Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We became (just slightly) obsessed with Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery when we stumbled onto the vegan granola at a local health store. Once we enjoyed the sweet, filling, and delicious granola, we had to know who was behind the magic. Baker and founder Tully Phillips shares her story and advice with Carpe Juvenis. From New York City to Texas, this entrepreneur knows what it’s like to open up bakeries across the country and discover a passion that was hidden right under her own nose for years.

For anyone excited about starting their own baking venture, or who just loves to get their hands dirty in the kitchen, we are extremely excited to share this week’s inspiring Spotlight with you!

Name: Tully Phillips
Education: Southern Methodist University and Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX
Follow: @tulusbakery / Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Tully Phillips: I think it’s best to seize every opportunity to learn and gain experience when you are young. Try all sorts of things because you never know what might pique your interest!

CJ: What did you study at Southern Methodist University and how did you determine what to major in?

TP: I was a fine art major. It was an easy decision for me because I loved painting and creating art in high school. I have a real need to be creative and that translated into cooking post-college.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX. What inspired you to pursue cooking in an academic way and what was that experience like?

TP: I have always loved cooking. I find it extremely relaxing, an outlet for creativity and of course a delicious profession. Going to school for something that was formerly a hobby was a dream come true. Some people might think culinary school is relaxed but it is actually quite strenuous. You have to be on point every day because each dish you create is graded. Despite that, I still enjoyed every moment. 

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You signed your first lease for Tu-Lu’s NYC bakery at the young age of 28. How did you decide where to start and which area of the city to rent in?

TP: I wanted to be in a neighborhood that was a “foodie destination.” The East Village is one of those areas of Manhattan with such a variety of restaurants and is quite the hang out area on the weekends. The less expensive rent was also a deciding factor. It was important to me not to overspend on rent since it was a new business and quite frankly a new concept for NYC. We were the first 100% gluten-free bakery in Manhattan so I was not sure how successful we would be.

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CP: In your roles as founder and owner, good leadership is critical. How have you learned to lead and what does it mean, in your opinion, to be a strong leader?

TP: I think a leader needs to be experienced in all the roles of their employees. When we first opened I was the dishwasher, weekend baker, register employee, as well as having all the managerial duties. I learned the ins and outs of each position, which was helpful in delegating work and projects to my employees. I think you also have to be willing to learn from your employees and listen to them. Be open to tweaking how things run according to advice they give you.

CJ: How did your education and past work experiences prepare you to start Tu-Lu’s Bakery in both New York and Texas?

TP: I helped manage the kitchen in a catering company NYC. That job really taught me how to be confident in having employees and letting them know your expectations and limits. Of course my culinary education and work experience directly influenced the quality of our baked goods. I have very high standards for what we sell at Tu-Lu’s.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your company, and what do you wish you had known before opening your bakeries?

TP: We are open seven days a week in NYC with very long, late hours so essentially we are never closed! There is always something that comes up that needs to be addressed. Whether it’s someone not showing up for work or a light fixture that no longer works, owning a business is a 24 hour, seven day a week job.  That might have been nice to know before opening!

CJ: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur?

TP: Being an entrepreneur is risky but extremely rewarding. I was so scared to open a retail store in the middle of New York City but once I signed that lease I didn’t look back.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

TP: I recommend working at a bakery to really learn the ins and outs of the business. Try to work your way up to assistant manager or manager to get experience on all levels. Knowing how to manage people and money is key. Though I had culinary experience, I had never worked in an actual bakery so I could have learned so many things and avoided quite a few mistakes and bumps in the beginning.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You’ve had such incredible feedback about your gluten-free products, especially the delectable brownies and Carpe Juvenis’ personal favorite, the Agave Cinnamon Granola. Aside from your own experience being gluten intolerant, what inspires you to create delicious treats that anyone can enjoy?

TP: I created the bakery to fill that void of not having delicious GF treats available to me. I was shocked I could not find a wonderful GF cupcake in all of Manhattan. We are always trying to create new products to excite our customers. I especially love when we can recreate a childhood memory in a GF version.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: What motivates you on your toughest days?

TP: We have the best customers and we are always striving to make them happy. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for opening the bakery. How many people get thanked on a regular basis at their job? Not many! That completely makes up for the tough days.

