The Sweet Life

A measure of discipline defines a gourmet fondant cake company in Detroit.
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For a do-it-yourself business, Brys and Edgewood Cake Co. in Detroit practices what it preaches. Longtime friends Jessica Malouf, along with twin brothers Stefan and Andre Ahee, launched their online company last summer after raising nearly $10,000 on the startup funding site Kickstarter.com.

“I needed to create a company for my senior business class at Michigan State University, and my professor encouraged me to keep it going,” Stefan Ahee says. “We got a great response from our online funding, and instead of hiring people to fulfill orders, design the cakes, or take photography, we do it all ourselves.”

The company’s line of fondant cakes for home bakers is part of a growing niche in the gourmet food sector. In addition to steady coverage on popular shows like Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, and Ultimate Cake Off, the trio is riding the wave of do-it-yourselfers who take on home baking projects as a way to save costs and build camaraderie.

Located in the Madison Building, the business is one of several startup companies that are taking root in downtown Detroit. Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., along with various investors, operates Detroit Venture Partners — a venture capital firm — along with Bizdom, a business accelerator program that assists entrepreneurs, among other initiatives.

Brys and Edgewood offers 13 baking kits for cakes and cupcakes, ranging in price from $38 to $48, and has sold several hundred kits in the United States. That means the sweet treats are about 20 percent cheaper than comparable offerings from a bakery (although the Brys and Edgewood kits don’t include eggs or oil).

“Because of food rules, customs, and shipping, it isn’t practical to ship overseas,” Malouf says. “We concentrate on the continental United States and Canada. I think what helped us is that we had to create instructions for people who don’t bake, and since none of us have cooking experience, we made it as simple as possible.”

Among the most challenging aspects of the business is discipline. The company shies away from taking custom orders. “It pulls us away from our core operations, and while it is tempting, our time is better spent simplifying and refining the business,” says Andre Ahee, whose grandfather founded Edmund T. Ahee Jewelers in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The entrepreneurs declined to reveal revenue figures, but say the company is on a path to profitability. To propel growth, the trio will develop more kits by collaborating with cake designers. They also plan to tap social media channels to boost their marketing awareness. db

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