Meet Angie Lilly, the owner and mind behind all the delicious treats of Del City Farm. Since 2017, her business has focused on sustainably creating homemade, vegetarian cottage foods. Not only has Del City Farm become a local staple, it’s also won the Business Conservation Award for Angie’s efforts to lessen the environmental impact of her business. So how did she get her baking business to rise?
Throw on an apron because we’re going behind the scenes with Angie to see what ingredients are most important when starting and maintaining a business.
They say the way to the heart is through the stomach. While Del City Farm has clearly captured the heart of its community, it took more than great tasting products to do so. We talked with Angie to get her tips on forming an idea for a business, developing a network of support in your community, and gaining rave reviews.
As a stay-at-home wife, I was content and happy in my job as keeper of the home and household accountant; however, I wanted to help my husband even more by, once again, contributing to the financial side of our partnership.
I knew that I didn’t want to go back to office work and that I wanted to still be able to take care of all the things at home. That led me down the path of becoming self-employed. After discussing it with my husband, my mother, and several good friends, I came to the conclusion that becoming a baker would enable me to bring in some extra money, as well as keep my own hours and be my own boss. Thus, Del City Farm was born in November 2017.
“…Becoming a baker would enable me to bring in some extra money, as well as keep my own hours and be my own boss.”
While making and/or baking, I almost always have a moment where I’ll smile, knowing what I’m doing will soon be making someone else smile. Knowing that my products bring my customers joy is one of the most important things to me.
Also, as a creative person, it brings me a lot of happiness to come up with new cookie recipes, collaborate with fellow small businesses, and promote my business or collaborations via photos and writing posts for my website and social media accounts.
I also love to support local charities, organizations, and fundraisers by donating actual cookies to events or raffle items like store credits and e-gift cards.
“I almost always have a moment where I’ll smile, knowing what I’m doing will soon be making someone else smile.”
As a one woman show with zero advertising budget, I rely heavily on free social media and word-of-mouth recommendations. Due to the algorithms of social media constantly changing, especially in the business account realm, it is very common for customers and potential customers to not actually see my posts. I used to be a vendor at my local farmers’ market and that helped immensely; however, the pandemic definitely threw a wrench into that.
In May of 2020, I really focused strongly on reaching out to local businesses, interacting more with my customers, and donating more and more to local events. The response has been amazing. My business increased 8-fold from 2020 to 2021 and just keeps growing. I’m very grateful.
“I really focused strongly on reaching out to local businesses, interacting more with my customers, and donating more and more to local events.”
As a passionate environmentalist, I chose to purchase my first ever swag product in the form of 150 pens specifically because they were made of 40% reclaimed wheat stalks and because I knew it was an item that people would actually use and appreciate.
The second item I chose was something I’ve been wanting since I started my business over 5 years ago: Full Color Rectangle Auto Magnets. I bought two of them to put on my van, while making my nightly deliveries. I love that they are large but not permanent and help to get my name out to more people while I’m out doing what I always do.
“I knew it was an item that people would actually use and appreciate.”
The relationships between me and my customers often become almost (and sometimes literally) a friendship. I try my best to be my true self in all aspects of my life and that definitely includes my business. I joke around with, celebrate with, mourn with, build up, and commiserate with my customers.
These interactions lead to honest reviews and recommendations and even flavor suggestions and recipe tweaks. I love it!
“I joke around with, celebrate with, mourn with, build up, and commiserate with my customers.”
Pre-pandemic, I loved passing out samples, talking to potential customers, and just that feeling of community in the farmers market world. Now, I focus on making sure my customers enjoy the ordering process start to finish. I follow up to make sure they were happy with their purchases and always share any reviews and recommendations they may share. I encourage them to share pictures of their events, too.
I basically treat my customers as I myself want businesses to treat me: as a person of value who is greatly appreciated and not just a number on my bottom line. I also work as hard as I can to sell products that people will truly love.
“I basically treat my customers as I myself want businesses to treat me.”
Don’t be afraid of your competitors. Some of my best customers are fellow bakers. I can’t remember where I heard the phrase, “don’t compete; collaborate,” but using that as a motto has helped my business grow exponentially and introduced me to new friends.
Not all of your competitors will feel open to you, as some will just be too worried about you possibly taking business away from them. I respect that fear and, sure, I’ve been burned a couple of times, but overall, the experience of working with instead of against each other has brought me more business than not—and it’s just plain fun.
“Some of my best customers are fellow bakers.”
If you’re in Delaware, Ohio and you’ve got a craving for something sweet, be sure to place an order. To learn more about Angie’s work in her community and gain more inspiration for your own business, check out Del City Farm at their website, on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram.
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