Student bakes up creative sweets, business
By Katie West
Whiskey red velvet cupcakes. Bacon chocolate chip cookies. Apple bakes. Blackberry jam brownies.
Is your mouth watering yet?
These and other unique and scrumptious creations are all in a day’s work for USC student Alexandra Martindale, who started her own business, Hott Noms Bakery, over the summer. Now, she’s turning a profit selling her baked goods at Columbia’s weekly Soda City Market on the 1500 block of Main Street.
“I first started baking because of my love of sugar,” says Martindale, a third-year public relationsstudent. “I guess it was last May that my dad said, ‘You should just open up a bakery,’ and I was like, ‘Okay!’ So then I did.
“I started creating a menu and recipes and I got a business license. I researched different farmers markets and I chose the one that I liked the most, which was Soda City. I just did it.”
With that initiative, Martindale began selling her baked creations at the market Sept. 7, and she’s turning a profit – her second week, she sold out, so she started baking larger batches.
And while she’s made business cards and a Facebook page to publicize Hott Noms, she says a lot of her business is generated by good old-fashioned word of mouth – with a little help from technology.
“My friends have been great about coming and taking pictures of what they got and Instagramming it,” she says. “I’ve heard a lot of, ‘Oh, I’m so-and-so’s friend, and I saw this picture of a cupcake on Instagram and so I came to check you out.’ ”
At first, Martindale baked each week’s batch – usually eight kinds of goodies – at her home for about 12 hours on Friday before setting up at the market Saturday morning. Now, she’s renting out an industrial kitchen so that she can get approval from the state health department and sell her items in local stores like coffee shops.
“I do all the baking myself,” she says. “I have friends who help me, but what they do is help me package – put it in a little bag, tie a twist tie, tie a ribbon. I hate tying bows. I’m like, ‘You want to help? Come tie bows.’ I’m very thankful that they tie the bows,” she said with a laugh.
After switching her major from exercise science, Martindale is taking her first public relations classes this semester, and she said that they’ve already aided her in her business venture.
“My teachers have been really helpful, like Scott Farrand, who’s my visual communications professor,” she says. “He’s fantastic, and he’s going to work with me on my next logo. I’ve definitely learned a lot, especially this semester, on how to talk to people and about the importance of design.”
Martindale says she’s also thankful for the growing pride in local businesses that she’s seeing in Columbia – an encouraging environment for new entrepreneurs like her.
“I like Columbia’s ‘support local’ campaign,” she says. “I think it could be bigger, but I really like the direction they’re going in. I’ve always been ‘support local’ growing up with my family in Charleston.”
Not surprisingly, she’s finding that same encouragement for her own business.
“I have my community – my group of friends, my church – and they’ve all been super supportive,” she says. “All my friends that I talked to about this as I was organizing it and freaking out, they’ve all been great – like, ‘You can do this. You are talented. And if you can’t do it, it’s fine. It’s still a great experience.’ ”
While Hott Noms may be taking over her Fridays and Saturdays for the time being, Martindale says she’s not sure where this endeavor will take her in the future.
“Baking is more of a hobby for me. It’s something that I really just love doing, and it’s a way of expressing my creativity,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to do this for the rest of my life – it’s hard looking past graduation. All my friends are joking that I’m getting so busy, I’m going to have to quit school and bake all the time, and I’m like, ‘That is NOT going to happen.’ ”
For now, she’s enjoying the ride, getting to know the Saturday morning regulars and working with Soda City to get more USC students involved in the market.
“So far, it’s going really well and Columbia is responding really well to my items,” she says. “The Soda City community is fantastic.”
Martindale is a public relations major. Learn more about the programs offered by our College of Mass Communications and Information Studies.
Find out how you can enjoy or get involved in the Soda City Market.
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