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In Pictures: Hamilton bakery wins Small Business Challenge contest

Founders plan to spend $100,000 in prize money on expansion

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Josie Rudderham and Nicole Miller are this year’s big winners of the Small Business Challenge contest, sponsored by The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. They own Cake & Loaf Bakery Ltd., a million-dollar business in Hamilton that bakes goods from scratch using local ingredients. The grand prize in the contest is $100,000 cash.

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The pair have big plans: They want to expand their main location to include eat-in and meeting spaces for baking classes and community events. They also want to build a customer relationship management program that can help them maintain the personal touch that’s become a key part of their brand.

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Ms. Rudderham and Ms. Miller beat out out more than 3,300 entries to win the Challenge contest. Now in its sixth year, the contest awards the winning business a grand prize of $100,000, giving Cake & Loaf a big chunk of the capital they need to move their plans forward. The founders also will receive $10,000 to donate to their favourite charity. “It was a bit of a shock to find out that we had won – we were like, ‘Are you sure it’s really us?’” recalls Ms. Rudderham, who, together with Ms. Miller, has built Cake & Loaf into a thriving business.

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After the initial round of judging, Cake & Loaf was shortlisted with four other semi-finalists: online babysitting platform DateNight, composting bin manufacturer Autom River Inc., high-end playhouse maker Charmed Playhouses Inc., and Caesar cocktail mix producer Brutus Beverages Inc.

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Suzanne Trusdale, a Challenge judge and vice-president of small business solutions at Telus, says she and the six other judges were won over by Cake & Loaf’s compelling story – of two passionate entrepreneurs committed to the craft and philosophy of from-scratch baking, and to building a business that bucks the industry trend by paying employees a living wage. “All of the semi-finalists were amazing, but Cake & Loaf just knocked it out of the park on so many fronts,” says Ms. Trusdale.

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Customer Karen Mino sheds tears at the Grinch-themed birthday cake for her son created by cake decorator Quinn Pallister at Cake & Loaf.

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Since it first fired up its ovens, Cake & Loaf has become a popular destination for Hamilton residents and out-of-towners. But customers who want to linger have to make do with a few seats along the storefront sidewalk. And space inside the business, above, can be tight.

Janice Pinto/The Globe and Mail

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Armed with their $100,000 cash prize, Ms. Rudderham and Ms. Miller plan to raise funds from their community to help cover the cost of building a space where customers can sit down and eat, and where Hamilton residents can gather for special events.

Janice Pinto/The Globe and Mail

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Ms. Miller says the Challenge contest means so much more than winning a chunk of cash. “Just entering the contest gives a small business like us an opportunity to think bigger, dream bigger and put their best face forward,” she says. “It was also really interesting to meet the other semi-finalists, see what they were doing in their business and how they were thinking bigger.”

Janice Pinto/The Globe and Mail

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Ms. Rudderham, right, chats with cake manager Helen Corbett. The founders plan to celebrate their win with a community festival and an end-of-year party for their employees.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

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Ms. Rudderham and Ms. Miller say they expect the bakery to be extremely busy between now and Christmas, but they hope to start working on the store expansion early next year.

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Ms. Miller says entering the Challenge contest felt like a long shot, but she’s glad she and her partner took the chance.

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“I learned that, as a business owner, you have to just put yourself out there for anything and everything because you never know where things can lead,” Ms. Miller says.

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