Spotlight on Experience Hosts: Jess from The Lincoln Apartment Bakery
How to teach baking to people from all over the world
It’s probably a cliché now: businesses have had to reinvent themselves in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. A lot has been said about the retail industry, where brick and mortar stores pivoted to online sales almost overnight. But what about entrepreneurs who hosted groups in person to share their knowledge and expertise? The challenges they face are similar - gatherings are not allowed - so it’s impossible to see their customers in person. But unlike retailers whose end product can be bought online and delivered, event hosts sell something inherently social. While at the start of the pandemic, social gatherings were not top of mind for many, remote teams are now actively searching for different ways to connect with each other. This creates a big opportunity for our Experience Hosts. They have reinvented themselves and have pivoted their offerings online, with the help of platforms - like Cholla! - to reach a whole new clientele.
For this series, we interviewed 4 of our Experience Hosts to see how they approached pivoting to an online offering, how Cholla has helped them gain a new clientele and what’s in their crystal ball for the coming months.
The first article is an interview with Jessica McGovern from The Lincoln Apartment Bakery, who has been teaching baking for more than 10 years.
Can you tell us about The Lincoln Apartment Bakery?
“For as long as I remember, I have always baked, having learned from my mom and grandmother when I was a young kid. I thought it was normal to be able to whip up a batch of scones or an apple pie and when I grew up I was surprised to learn other people hadn’t necessarily had that opportunity. I then started casually teaching friends how to bake in my Lincoln Avenue Apartment in Montreal (hence the name!) and, after a few moves into larger commercial spaces, it’s turned into a business that has been growing for the last 10 years. I teach all kinds of classes, have a successful TV show (Flour Power, it’s available in over 60 countries worldwide), published a cookbook, and I manage a team of teachers who are as energetic and enthusiastic about desserts as I am!”
What happened when everything shut down last March?
“At first, I wasn’t too worried because it was supposed to last only a few weeks. When it started getting more serious, with shutdowns getting longer and longer, I started to think I needed a new way to pay the bills and to keep teaching. Offering online classes came naturally, as I’m no stranger to a camera, so I went in search of gear and platforms to offer a great online experience.”
How are things a few months in?
“Online classes are going really well, people have gotten used to this new way of interacting with each other, and I’m surprised how fun it can actually be. I’m so grateful to people for trying something different, because it has allowed me to keep the business going and to teach students from all over the world. I often find myself teaching classes with student bakers from places like Canada, United States, Mexico, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and even India, which is such a fun challenge.”
Are there things that are not going so well with teaching online?
“The obvious challenge with teaching online was technical, both getting it right on my side, and helping some customers get set up on their side, but that’s a given for every type of interaction nowadays. Now, almost a year into virtual baking, the main challenge is the fact that there’s no one to eat or take home the desserts after class, so I’m stuck with eating them all, which is a serious problem when you have very little will power!!...I try to freeze them, give them to neighbors, and donate them to homeless shelters.”
How has Cholla helped you face the pandemic challenges?
“Online platforms like Cholla are like my window to the world! They give me access to a whole new range of customers, which is a great way to compensate for the loss of in-person business. Cholla specifically gives me access to corporate remote teams, looking to connect differently with their colleagues and I’m very grateful for that. These teams realize that participating in a virtual experience is not Zoom fatigue, it’s good screen time. I do lots of ice-breakers and joking around to make sure everyone is having a good time. Often we’ll get some good-natured competition happening!”
Any tips for entrepreneurs facing the challenges of the pandemic?
“Don’t underestimate customers’ willingness to try something new! Whether it’s an online offering, a new product, a new service, curbside pickup, etc. you’ll be surprised how consumers are flexible now!”
The Lincoln Apartment Bakery offers three delicious experiences on Cholla: learn how to Bake Eclairs and Profiteroles, The Ultimate Cookie Class, and Breadmaking Made Easy, all with easy to source ingredients and from the comfort of your own home. Jess or a member of her team will be more than happy to share their secrets to impress your friends and family once they’re allowed to visit you. In the meantime, you have her full permission to polish off everything you bake in class!