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Let Them Eat Brownies

Champagne Brownie Boxes

It is only fitting that the first product from my new company, Amai Tea and Bake House, is brownies, my favorite dessert. I honestly didn’t think I would start with such a rich and chocolaty item as my first product, but it turned out to be the perfect choice for the holiday season. We sold hundreds of champagne brownies last week and worked almost 24 hours a day to get them baked, packed and shipped on time. It was a great challenge and I thank everyone for their orders and kind comments on the site.

When people say that starting your own business requires a lot of work, they mean it. My average working day ran from 8 am to 2 am, with little to no rest in between. Of course this won’t be the case once we have everything down to a science, but it highlights the intensity required to get something off the ground. I could not have made it through this week without the help of my business partner Kathryn, fellow baker Molly, and most of all, Andrew. Andrew was there every night helping in any way possible, and knew just the right time to make a joke or give a nice word of encouragement. I feel very lucky. Thank you everyone.

So what did we actually do this week? We weren’t exactly the model of efficiency, but we learned a lot. The week would always start by cranking up the Hobart mixer and baking large batches of brownies (in 14″ x 14″ pans). Once those cooled, it was time to cut the pans, which can take several hours to complete (if anyone knows of a brownie cutting tool hiding out there, other than a long knife, please let me know!) The difficult thing about brownies is you don’t really know how well they turned out until you start cutting. For example, I varied the baking time by 4 minutes on one batch and they came out so undercooked we couldn’t use them. I’m still trying to figure out where that batch went wrong, and our only guess is that the butter was too warm or the oven temperature was off. In the future, I would advise people to start with a nice and simple product like cookies where you can immediately tell if they are done or not.

While the brownies were being cut, the rest of the team was working on cutting labels and paper to wrap the brownies in. Since our packaging is still in the prototype stage this took a particularly long time to figure out, but hopefully we’ll never have to go through such a manual process again. Our biggest scare of the week came when orders exceeded expectations and we ran out of boxes in the middle of the week. We placed a last minute order through the box website, Uline.com, and were able to get replacements in the very next day (shipped from Pennsylvania). Uline saved the day.

Once the brownies were inside the decorative packaging, which was no small feat, they had to be securely packed for shipping. I advise any business to take advantage of the free boxes provided by the postal service, since buying boxes can really add up and take off from the bottom line. You can order these boxes online from USPS.com (where you can also by postage with free delivery confirmation), but I figured this out too late in the week and did everything the old fashioned way in the post office. Of course, going to the post office in the middle of the Christmas season did lead to some memorable moments. My favorite time was when we were standing in a line of at least 20 people and we could hear a woman at the front counter yelling to a postal worker, “Thank you for your help you f***ing a***hole!” to which the postal worker screamed back, “Your mama!”. Yeah, I’m not kidding. In the end the packages got on out on time, and the postal workers were generally very nice and helpful.

Now that this special holiday run is over, it’s time to apply the learnings and start building the company. They say you’re not really a company until you actually sell something, so even though we have been putting together plans for the business over the last couple months it just wasn’t real until this week. So what is Amai Tea and Bake House about? I hardly know where to begin, but will do my best to outline it in upcoming posts.

I hope you enjoy the brownies. Happy holidays!


Griff says on December 20th, 2005 at 9:34 pm:

Congrats Kelli on your new venture.
I use a 22″ pizza rocker cutter

the top knife in the picture..I’m sure you can find one near you. I am the master brownie cutter at the bakery and do
multiple pans (we use 12×17) daily.
I’ve yet to find a tool that would cut a whole tray of brownies at once…(maybe I’ll invent one)…in the meantime the knife does a quick job of it.
What a great way to test market your product and at the same time learn so much. You should be proud.

Kelli says on December 20th, 2005 at 11:38 pm:

A pizza rocker cutter is such a good idea! I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the tip.

Cindy says on December 21st, 2005 at 10:34 am:

You might talk to someone that does metal work…they could fabricate a grid that would fit the dimensions of your pan (based on the cookie cutter concept). Just press and voila – a pan of cut brownies.

