it in because so many people had shown up. (Can you blame them?) The restaurant had to refund everyone’s orders, and close for the day on what I would imagine to probably be one of their biggest days of the year. Even still, they handled everything with such grace and were so kind. I felt so bad for the staff – how many of them were relying on the money from this day to pay their bills? I couldn’t pay all of them obviously, but I hoped I could bring them a little bit of joy. Over the next few days, I made a few dozen custom cookies for them with designs tailored to the restaurant. If you’ve never been, the decor is bright and witty so coming up with designs was easy. I included their payphone that says “I didn’t call you, tequila did,” the outside wall of the restaurant that says “Today is a good day,” the logo, margaritas, etc. I showed up, thanked them for all of their hard work and patience the night before, and dropped off cookies and a few cards. I hoped I could get an order or two from it sometime down the road, but mostly just wanted to lift their spirits a bit. They were ecstatic. After that, they started calling me for Cinco de Mayo and their birthdays or big events, and I’m so happy to be able to work with them!
Can you tell us about what’s worked well for you in terms of growing your clientele?
Collaboration has been the most effective strategy for growing my clientele. When I first began my business, I had a very competitive mindset. I thought I needed to know what everyone else in my market was doing, how much they were doing it for, and be better. I paired this with constant posting on social media, and hoped I’d eventually take off. What I learned down the road, is that community matters over competition. Some of the other bakers in the area started a Facebook group for the bakers of Tampa where we could all share our work, help each other out, and show support. Through this group, I’ve met some incredible people and made some great friends. The truth is, as much as we’d like to help every client with every order – we just can’t. So in building this community, and fostering friendships, we are able to collaborate with each other on large events, or refer each other when we can’t take on more clients. A lot of the event planners I work with, and a large number of my clients came to me because another baker referred me, or because the client knows I’ve worked with their favorite baker in the past. Word of mouth is huge in growing clientele, because it’s real people saying “I trust this business.” The truth of the matter is, there are a ton of people in this industry, in any industry for that matter. You are not them, and they are not you, and that is where the power lies. Getting to know the people in your industry and building relationships, and not being afraid to work together will always work in your favor.