Rebecca Hamilton, founder of specialty bakery Chick Boss Cake, chats about answering the creative call and balancing the business-marriage partnership
Photos by Mary Levykina
REBECCA HAMILTON IS founder and owner of Chick Boss Cake, a specialty bakery with locations in London, St. Thomas and Woodstock. Hamilton, 34, was born in London and grew up in Cambridge. She returned to London at 19 and eventually met husband Chad.
Hamilton opened her first location in 2015 in St. Thomas. London was the second location, and most recently the couple opened Woodstock. The business has about 20 employees, including Chad who is district manager.
The couple have two dogs and love to travel. Hamilton also enjoys writing and playing tennis and golf. She is author of The Million Dollar Bakery, which she published last year.
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With Woodstock, you’re up to three locations. How is that different from 2015 when you opened your first place?
There’s a significant difference between opening your first store versus any other locations. With our third location, we have a much greater understanding of our customers and their expectations. We’ve also ironed out many policies and procedures to ensure our entire bakery operates efficiently. In the beginning, it was just Chad and me in the kitchen a majority of the time. We weren’t efficient. We were having fun and just doing the things that needed to get done. We had no concept of time management and would often work into the wee hours of the night. With a much larger team than just the two of us, it became evident how important consistency is within a business — from the product quality to the overall flow.
Employers of all kinds are having trouble hiring enough staff. Has that been a challenge as you’ve expanded? Any supply chain challenges?
We’ve never had difficulties hiring staff. We get a lot of applicants who are excited to learn how to bake and decorate cakes. We hire based on attitude and it’s important to us that our employees share similar values to us — things like integrity, kindness, equality and authenticity — and we train the rest.
As for the supply chain issues, we’ve had plenty! Luckily, we’ve been able to scramble and find what we needed without too trouble, but at times it increased our costs and was very stressful. We continue to have supply chain issues right now with a shortage of icing sugar which is a staple ingredient at our bakery.
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In your book, you talk about your gluten allergy. How is that reflected in your menus and cake options?
It’s always been important to me to have beautiful, fun and delicious dessert options at my bakery for everyone. I know how it feels going to bakeries and restaurants and having difficulties finding options that I can actually eat. I’m passionate about having desserts for everyone, and not just plain, boring options, but fun flavours that look and taste delicious — just like anyone else would be able to get at our bakery via our regular products. We offer gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, keto and sugar-free options.
In addition to your bakery business, you encourage people to chase their dreams and reach their potential. How did the podcast, book and motivational speaking begin?
I’m really into self development, and the more I grow and learn myself, the more I want to strive for. I’m extremely ambitious, and as a creative individual I need to keep my brain stimulated with new endeavours and challenges. I’m also passionate about sharing my story of dropping out of high school at 16 and building a million-dollar bakery with zero education and no previous experience.
I want to help inspire others to believe in themselves and know there is nothing special about anyone who builds a successful business — they can do it too if they set their mind to it. I’ve found writing my book, motivational speaking and hosting my podcast extremely fulfilling, and it’s introduced me to some incredible entrepreneurs in our community.
You credit your husband Chad for the name Chick Boss Cake. What’s his day-to-day role in the business?
What doesn’t Chad do? Chad runs the show. He does everything from hiring and managing the staff to ensuring the entire operation of the business is flowing efficiently. He is more hands-on and works primarily at the London location, which is our decorating facility and where the majority of our staff work. I work from home and do all the social media, photography, videos and branding, along with my podcast, writing and speaking. Chad is the extrovert, and I am the introvert, and it’s why this partnership works so well in our business and our marriage.
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Have you changed any practices permanently as a result of the pandemic?
Yes, we now have a fleet of delivery vehicles that deliver across Southwestern Ontario every single day. We deliver to a two-hour radius from Mississauga all the way to Sarnia and Chatham area and everywhere in between.
Are there plans to open a fourth location? Fifth? And when?
Yes, we will be opening our fourth location this summer in Kitchener. We are very excited about that. We’re also looking into franchising our locations in the near future as well. Stay tuned! Interview by Christopher Clark