Paige says on December 21st, 2005 at 1:43 pm:

Congratulations on creating your first product and surviving the post office! The red stamp on the package is lovely. Did you pick that up during your travels in Japan?

michelle says on December 21st, 2005 at 2:43 pm:

i saw this brownie/cake cutter/marker set on http://www.bakery.com/index.asp. it looks like it is used for the large trays used for bakeries.

raquel says on December 21st, 2005 at 4:52 pm:

I find that a metal bench scraper works the best. Just keep wiping it with moist towel after each cut to get a clean cut each time.
I wish I was one of the lucky ones receiveing your brownies this weel. They look stunning! A classy packaging to such a classic dessert.

Andrew says on December 21st, 2005 at 5:00 pm:

You are very welcome Kelli! It was a lot of work, but I definitely had a good time, eating all the unfit-to-sell brownies ;) With all the time I spent cutting paper, I should have a degree in it by now…

Mariko says on December 21st, 2005 at 6:11 pm:

Congratulations! The brownies were delicious. I imagine it took forever wrapping those little phrases around each individual brownie … Can’t wait to see what is next for Amai!

Jaay says on December 22nd, 2005 at 1:44 am:

Congratz on such a successful week!! I’m sure as much hard work as it was it was sooo much fun! =)

I too would recommend a bench scraper. Altho the pizza rocker cutter sounds like a great idea also =)

channah says on December 22nd, 2005 at 10:59 am:

So sad I missed out, will pay closer attention so I don’t miss out next time! They look amazing!!!

Kristin says on December 22nd, 2005 at 6:37 pm:

I miss all the fun living in CA! Well I am glad I at least got to try these famous brownies and man they are as good as everyone says! Good luck to Amai and oh boy amai impressed! Ok wow that was a lame joke. Hopefully it made you laugh from all your stress at the post office!

Clarice says on December 22nd, 2005 at 7:00 pm:

Kelli – the brownies arrived yesterday! The packaging is lovely….it looks like a lot of thought went into it. Unfortunately when I ordered I was in the buying gifts mode, and not the “I want a box for myself mode :( .” So I haven’t tried one yet. But it’s good to know that Andrew rounded out a little eating the “unfit to sell” brownies. My foot. Andrew probably made a batch “unfit to sell” on purpose :) .

Kelli says on December 24th, 2005 at 11:38 am:

Hi Paige– Yes, we bought that stamp in Japan at the big paper store Itoya in Ginza. That place is amazing!

keiko says on December 25th, 2005 at 11:16 am:

Congratulations Kelli, they look gorgeous! I hope you have a wonderful christmas and new year.

I miss Itoya ;)

Laurie says on January 7th, 2006 at 4:52 pm:

I stretched out my stash of brownies for as long as I could. When the last one was gone I felt “very alone!” :-( Good Luck with your next project! Andrew doesn’t have to sacrifice, I’ll take all the unfit stuff next time!

Bill Pittman says on September 4th, 2006 at 10:43 am:

I was looking through your site and see
that you have a concern about cutting
brownies. We make a pneumatic cutter that
cuts an entire sheet pan in one stroke.
The balde assembly can be custom made to
cut almost any shape and size. We are also
currently making one that cuts a half
sheet and I suspose we could make one that
would cut a 14″ x 14″ like you mention. I
would be delighted for your referrals to
your readers to look at out web site for
details. Good luck with your business.

Bill Pittman, President
Zybec Corporation

stacey says on December 4th, 2006 at 9:52 am:

Where do you buy your labels and packing from?

Kelli Bernard says on December 11th, 2006 at 8:39 am:

Hi Stacey – For the packaging shown in this post, I got it from standard arts and craft stores around the city (the white paper is just butcher paper, etc.). Now we have our packaging custom made, but you have to do that in large quantities.

Nick says on August 12th, 2009 at 7:53 pm:

Hi Kelli, I just stumbled across your blog and have to say I am impressed. Great job so far, good luck with your company!

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Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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