Substituting chef’s hats for laptops, cakes for coffee and ovens for 3-D printers, The Bakery of Sioux Falls is not your typical dough and frosting operation, though it may have begun that way.
Christened the L & A Bakery in 1914, the building on North Main remained a brick and mortar sweet shop until 1935. But today “bakery” means something a little different.
It all started in the summer of 2014 when co-founders Brian Rand and Clint Brown saw a need in the community that wasn’t being met by traditional office spaces. That need? – a more collaborative atmosphere to work, learn and create with area professionals. So on July 1, 2015 The Bakery welcomed its first members to do just that.
“What Sioux Falls was really missing was a central hub for people to get work done,” Rand said. “We saw that need, and we met that need.”
Just nine months later The Bakery has 500 members and counting, a customer base Rand and Brown weren’t expecting when they set a goal of 150 memberships for the business’s inaugural year. But it’s a welcome surprise, one both hope to continue to build on as The Bakery grows.
“We really hit a market we weren’t sure existed,” Brown said. “The majority of our members are late-30’s to early-40’s mobile professionals, but a lot of people who come in here run home-based businesses, they’re working moms, young entrepreneurs. But they’re all looking for a place to go so they’re not stuck inside their home or office.”
Lauren Forsch was one of those Sioux Falls business professionals seeking a creative atmosphere outside the office environment.
Corporate Events Director for the American Heart Association and owner of a local bed and breakfast, Forsch said she’s one of those people who has to tell someone about a new idea the moment it comes to her. For Forsch, The Bakery satisfied that interpersonal need.
“The Bakery blurs the lines between the personal and the professional,” Forsch said. “I think of myself as having an entrepreneurial spirit, and here I’ve found like-minded people. One of the biggest positives about this place is how it’s led to so much personal growth.”
Rand and Brown emphasized that The Bakery is for anyone who wants to work in a cooperative, hassle-free environment. Even if that cooperation only extends to collaborating with yourself.
“Some people come here just for alone time,” Brown said. “It’s a safe place for them, away from the everyday stresses of work and home.”
With its open floor plan – including three floors of desks, chairs, love-seats, life-size teddy bears, white boards and even a vintage phone booth – The Bakery is nothing if not innovative. Members are encouraged to move furniture around and set up where they feel most comfortable, working alone or with a team of like-minded colleagues.
“We’re classified as a co-working space, but we’re not your typical co-working space,” Rand said. “A lot of those places follow the ‘rent a desk’ model, we’re not centered around that.”
Instead The Bakery provides the creative space for opportunities to happen. It’s a professional atmosphere that is anything but traditionally professional – allowing those serendipitous connections to materialize or simply helping members do their jobs better – it’s all in The Bakery’s repertoire.
“If you’re a college student, sometimes you want to do homework someplace other than the library or alone in your dorm room,” Brown said. “The Bakery satisfies that need – the need to be around other motivated people whether you’re working with them or not – for adults in the professional world.”
With that 500-member base, The Bakery is now looking to expand into the online realm, exploring opportunities outside Sioux Falls through website-only classes and workshops, maybe even an online small business incubator, the likes of which they have already achieved through a 12-week program called The Oven.
“We just want to continue to push Sioux Falls to be a place open to collaboration and new ideas,” Rand said. “To step out and take risks, to grow dreams.”
For Brown The Bakery is not some get-rich-quick scheme, but a social enterprise taken on for the good of the community.
“It’s amazing that we can use a for-profit business to still make the community better,” he said. “I dare you to tell me who’s rich and who’s poor in here, who has a PhD and who’s a high school dropout. You can’t, and that’s the beauty of it. We’ve taken away that hierarchy and that’s something people are really drawn to.”
Cakes and cookies aside, The Bakery places its stake on cooking up creativity—one thinker, dreamer or doer at a time.
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