Erin Baker


For many entrepreneurs, the first spark of a business model often starts with observing a hole in the market. The point at which a frustrated or curious consumer steps into the small business world is a tenuous time, the complications of which can either make or break the fledgling business. In these uncertain times, the consumer demand that entrepreneurs anticipate for their product or service can be short lived or even fail to emerge in the first place. 50% of all businesses founded in the US go under within the first 4 years, a statistic that just goes to show how tough the world of small business can be. But, as tough as this old world can be, there are people who are even tougher. Just take Erin Baker, owner and founder of Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods. Despite facing several major obstacles, Erin’s good business sense and commitment to baking healthy, delicious cookies have helped to make her business an enduring success.

Baker was born in 1961 in Kaiapoi, New Zealand. Upon the suggestion by her mother Mary, Baker began running competitively at age 15 and showed ability right from the start. “I remember the first day Erin competed in a cross-country race. I was waiting for her to come in thinking God, she won’t be very pleased because she hasn’t done very well. In fact, I missed her crossing the finish line a quarter of an hour earlier, in first place.”Baker is one of eight children.

Erin Baker started making her famously healthy and delicious cookies back in 1994 while she was working at a pizzeria and managing a bed and breakfast. In her feature in Success Power Unlimited, Baker said  “It didn’t occur to me not to go into business for myself,” says Baker, who grew up the child of entrepreneurs. “When I graduated I didn’t think: I need to get a job. I thought: ‘How can I make money?’… I thought: There are some 45 million Americans not eating breakfast on a regular basis or some crazy statistic like that. So I spent a day reverse engineering an oatmeal cookie.” Within 6 months of developing her recipe for success (Get it? Recipe?), Baker was selling 20 dozen of her cookies per-week, which earned her enough to quit her other 2 jobs.

Soon after the creation of her business, her delicious, nutritious cookies attracted the attention of Weight Watchers dieters looking for guilt-free sweets, which, with their oatmeal base and fruit puree, were only 2 Weight Watchers points apiece. The popularity that Erin’s product found with the dieting community had a dramatic impact on her business. Within a year, Erin’s 2 employee business had grown to over 100 staff members and it was all that they could to keep up with the wild demand for their product.

Then, things changed. In the blink of an eye, weight watchers changed their rating system and the Atkins low-carb craze gripped the dieting populace. Within 8 months, Erin’s company had lost 60% of their distribution. In order to keep things afloat, she was forced to conduct layoffs, cut her own salary and cut spending. In her feature, Baker attributes her business’s survival to her frugality and the fact that she never borrowed money, saying that she saved “as much money as I possibly could every month…I’ve never been a huge risk taker with money. Owning your own business is risk enough.”

Another thing that helped Erin’s business survive was the fact that she responded to a tank in her product’s popularity with innovation. She started baking mini granola breakfast cookies and brownie bites, moving away from her former customer base of dieters and distributing samples at local marathons and triathlons. So, take a lesson from Erin: when what you’re doing is no longer working, do something else!