“We make things that make people happy,” says Cheryl Scripter. We’re sitting in Bittersweet Confections on Magazine, a light and airy space with blue chairs and pastel flower decals hanging in the windows, and it’s hard not to feel a little happier just walking in. The owner and founder of Bittersweet, Cheryl started out crafting confections in her home kitchen for friends. Fifteen years later, the success is dazzling: Bittersweet now operates a six-year old busy boutique on Magazine as well as a second location in St. Roch Market, in addition to catering and wholesale lines.
Beyond their business success, Bittersweet has been a steadfast and valuable partner of Liberty’s Kitchen, taking on four of our trainees over the past year for on-the-job training via our externship program. We sat down for a round-table conversation with Cheryl, Operations Manager Ben Kunz, and LK grad and Bittersweet employee Chondra Allen to talk about where the business is headed and shine a spotlight on one of our most treasured partners.
Ben: If I’d had Chondra come in for a regular interview I might not have hired her based on her resume. But having her come in and extern – it’s basically a four week stage – and seeing that she comes from the same mentality we do has blown a lot of our expectations. The four young women who have come in and worked as externs for us – they work so well because the same way we approach business problems is the way they overcome things in their personal and professional lives. At the end of the day, our mindsets are the same. Nothing is going to stand in the way of Chondra getting here on time and doing her job. They’re the hardest working kids I’ve ever worked with. Some of the best hires I’ve made have been from Liberty’s Kitchen.
What’s important in a work environment?
Ben: We’re trying to bring a large educational component. We want our staff to be able to leave here and get gainful employment at any third wave coffee shop in the city –to know their stuff better than anybody and even if they don’t look like they’re expert baristas, be able to go in there and throw down with any of them.
Chondra: It feels like a family, but you still get the job done.
What’s the vision for six months from now?
Cheryl: Six months from now, we want to keep growing and improve our processes and grow the number of businesses we offer our desserts to. And we want to keep making really high-end products that people can be proud to give to someone. If you buy 1 or 2 things that are sweet in your life in the week, you want to make sure they’re really superior. People want to eat things that are made with love and made with quality ingredients. It’s nice to work somewhere you can be proud of everything you put out.
For us at LK, it’s been incredible to watch Chondra’s growth over the past year at Bittersweet. And she recently won Employee of the Month! Let’s talk about that.
Cheryl (to Chondra): You’re an extremely valuable employee. You’ve grown from someone who started as a quiet shy young woman to someone who’s very positive all the time, and wonderful with customers.”
Ben: When you started we paired you with a strong worker to train you up, and then you became a strong worker and now we leave people with you. You’re the lead whether you realize it or not.
Chondra: I’ve learned a lot. I learned the proper way of preparing a latte and the exact coffee grams: water ratio for strong coffee. I learned an ideal workplace is where you can work properly together as a team to reach a goal. The hardest thing when I started was memorizing every single last cupcake in the case – it took a while but I got it. I felt proud when I saw the other girls start because I knew they’d be successful. They’d have a question about the case, and I’d tell them the answer and then quiz them on it. And now I have a lot more confidence in what I can accomplish here.
What would you say to an employer considering taking on a Liberty’s Kitchen extern?
Ben: You’re supporting your community, making the city better, and getting people who are hard workers and hungry to make themselves better. A lot of people are looking for a paycheck. Liberty’s Kitchen people are looking for a way to transform their lives.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. We’re truly thankful to Bittersweet Confections for providing such a great training ground for our young people. Stop by and try their sweet treats today!
–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator