America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
White Tree Bakery, Mt. Vernon
White Tree Bakery founder Jen Juhl followed her passion to take a big leap of faith in creating a scratch bakery serving downtown Mt. Vernon. The White Tree Bakery offers small batch fresh-made cookies and custom specialty cakes not found in traditional bakeries.
Jen is uniquely qualified for the business bringing confidence and several years of operational experience working for a nationally franchised cupcake bakery. Driven by that success, Jen skillfully launched a scratch bakery of her own as a means of self-employment for herself and others.
In 2020, Jen identified an unmet market need in Mt. Vernon. With a good sense of timing, Jen and her husband Brandan launched White Tree Bakery. The business idea was seeded with a cottage license from a home kitchen while Jen maintained employment at the University of Iowa. In six months, demand and bakery sales outpaced her kitchen capacity while the business became profitable.
Working collaboratively with Hills Bank for financing, Jen jumped on an opportunity for more production space and quickly transitioned to a retail bakery. Her location is inside the First Street Community Center with more foot traffic and exposure in downtown Mt. Vernon.
Through ongoing business coaching by the SBDC, the owners are now set up to benchmark sales and performance against bakery industry metrics. This includes unit production costs, sales by product, markups, and profit margins by retail and wholesale accounts. The owners understand volume versus higher-margin bakery offerings and how to compete. They are better positioned to make growth decisions based on financial rather than running a “fly by the seat of your pants” business.
Jen’s first year accomplishments represent what it takes to usher forward and grow a business, that include relying on an entrepreneurial ecosystem to help her succeed. The Chamber helped facilitate a Grand Open on April 1 and the family-run business is well-poised for continued growth in Linn County.