CJ: What advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

TP: I would probably tell myself to get a job at a local bakery and learn as much as I can about their systems, customer service, accounting, etc. Try to get some marketing and PR experience as well. You can never learn too much and all knowledge is useful! You never know where it will take you.

Tully Phillips Qs

Images by Tully Phillips

EducationSkills

The fall semester looms near. Did your pack your things? Make your schedule? Say goodbye to your summer flip flops? The end of August is a time of change, and for some students, this may mean starting a part­-time job for the first time. Now, I know it’s hectic to move into your dorm, prep for classes, and adjust to the back-­to-­school mentality, but now is the time to start hunting for part-­time jobs for the fall semester.

Here are four things to keep in mind:

1. School vs. Job

School comes first. But your job pays for school. But school comes first. This has gone through your head before, hasn’t it? If you’re like me, you work part-time during the semester to pay for textbooks, supplies, and tuition. Some students pay for their groceries and bills and rent. Whatever your situation, it’s important to understand your own limit and be able to balance that midterm paper on ancient Greek epics or the midnight shift in the student labs.

Everybody has their own pace. Some students may find the workload heavy, especially if they’re new students or thesis-­stressed seniors. Consider these things when you’re deciding if you want to work or not.

2. Paperwork

Since you’re working, you might want to get some things together. Before leaving mom or dad, get your personal information from them. Many jobs require identification, so get a state ID or an unexpired driver’s license from the DMV. At the end of the year, you’ll get some papers about taxes, which you might give to your parents so they can file their taxes. Don’t throw these papers out or lose them! You should provide accurate data because that tax info is the same info you’ll need for your FASFA (that sounds familiar right?). When in doubt, keep it, and ask your university’s finance or career office.

3. Where To Work

In the school library? In the labs? In the bakery, the clothing store, the modeling agency? Things to consider about your job is how it would work with your schedule. Because colleges can have pretty irregular hours, it may be hard to find someone who would take you from 3­-9pm one day, and 7am-­4pm the next. Keep in mind that university jobs tend to go to students who are in financial need, and departmental jobs look for students who are reliable in their major and may not depend on financial need. For example, I don’t get first dibs at the library, but I managed to find work in the photography lab. See the difference? Find what suits you, and don’t be afraid to ask around your school. Jobs as an assistant, teacher’s assistant, archivist, or anything else may be found in unexpected places.

4. Start Hunting!

Since people are going back to school, they’ll be quitting their jobs. Someone going from New York to California may drop one job in the Big Apple only to pick up another job in San Diego. Imagine all of the college students who are doing this (possibly including you!). The next few weeks are the perfect time to find jobs, especially in school (since the semester is starting again).

Each semester is a chance for a new beginning, to try something new or to redo something from before. Getting a job may be scary and stressful, but you’ll never know what you’ll get if you don’t try! Good luck!

Image: Tobias Mikkelsen, Flickr

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

On a boutique-lined street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill is a cookie shop that has captured the hearts and taste buds of those near and far. This cookie shop, Hello Robin Cookies, is run by the seriously talented Robin Wehl Martin, who can whip up a batch of delicious cookies in just eight minutes. Growing up, Robin spent time learning how to bake with her grandma, and she now spends her days making the most amazing cookies you’ll ever taste. With cookies such as classic chocolate chip, Habanero orange, and Mackles’more, Robin has created treats that are addicting after just one bite. Continue reading to learn how Robin got to where is today, to hear her thoughts on culinary school, and to find out her best cookie baking tips.

Name: Robin Wehl Martin
Age: 43
Education: B.A. from Central Washington University; Master’s Degree from Seattle University
Follow: TwitterHello Robin Cookies

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Robin Wehl Martin: I think of it in a weird way where you’re not necessarily seizing it, but you’re maintaining it. By certain choices and things that you do, you’re always staying youthful. There are people who are so much younger than me but they are like a 65-year-old man in the way they act and think. They’re not playful or curious. Keeping all of those traits active help.

CJ: What did you major in at college and graduate school, and how did you determine what to study?

RWM: I have an undergraduate degree in Community Health Education from Central Washington University, and that’s the one I wish I had pursued more. At Seattle University, I received my graduate degree in Student Development Administration, and I had dreams of working with students.

The Community Health Education was random, and I took a health class that I loved. The professor was so dynamic. I went to school thinking I was going to do something with broadcast journalism, but then the health stuff really got me.
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CJ: What was your first job out of college?

