Full Name: Katelyn Sornik
Educational background: BA in Government & Politics and later a law school drop-out (finished half, only got the “J”)
Company: Kate Bakes
Have you ever had a friend or family member who makes the best of something? The best cookie, or best barbeque sauce, or, in the case of Katelyn Sornik, the best snack bars. Not only are they delicious, but they taste homemade, and happen to be healthy! Vegan, gluten free, and high in protein, they’re a solid contender for the title of “Your New Favorite Snack.” Katelyn shares the story behind her business, Kate Bakes as well as her tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in this Q&A:
What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
I’m on a much different career path now than when I just got out of college, but at that point I was convinced I’d be a lawyer some day, so I moved back home to NYC and became a paralegal at a big law firm in midtown. I remember when a friend of my father, who was an attorney at the firm, took me to lunch to try and talk me out of law, but when I wouldn’t budge, brought me in for an interview and I was hired. In many ways working as a paralegal prepared me well to run a business though; organization, attention to detail and timeliness are all still very important.
Tell us about Kate Bakes and your bars!
I started Kate Bakes because I was looking for something good to eat! I had to change my diet several years back and there were so few healthy and convenient foods around for someone always on the go, so I came up with my own protein bars to fill the void. Each bar is vegan, gluten-free and high in protein and fiber. I try and come up with unique flavors that aren’t already on the market – for example, our two new flavors debuting this fall are Cherry Cordial and French Toast. The goal is to provide a snack that is not only going to fill you up with real ingredients, but that also tastes delicious.
What is your background? What skills do you feel like you need to start your own business?
To be honest, my background is law school dropout – I’ve never taken a professional cooking or business class in my life! I actually started this journey by writing a food blog (RIP New Kid on the Vegan Block), where I began to develop recipes and my knowledge about vegan and gluten-free foods. My original protein bar recipe on the blog was for the Banana Cinnamon Oatmeal bar and that’s where the idea for the business came from. While I did start slowly, I was always extremely dedicated to and passionate about the business, which I think are necessary to be successful. Adaptability is also helpful because the path will never look how you think it will!
Did you have an “aha” moment?
I don’t think I’ve had one giant “aha” moment, but I do feel like I have little ones all the time – usually when I figure out the best way to reach a business goal or make a recipe work they way I want it to.
I’ve been working really hard to get the bars into more local retailers, so that makes me so happy to hear! With the increased demand, I’ve recently brought on my first baker and she has been an amazing! In the next few years I hope to expand the team a bit more and get into more retailers both locally and across the country. I’m not necessarily trying to get into every grocery store out there, but I want the bars to be available in as many places as possible where there is a demand for convenient and healthy (real) food.
What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur in DC right now?
For me, it’s the sense of community, especially among the food companies. There is a network of support to cheer you on or help you out if and when possible. The truly genuine, energetic and creative people I’ve met have been a constant source of inspiration!
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey? And any advice for other DC lady entrepreneurs out there?
Looking back, I think it would have to be that it’s okay to say “no”. You have to know your limits, boundaries, etc. to be most effective for growing your business. People will constantly ask all sorts of things of you and from you, but you have to know when to reign your commitments in to make sure you aren’t overextended. You want to produce the best work or product, and you can’t do that if you’re going in a million directions. It took me a little while to learn the art of saying “no” effectively (and always nicely!) but has been a hard-earned lesson for sure. And if there are any other DC lady entrepreneurs out there still working on it, you’ll get there and all will be okay, really!
Where can we find your bars in DC?
Within DC, Kate Bakes bars are available at Menu MBK, Corcoran Gallery of Art, GW’s Campus Fresh and Reagan National Airport. They are also available at South Block Juice Co. and Urban Pantry in Arlington and Killer ESP in Alexandria. Online you can purchase them through Relay Foods, Washington Green Grocer and Hometown Harvest. Working on a few more now, so stay tuned!
What is the best part of your job?
Making people happy and healthy! I also love directing the course of the business and seeing it grow.
How do you come up with your flavors? What is your favorite flavor?
I think about foods and flavors that I want to eat and go from there – usually combinations that aren’t already available in vegan and gluten-free bars. Banana Cinnamon Oatmeal will always be my first love, but the two new flavors we have coming out soon (Cherry Cordial & French Toast) are really giving it a run for it’s money.
What is one piece of advice you’d give your 24-year-old self?
Trust your gut, it’s usually right.
Location: Recently moved to NoVa from Georgetown
What is your favorite thing about The DC Ladies?
That it’s written by and for women in my town, giving it a real community feel.
What is your favorite place in the DC area?
This is a hard question! There are so many, but the courtyard in the Portrait Gallery is very high in the list.
Metro or Bus?
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee, so much coffee!
Kate is Social:
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