Sweet Seidner’s Home-Baked Treats Give College Students A Taste Of Home – One Care Package At A Time
When Jodi Seidner was just a little girl, her grandmother, Mollie, showed her love through baking. Jodi grew up in Massachusetts, and Mollie lived in Brooklyn. But, the distance could not keep them apart, and when Jodi would travel to see her grandmother once a month, she was always greeted by a baked treat– a tradition that would come to persevere through the decades
Jodi and her family loved all of her grandmother’s recipes and cherished the conversations that flourished over the sweets. Unfortunately, though, when Mollie passed away, many of her grandmother’s recipes were lost, too.
“Because my grandmother didn’t, you know, [measure], she’d say, ‘I need a cup of this, a handful of that.’ And I am like, how much is a handful? She didn’t know. She was really an intuitive baker,” Jodi recalled.
Still, Mollie’s passing did not take away the emotional significance of baking in Jodi’s life– because, by the time she ventured to college and began living with her freshman-year roommate, she was once again shown how baked goods brought people together.
“My freshman college roommate’s grandmother used to send us cookies in the mail, and they would sometimes come kind of crushed and sometimes not. But they always came in this box in brown wrapping paper,” Jodi explained.
Her roommate’s grandmother would actually cut up brown paper grocery store bags and use the paper to carefully wrap boxes of homemade cookies.
“I would see my roommate, Karen, coming back from the post office with this box, and I always knew it had cookies because it was just very distinctive,” Jodi said.
And in those moments, genuine human connection was immediately fostered. Jodi and Karen would sit and share the cookies, talking about their lives because there were always more sweets than Karen could eat alone.
So, the idea of home baked treats providing a sense of home, history, and humanity stuck with Jodi as she grew through young adulthood and became an aunt.
By the time her nieces were going off to college around 2010, Jodi had no idea what to get them as high school graduation gifts. She believed her nieces had everything they needed and wanted to give them a piece of the college experience– a piece of her college experience.
“I remembered that my college roommate received cookies monthly from her grandmother, and, at the time, I had been dabbling in baking because I loved it. So, I decided to give my niece, Anna, cookies,” Jodi explained.
She did not just bake Anna cookies once and send her niece on her way, though. No, Jodi completely revitalized her grandmother Mollie’s tradition.
Jodi went on to bake Anna two dozen cookies every single month of her freshman year, sending the freshly baked treats directly to her at school– a tradition that kept Jodi’s grandmother’s memory alive and also allowed Anna to flourish at school.
“Anna was a shy kid. She had never left home before, and we were a little nervous about her going off to school, and the cookies actually helped her meet people because she could not eat two dozen cookies alone,” Jodi said.
“So, Anna would be forced to walk down the dorm hallway, saying, ‘Would you like a cookie?’ which is a lot easier than saying, ‘Hi, my name is Anna. What’s your name?’ It was a good icebreaker.”
Then, to both Jodi's and Anna’s pleasure, her niece’s peers got into the habit of seeing Anna walking down the hallway every month with treats in tow. So, Anna’s classmates would run to her for a cookie, and Anna was able to start conversations about her aunt and the baked goods that eventually grew into friendships
And after learning how much her gift had genuinely helped Anna at school, monthly cookie care packages became Jodi’s go-to graduation gift for all of her relatives and friends’ children.
But it was not until Jodi’s own daughter went off to college that her son– who is four years younger– really pushed her to launch her own bakery.
According to Jodi, her children had been hawking her to start a bakery for years. Like a lot of people, though, she was turned off by the idea of working notoriously terrible hours, as many in the catering profession do. But eventually, Jodi’s son gave her a wake-up call that she could not forget.
“My son finally turned to me just before my daughter went off to college, and he said, ‘Look, mom, you need to start this business because I don’t want to become your next project. You need a project, and this is it. It’s not going to be me. Go, start a bakery.’”
And after hearing that from her own child, Jodi could not help but take her son’s input to heart. Of course, they chuckled about that remark and moved on from the topic at that moment. But, inside, Jodi realized that she now needed something to invest time, energy, and care in other than her children.
So, she finally turned her talent for baking into a full-fledged business now known as Sweet Seidner’s Bake Shop.
