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The Baked Dane shop dream comes true

Lisa Brink started off baking bread and crackers for a weekend market. Now, less than five years later, she has officially opened shop and is distributing The Baked Dane products all over New Zealand.

You can smell The Baked Dane before you see it. The proof is in the eating, too, and word of mouth has seen a busy opening week of the new outlet, located at the new Bush Street business park south of Levin.

The grand opening was a significant moment in what had been a meteoric rise for The Baked Dane, that now has a full-time staff of nine.

Brink began by making Scandinavian-inspired sourdough and rye bread and crackers at home using recipes she had learnt growing up in Denmark, passed down to her by her grandmother Ingrid Madsen.

She loved it, her family loved it, and her young children were gobbling it up. It was typical of the feedback that had encouraged her to take the business to the next level.

“It’s everywhere in Denmark. It’s what we eat. It’s what the Vikings ate. There are different versions, of course,” she said.

Brink used a holiday pay cheque from her previous job to buy the seeds and flour she needed for her first batch and started baking for weekend markets from a small kitchen set up in the backyard.

What she didn’t sell at market she would take in to share with family and her former work colleagues.

“It was a hobby that became a full-time hobby,” she said.

“People kept telling me ‘you have to give this a go’. You can plan and plan and plan your whole life. Sometimes you’ve just got to run with it.”

The new location has a floor space of 390sq m, compared with the 60sq m of the original kitchen at home. It’s been specially built, with Brink working with business park developer Wayne Bishop on design elements to create a building that was fit-for-purpose “rather than just walking into a shell”.

It was a case of “go big or go home”, with machinery purchases that meant an extra production line was now in operation. Brink said she received advice not to underestimate what might be needed in the future, as it would be added cost in the long run.

“This is a dream come true,” she said.

The new shop was kitted out with recycled wood benches and old beer crates for shelving. There was a small plate by the till with samples for tasting.

“Now we are able to connect with our customers. And that’s really important, too. Because you get honest reactions from your customers. Family and friends will tell you something tastes great, but you get a true and honest reaction from a customer,” she said.

The Baked Dane now stocked more than 50 different outlets, from Auckland to Invercargill. Ironically, the supply of retail outlets had grown to the extent that there is no longer enough stock for the weekend markets.

It was important to keep up with demand, and surety of supply was a key issue. There was a waiting list of outlets keen to stock The Baked Dane products. However, the extra floor space in the new building and the recent purchase of new equipment would for an increase in production and should help bolster that supply.

“It’s been three years of chasing our tail,” she said.

And the extra space would now provide an opportunity to introduce further products that were waiting in the wings.

“We’ve got so many ideas for new products,” she said.

There was a range of crackers now, including one of her favourites that she was able to fine-tune with time afforded by a Covid-19 lockdown - a sea salt dessert cracker with a chocolate bottom.

“It gave me time to play around,” she said.

“It’s now one of our best sellers.”

Brink said an important aspect of the business was a sense of being a team. It was important to accommodate different staff needs sometimes. There was a family room upstairs for children, should it be needed.

Being socially aware was another important aspect of The Baked Dane approach. Products were dispatched to stores in repurposed banana boxes. Small businesses were supported where possible. They now stocked keto and gluten-free product options.

“We’re a small business and we want to support small business,” she said.

There were now plans for an onsite deli section.

Original article published 17 Jul, 2023