By Patricia Canole
Craig Watson loves sweets. So much so that the founder of Baked Cravings, a New York City bake shop created the city’s newest sensation. Nut-free. He’s dedicated to building and maintaining a nut-free facility by using only the highest-quality ingredients sourced from quality vendors. It’s his passion to also follow strict packaging processes and conducting regular testing to provide pastries for children to enjoy and parents to trust.
However, Watson did not go to school for baking and all that goes with it. After spending many years in the financial world helping companies become profitable with sound business decisions, he decided his love of baking and a passion for owning a successful business would be for him. That was in 2017. Watson’s enthusiasm is contagious; he loves creating new sensations for Cravers (loyal customers who come back for more cravings).
We headed uptown to Lexington Avenue and 105th Street to visit Baked Cravings to get to know its affable owner, Craig Watson.
Tell us about your background. Were you always a passionate baker?
Actually I have a background in finance with a degree in accounting and a master’s degree in marketing. Originally I was a CFO of a bakery in New York City which downsized and wanted only to sell products online. Realizing there was a void of nut-free, peanut-free treats in New York City, I decided to open up Baked Cravings. I know that food allergies are a very serious matter. In fact, it’s personal: my daughter has a food allergy so I know that a lot of kids and adults cannot tolerate certain foods. So much so that it gets overlooked when it comes to parties and gifts.
Tell us how you start your day.
I start my day off by checking our website for new orders and making sure that we have all our orders prepared and ready for delivery or pickup. Then, it’s ordering supplies for the bakery and making sure that everyone is prepared to start the day.
When do you end your day? Or, do you?
I end my day basically the same way I started it. Making sure that we are prepared to fulfill any of the orders we have coming up the next day, checking out the website making changes and updating with photos. I also handle social media responding to e-mails and requests as well as scheduling meetings, going through marketing ideas and customer relations.
What’s your strategy to keep focused?
What would we be without technology? I use Google and use it for reminders on my phone. I’m a big fan of the Samsung Note which makes multi-tasking simple and complete. I believe in being organized and I think that really helps speed up the process.
When you were a kid what did you want to be?
Thinking back, I really didn’t have anything particular in mind. I just knew that I wanted to be successful.
What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
I learned that if you refuse to continue to expand your knowledge base that you will become obsolete.
Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
I would have to say my daughter who recently passed away from cancer. She was very driven, very hard working and never looked for praise or awards. Her name was Faith and she was always focused and never complained.
What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
My first business was with two friends. We started a hip-hop music label and had some moderate success—nothing really big. But we did okay!
What was an early job that taught you what’s truly important or useful?
As a youngster, I was a proud member of the Boys Club. Many times I would help out on Bingo nights and enjoyed working in the kitchen with the staff. It’s there I learned people really do appreciate good customer service.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever applied to your life?
That would have to be what you believe and what you say is what you manifest in reality.
What’s the worst piece of advice you ever received?
When you finish school get a good job stay there for 30 years and retire. Then you’ll be happy. I’m so happy I never took that to heart!
What does work-life balance mean to you?
We are a small company and we’re growing and I have plans to expand. For us it’s more of a work is life and life is work type of atmosphere. You can frequently find my kids in the shop helping me out. Of course, I always make sure for family getaways to reset and recharge.
How do you prevent burnout?
That’s sometimes hard to do. I just take the time to relax. Or if I’m faced with a creativity block, I hit the gym. I find the treadmill or elliptical a great way for me to think of some creative processes.
What does the future hold for Baked Cravings?
Right now I’m focusing on learning detailing of the processes and functions that would allow me to expand and duplicate several Baked Cravings in select areas. This involves surrounding myself with the appropriate people that would further implement growth.
For more information on Craig Watson and Baked Cravings, visit bakedcravings.com.