Sweet Seidner’s began by shipping cookies to kids in college– a brilliant launchpad based on what Jodi was already so knowledgeable of. And then, by the time Jodi figured out shipping on a business level, Sweet Seidner’s was ready to evolve and began shipping baked goods to anybody, anywhere.
Unfortunately, though, right as Jodi’s bakery really took off, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And not only was she worried about her business, but she also had two children graduating– one from high school and one from college– in 2020.
“Which, as you can imagine, kind of sucked for both of them,” Jodi said.
But, the common struggle throughout the college community actually proved to be an incredibly fruitful time for Sweet Seidner’s. All of a sudden, Jodi recalled how parents came out of the woodwork asking for ways to celebrate their children’s achievements and resilience amidst the pandemic chaos.
“Our business just exploded because we already knew how to ship stuff. We knew how to bake stuff. We knew how to get into colleges, and the business just exploded
So, through June 2022, Jodi and her bake staff were working practically around the clock– fifteen-hour days– to bake, ship, and repeat. Sweet Seidner’s was creating everything from custom cookies and graduation cookies to classic chocolate chunk cookies.
And it was at that point that Sweet Seidner’s reached a bit of a tipping point. Jodi needed to expand her business to keep up with demand– because, up until then, all of the bakery’s operations had been occurring in the basement of her Woodbridge home.
“In Woodbridge, you can have what they call a ‘home office.’ And my home office was a three hundred square foot commercial kitchen because they let me do that,” Jodi explained.
“So I had this whole separate commercial kitchen in my basement that I had been working from for four years– baking and shipping- and I had basically taken over my entire basement.”
Moreover, during seasonal highs, Jodi also took over the rest of her house for storing packaging materials and other supplies. So, it quickly became apparent that the demand was there, and it was finally time for Sweet Seidner’s to expand.
Jodi ended up planting down roots in Hamden, Connecticut, which presented her business with its first opportunity to set up a retail space. And both she and her customers could not have been more thrilled.
“A lot of times, people would say to me, ‘I don’t want to pay to ship if I am literally around the corner.’ So, I would meet people in the Stop & Shop parking lot,” Jodi laughed.
But, once Sweet Seidner’s opened for business in a location that married shipping and retail, Jodi was no longer faced with this problem.
On top of that, she has also been able to expand Sweet Seidner’s menu offerings and capabilities since shipping is not her sole delivery
consideration anymore. For instance, baking and selling birthday cakes and pies are now standard at her retail location. Before, shipping these items was a sort of logistical nightmare.
“So, we have a nice, diverse menu here [at Sweet Seidner’s], and we are still expanding with more schools, more organizations,” Jodi said.
At the same time, she also decided to make her home office kitchen a Kosher-pareve, non-dairy kitchen– which presented Jodi with a whole other market of opportunity.
“Now, there are a couple of different dimensions where our business is poised to go in the future. But it’s growing, and it’s doing great,” she noted.
As for Jodi, Sweet Seidner’s gaining a storefront has also afforded her a newfound love for random human connections. Before, when she was working out of her home commercial kitchen, Jodi did not often have direct contact with her customers.
Opening a storefront meant customer service and interaction became the norm. And to Jodi’s surprise, she actually really cherishes it.
“It’s interesting. I think I am a bit of a chameleon because I love when people come into the shop. So, even though I’m an introvert, I love talking to people when they come in,” she revealed.
“I guess I can wear both of those hats, or I can show both sides of my personality. So I am adaptable, which has really worked for me.”
It would be naive to believe that opening Sweet Seidner’s has been without its challenges, though– particularly because Jodi made the retail jump in a nearly post-COVID world.
Like many businesses, Sweet Seidner’s had to deal with supply chain breakdowns and the novelty of navigating mask-wearing. Thankfully, though, these were just new challenges that Jodi had to get through, and they did not fundamentally change the way she did business or Sweet Seidner’s success.
Plus, a critical part of Jodi’s ability to overcome these obstacles also lies in her extensive business background. After she first went away to college, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Optics.
“Which is basically lasers and electro-optical devices, and stuff like that. And I worked for the Navy on missile guidance systems when I first graduated,” Jodi recalled.
Even though this line of work might sound riveting, Jodi claims that her day-to-day life could not have been more boring. In fact, she actually came to dislike her post-degree job and decided to go back to school to pursue a new path.
“I went back to business school, got my MBA in marketing and finance, and started working in brand management. I worked as a brand manager in corporate America for about twelve years,” Jodi explained.
