Denver’s Sugar Bakeshop Brings Happy Treats To Capital One Cafes
It’s before sunrise, and Denver still sleeps. It’s that quiet part of the day Sugar Bakeshop owner Natalie Slevin calls "sacred." By 4 a.m., the lights at her bakery are on, coffee dripping, ovens heating and bakers prepping for the morning rush.
"That’s my time to get my hands in the butter and flour, zone out and meditate," Slevin says. As a small business owner, her moments of tranquility are seldom—the kitchen runs 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sugar Bakeshop owner and Capital One Café bakery partner Natalie Slevin
By 7 a.m., Sugar Bakeshop opens for business, luring Speer neighborhood locals, residents of the greater Denver area and hungry visitors with freshly made pies, cookies and pastries. Even from the outside, Sugar Bakeshop smells like heaven and feels like home.
"I tell my staff that everyone who walks into our storefront is walking into our home and should be treated accordingly," Slevin says. "I want to know as many names as I can, remember what they like to eat and drink—not because we’re trying to sell more. I genuinely want to make those connections and be part of the neighborhood."
It’s because of the sweet part Sugar Bakeshop plays in the community that Capital One chose to feature its baked goods in the new Capital One Café in Denver. When customers stop by they’ll be invited to relax, recharge and get fresh perspective on their finances while enjoying a sampling of Sugar Bakeshop’s delectable creations.
Born and raised in Illinois, Slevin moved to Colorado shortly after graduating from the University of Iowa. A couple of catering jobs, a stint running a chocolate shop in Cherry Creek, Colorado, and a few summers spent selling her sweet snacks at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market gave her the foundation and inspiration to flex her entrepreneurial muscles and write the business plans for Sugar Bakeshop. In 2011, Slevin went all in, partnering with her father who helped finance the shop, and opened a storefront on bustling Broadway Street.
"I think the greatest financial decision I had to make was learning how to manage money and make it work for me," Slevin says of her early growth. "In order to grow, you have to be willing to spend. Sometimes it’s impossible, because there isn’t enough money to go around, but when I reached the point where I had a little extra money to work with, I decided to use that to increase my staff so I could step up to a higher role of running the business."
Slevin’s proudest moment since opening was when her dad was in remission from stage three esophageal cancer—a frightening curveball that made the small business owner consider backing out of her lease and shutting her doors so she could return home. But she stayed, and her father was later able to travel to Denver, visit the shop, and experience firsthand the results of his daughter’s tireless efforts.
Slevin’s father passed away two years after Sugar Bakeshop opened, and the young entrepreneur admitted that trying to keep a business running while grieving the loss of her dad was one of her hardest times.
"It put into perspective what’s important," Slevin says. "A bakery should be light and easy—it’s sugar and coffee, and it’s being part of a community. Now, if somebody calls in sick, it’s a lot easier for me to say, ‘It’s okay. We’ll get through it.’"
Today, Sugar Bakeshop employs 13 bakers, baristas and decorators, wholesales to 12 local establishments and boasts one warm, inviting storefront—all incredible reminders of how far the team has come.
"It takes a long time for a small food business to make money," Slevin admits. "The cash flow can pick up quickly, but there are a lot of expenses that accumulate: taxes, payroll, cost of food, rent and equipment breakdowns. I started feeling like I was reaching personal financial success when I could do little things for myself, like treating myself to a nice dinner."
It’s those small treats that Slevin relishes and has learned to prioritize. "Because Sugar is such a personal extension of myself, I have always put everything back into the business," she says. "In the last year, it became clear to me that I have to invest in my personal life to propel Sugar farther. So often as entrepreneurs, we just give and give to the cause that we are working so hard at, but after a while it is easy to lose the flow of inspiration. So I reward myself with what I have worked so hard to achieve."
Along with the clarity and the security of having her financials in order, Slevin relies on her staff to keep business rolling day-to-day while she cooks up big ideas for Sugar Bakery’s future: "Our popster is such a wildly popular product, I want to take that national, if possible. If I’m dreaming like Martha Stewart, I’d love to do a cookbook. And some TV time would be fun."
But the overarching goal for the shop harkens back to her original mission of embedding into the fabric of the neighborhood.
"I always envision Sugar Bakeshop as me in business form," Slevin says. "If I’ve grown up, it’s grown up with me. It’s hardworking, but kind. We want people to embrace the energy and spirit of what we’re doing on a daily basis, which is creating good, happy products we can share."
Find a Capital One Café near you at capitalone.com/cafes.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Natalie Slevin
All Sugar Bakeshop photos available for use here
Capital One does not provide, endorse, nor guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services and all trademarks are the property of their respective owners.