Q&A: Law school alumna stirs legal knowledge into her ‘cakepoppery’

Media Credit: Olivia Harding | Hatchet Photographer

Baked by Yael, D.C.'s first cakepoppery, opened this month across the street from the National Zoo, a prime spot for attracting families and young customers.

When Yael Krigman graduated from the GW Law School in 2009, she was working at a law firm downtown. Two years later, she quit that job and later used her familiarity with legal language to trademark the word “cakepoppery.”

Krigman opened the doors of the District’s first cakepoppery, a dessert shop that sells cake-pops, on Jan. 14, turning her weekly tradition of bringing homemade treats to her office into a lucrative online business and now a brick-and-mortar store at 3000 Connecticut Ave. NW. The White House highlighted her in 2012 as a female entrepreneur.

The shop, Baked by Yael, has found its home across the street from the National Zoo. The alumna sells her two-bite cake-pops – balls of cake, frosting and candy on a stick – as well as rugelach, cookies and bagels made from scratch.

How did you first get into baking?
Yael Krigman: I started baking at the end of my final year in law school and when I was studying for the bar exam. You aren’t supposed to do anything fun and you’re supposed to spend the whole time studying. I wasn’t really hanging out with friends [and] I wasn’t going out, but I also needed [an] outlet and some way to procrastinate, so I started baking more and more.

After the exam, I started this tradition called Monday Treat where I brought in baked goods for anyone in the office who wanted them and it was a huge hit. Every week it was something different, and I never promised that it was amazing, but I always promised that it would be from scratch and by me.

One of the Monday treats was cake pops without the sticks. When I made the cake balls — [as] they were called at the time — people went nuts. They just loved them. At the time, I had just opened up a cart at the Annapolis mall [to] sell my products. I actually introduced the cake pops without the stick within a week because they were such a hit [at the office].

When did you start thinking about opening a cakepoppery?
YK: I formally started my business because I wanted to do everything above word and I wanted to make sure I paid taxes, etc. if I was selling things. But I still hadn’t thought about actually leaving.

There was a period of time where I was overlapping – running my business and also working at the firm – and I just realized that I had one job because it paid me a lot of money and one job I had because I loved it.

It quickly became impractical to work two full-time jobs, so I had to choose. The only way I was really going to give my business a chance was if I was able to dedicate 100 percent of my time to it.

What are your long-term goals for Baked by Yael? Do you plan to open more stores in the future?
YK: Right now, I don’t want to grow too fast. It was so challenging getting this store open that I want to make sure that it flourishes.

Which is the most popular cake-pop flavor and which is your favorite flavor?
YK:The most popular flavor is Cookies n’ Cream. It’s extremely chocolatey. My favorite is Birthday Cake dipped in dark chocolate because I love the yellow cake, dark chocolate combination.

How did you decide on the store’s location?
YK:That was difficult because I had to balance the financing and finding a location at the same time. For a couple of years, I would find a location but I didn’t have the financing, or [vice versa].

I actually was very close to signing at a different location and then a friend of mine who owns a bakery sent me an email and said, “I know you are about to sign a lease, but I want to make sure you know about this store.”

It was right across from the zoo, which is so perfect for what we do. So I had my broker look into it, and I found out that it had a lot of potential and was really worth pursuing. The landlord was great and we were able to work out a deal relatively quickly.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
YK: Prioritizing. There are so many aspects of the business that I enjoy doing that I really have to stay focused and remember that even though I might enjoy doing one thing more, I have to do what’s right for the business, pay rent and pay my staff.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
YK: Seeing my customers, which is not something I got to [do] when I had the online shop. When people come in and I hand them a cake-pop, I get to see them bite into it. Their eyes light up when they look at it, their face melts when they eat it and they get so excited.

Do you miss working as a lawyer?
YK: No. And to be perfectly honest, I use my law degree much more than I did as a practicing attorney because I am writing contracts, negotiating contracts and making sure I’m in compliance with local and federal regulations. I literally use my law degree every single day.

What advice do you have for someone who has a dream that doesn’t align with their job?
YK: Don’t let other people dissuade you. Stay focused. Also, don’t discount your current career path because — even if it seems like they’re completely different paths — your current job can be very helpful. So use your network, use your connections, use your education. Follow your dreams, even if people try to tell you not to.

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