RWM: I graduated from Central, took a year off and worked for the university, and then went to graduate school. I worked during undergrad, worked all during graduate school, and then went I got out of graduate school, I worked for a small non-profit in Seattle for four years. Most of my work has been in non-profits.

CJ: What sparked your interested in baking?

RWM: My grandmother was a baker. She was born in Germany, and when the war broke out, she and her family moved to Shanghai and lived in the ghettos of Shanghai for 10 years. When her family was able to move to the United States, her trades and skills were in baking and cooking. She worked at some great bakeries in Seattle, and I always loved baking with her. That was my training.

CJ: Did you go to culinary school? What are your thoughts on culinary school?

RWM: I wanted to go to culinary school, and I thought for a while that I would go. But then I realized it wasn’t totally necessary for what I wanted to do. I have three kids, and I didn’t think it was going to be the best use of time for my family and for what I was going to get out of it.

All of our friends had restaurants and people always asked when we would do something because were always cooking and hosting at our house.

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CJ: How did you know when you wanted to turn your passion for baking into a profession?

RWM: I had slowly done it in my house. It happened naturally, and then when Molly Moon and her husband came to me and asked if I was interested in opening a bakery, that’s when everything started.

CJ: You opened your cookie shop, Hello Robin, in December 2013. What inspired you to open a bakery that primarily sells cookies (and Molly Moon ice cream)?

RWM: I just really truly love cookies, and if you do one thing and you do it well, then that’s a good thing.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your bakery?

RWM: Balancing family with work. That’s hard, especially because my kids are still little. But it’s fun because my husband and I both want to be here. We both really like being here still, and my kids really like being here also.

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CJ: What is your favorite part about your job?

RWM: I really love all the customers. I love the creative process, I love the good feedback. It’s all so good and better than I ever could have imagined. I love that we took a risk and it worked out. I love that Molly believed in us.

We’ll always say yes to the customers, because I really want everyone to have a great experience. The experience, the aesthetic, and the product are really important things.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

RWM: Surprisingly, we go through a lot of ice cream sandwiches. I had no idea, I just thought it was going to be cookies. It’s exciting to be one of the first places in Seattle to be making ice cream sandwiches with great ingredients.

CJ: What are your cookie baking tips?

RWM: Use really good ingredients, don’t over mix, don’t over bake, and practice a lot. Also, freeze the dough, which helps maintain the shape and texture.

chocolate chip cookies

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery do now to set themselves up for success?

RWM: Get a job at a bakery and practice. Make tons of stuff and give it away. And don’t get cocky because you have to be open to learning. Maybe consider culinary school. Culinary school is right for a lot of people and you’ll learn different things. Go to the bookstore and read through cook books and try new recipes. The most important thing is really just practice.

CJ: What do you like to do when you’re not baking cookies or running the business side of things?

RWM: Sometimes I’ll just go home and make cookies. Going from a large scale to a tiny batch of cookies was hard! I still relax by baking cookies. I do a lot of cooking.

CJ: Have you ever worried about turning a hobby into a career and then not liking it anymore?

RWM: I have worried about that but I don’t think it’s going to happen because I love it too much, and I have been doing it for so long. Before this I was making cookies for my friend who has a restaurant in University Village. I find it relaxing and it’s a great way to zone out. Everything about this job is fun.

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CJ: How long does it take to make a batch of cookies?

RWM: I can do it fast, probably around eight minutes to mix the dough, and then ten minutes to bake.

CJ: If you could open another cookie shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

RWM: Amsterdam, because it is so beautiful. If you walk around the good parts of Amsterdam, there are beautiful boutique stores. It’s visually stunning, and I think it would be fun to be there with all that. I don’t think I want to open another store, though. I want to be here and know my customers and see the cookies going out. It’s not a control thing, but more of just being present here.

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CJ: What motivates you?

RWM: I am motivated by doing my job well. I don’t want any products going out that I wouldn’t eat. I have to feel really good about everything that goes out. I am motivated by the quality of the product and the happiness of the customers.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

RWM: I would not have gone to graduate school right after college because I think you need time to figure out what you want to do. I would have waited and then I probably would have gone to culinary school. That’s the big one.

I also would say to be more relaxed. When you’re 20 you feel so old and like you need to be accomplished, but you’re still so young. Try a bunch of things out and do what is fun. You have to do what you enjoy.

Robin Martin Qs