She went on to work for mega-companies like Unilever and ran businesses that were generating a couple of hundred million dollars in gross sales every single year. And Jodi was responsible for handling the brand’s profits and other operational considerations.
“So, I have a really extensive toolkit at my disposal, if you will. I understand supply chains, pricing, forecasting, advertising, and marketing, and I bring all of these tools to bear on how I run my business here,” Jodi noted.
In fact, Jodi only ended up leaving her thriving marketing career in order to focus on her family. At the time, she was the director of the shaver business unit at BIC in Milford, Connecticut, when she had a heartbreaking epiphany while traveling for work.
“I was pregnant and going over the Whitestone Bridge on September 11, 2001, to get on a plane. So, that experience kind of influenced the way I wanted to proceed in life,” she recalled.
“At that point, I had a three-year-old. I was also pregnant. And after I had my second child, I decided I didn’t want to travel to Greece and France and Europe in general because the world did not feel as safe as it used to be.”
So, from then on, Jodi moved from living a fast-paced life in corporate America to being a full-time mom. Still, she never realized how hard of a transition that kind of switch would be.
“It’s really hard to go from one hundred and ten miles an hour as a high-powered executive to playing with little kids all day,” Jodi revealed.
And this reality– which many career-driven women turned mothers often experience– pushed Jodi to experiment with new side projects. She first started to do consulting; then, she launched a bridal gown business with another mother in her community.
To Jodi’s surprise, the bridal gown business even began to blossom beyond her capacity. So, she was forced to take a step back, exit the business, and truly take a hiatus from entrepreneurship to focus on raising her children.
But now, many years later, it is clear that Jodi’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive never waned.
“And that is why my son said to me later that it was time for me to go back and start doing something else,” Jodi explained.
That ‘something else’ became Sweet Seidner’s, the Bake Shop Hamden residents love and cherish today.
Jodi has since used her business knowledge of branding, marketing, and strategic planning to take Sweet Seidner’s to the next level.
As for tackling business operations in the digital age– something that was new to Jodi– she actually appreciates the challenge of applying her knowledge in the ever-changing social media environment.
“That’s where I spend a lot of my time and a lot of my brain power because it is all so different and new. It also makes it a challenge because I get bored easily. So, I have kind of enjoyed that,” Jodi revealed.
And nowadays, Sweet Seidner’s is actually performing so well in terms of both shipping and retail sales that Jodi has been faced with what many would deem a great problem to have– deciding where she wants her business to go next. And according to the baker, small business owners must know when to take an opportunity and run with it and when to say goodbye to areas of their business that cannot take them where they really want to go.
“I am at that crossroads right now, looking at my business, and there are multiple paths I can take. I have to start making some of those decisions, and that could mean walking away from parts of my business that might be profitable but maybe not the way I want to go,” Jodi explained.
“And I think that’s where a lot of small business owners get stuck because they try to be everything to everyone, and you will never win that game.”
For all the current Hamden residents who love visiting Sweet Seidner’s retail location with friends and family, though, you do not have to fret– because, for the foreseeable future, Jodi plans to continue being the go-to baker for the Hamden community.
The bakery offers everything from cookies, brownies and bars, and macaroons to cakes, pies, loaves, and more. Plus, as we transition into the holiday season, Sweet Seidner’s will roll out both Christmas and Hanukkah-themed baked goods. So, no matter how you celebrate with your family this season, Sweet Seidner’s will have you covered.
For all of the college kids who love receiving their homemade treats, you are not getting left behind, either. Jodi will continue sending cookies made with love all year round to anyone who needs a bite of love from home away from home.
Finally, for anyone looking to make the jump and start their own business as Jodi did, the baker’s biggest piece of advice is to just go for it. After all, she toyed with the idea of launching her own bakery for years and is beyond grateful that she finally released her inhibitions.
“I think what stopped me from doing this initially was fear. You know, everybody is afraid to fail, and I am no different. I thought I would start this business, and nobody would buy a single cookie from me,” Jodi reminisced.
“It’s easy to have that kind of self-doubt, but you just have to put yourself out there and try. Don’t be afraid. Just try. You’ll learn more by failing than you will by succeeding.”
And ever since Jodi decided to take the plunge, she continues to shock herself with how far she has come and how much she has truly accomplished.