Switching careers paths and opening a business can be daunting, let alone during a pandemic, but for Carley Schwab, the timing was perfect.
“It was kind of the opposite for launching a business,” Schwab said. “I had to be creative in making sure everyone is safe. There’s been this shift in mentality, I think, for people shopping close to home”
The 25-year-old Bridesburg native and resident is running a small, custom-order baked goods enterprise out of her parents’ house on Orthodox, whipping up her sweet concoctions in a customized kitchen her dad outfitted in the family’s former mud room.
Schwab takes custom orders for everything from cakes and cookies, to baked goods decorating kits, to cinnamon buns, to pies.
“Really, if people want it, I’ll give it a try,” she said.
Schwab’s cousin, Courtney P. Hunter, works in quality assurance for the business, taste testing and providing feedback on each item before Schwab offers it to the public.
Her business is called I Knead Coffee.
“The name comes from the desire to eventually build the baking business into a shop, so I would have baked goods and coffee. It would be a cafe and bakery,” she said.
Last December, she left the corporate world behind, where she worked at a local remodeling company as an analyst since 2016.
“I wasn’t aware a pandemic was on the horizon, so I moved back home with my parents,” Schwab explained. “I literally went from working in spreadsheets all day in an office to being in my parents’ kitchen, covered in flour with my feet hurting because I was standing all day.”
Schwab previously lived in Port Richmond upon graduating college as a business major until leaving her former job.
The plan was to move to New York with friends and continue her career as an analyst.
But, Schwab quickly realized that wasn’t her end goal.
“I knew, eventually, a coffee shop was my end game. It has been since I thought, college, but one of my high school friends told me I actually told her my whole business plan when I was 16,” she said, laughing. “I realized even if I went back into the workforce, I realized it would be short-term. And, I thought, let’s do it now.”
Schwab took her first crack at a custom order for her friend, Daniela Galdi.
Founded by Galdi, Still Standing Together hosted the Women’s Support Summit on Jan. 25.
“She had me do treats for the event, so I did a doughnut wall, sugar cookies that had empowering words and phrases on them,” Schwab said. “And, that was the first time I was booked for an event that wasn’t for my family. [Daniela] really convinced me it could be something more than a way to pass my time by hiring me.”
After the event, Schwab went on a brief hiatus, traveling to Europe and taking macaron-making classes in France.
“When I came home, everything shut down and I thought, ‘What am I going to do for work?’ I had nothing lined up,” she said. “People were closing, everyone was being furloughed. And, I thought, ‘All right, if I’m going to give this a try, I’ll start putting things up on Instagram.’ I came up with the cookies kits, which became really popular. And, I got my name out there. And, it took off from there.”
Outside of the classes in France, Schwab does not have formal culinary training, but baking and cooking have always come easy to her.
“When I was young, I would act out pretend cooking shows, and I loved being in the kitchen,” she said. “As I got older, I tried new things. If someone had a birthday, I would make them a fun cake. I went from a hobbyist baker, because my former job was demanding, to putting all my time into it to learn new things from croissants to macarons.”
While other businesses in the Philly food scene may have shuttered indefinitely or permanently during the ongoing pandemic, for Schwab, business has been booming.
“The cookie kits, I started at the beginning of quarantine when kids were home and school started online and they didn’t really have anything to do all day,” she said. “And. then I expanded from there. We went to Easter baskets, Halloween kits, Thanksgiving kits, and now I’m going to do them for Christmas, too. They’re kind of a staple.”
Schwab currently has an active GoFundMe campaign, to raise enough money to either buy a cart outright, or place outright. But, basically just everything to keep things up and running.
“Being my own boss and doing something I love and really connect with people in really important moments in their lives, it’s been such a different perspective on what work really can be,” Schwab said.
Ultimately, within the next five years, Schwab wants to get a cup of Joe on the table.
“Within the next five years, I would love to have a cafe up and running locally,” Schwab said. “We haven’t had anything in Bridesburg that was specific to breakfast. It’s a hole I’ve seen my whole life. I think it would be a really great spot to just go and have a cup of coffee.”
Schwab is also looking forward to the day she can walk to a coffee shop.
“Somewhere where you can go and have a cup of coffee. I’ve literally never been able to do that. So just a place to walk and meet my friends and hang out would be really neat.”
For updates and to order from I Knead Coffee, follow and message@ikneadcoffee on social media. Schwab is partnering with the Towners, a River Wards, custom artwork company. The group is offering Christmas Eve boxes, complete with cookies and ingredients to decorate them. Other items will be launched for the holidays this month.
To donate to the I Knead Coffee GoFundMe, visit https://gf.me/u/zav8yx.