A Taste of Home
“Whenever I feel homesick, I bake cookies.” Some of Ulrika’s fondest memories are of her childhood in Sweden. Growing up, Ulrika spent much of her time baking cookies with her grandmother. She vividly remembers riding on the back of her grandmother’s bike as they pedaled through their small town to share their treats with friends along the way.
After moving to New York City, Ulrika was ready for a career transition and wanted to find a way to bring her childhood memories back to life. Realizing just how much baking meant to her, she founded Unna Bakery, which offers traditional Swedish cookies made from Ulrika’s grandmother’s recipes, many of which date back to the 1700’s. Ulrika, who had never even been to a bakery, let alone had experience managing one, Ulrika felt like she had no idea what she was doing. Yet soon enough, she found an incubator space at Hotbread Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen space in Harlem, and things began to feel like they were falling into place.
Yet Ulrika knew that as a new business, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done: she needed to get to know the right people in the industry, to obtain the capital to grow her company, and to “find a way in.” Ulrika knew she would not be able to find that way in alone, that she would need a little extra support. Ulrika was put in touch with Accion through her bank contact at Chase. With the loan she received, she was able to print new packaging and finance her next batch of sweets. “The loan application process was very smooth and easy.”
A Family Affair
For Ulrika, whose family and heritage have left a strong impact on her identity, owning her own business has enabled her to find a sense of belonging in a new home. Unna Bakery offers seven flavors, an ode to the number of flavors served at kaffereps, a Swedish tradition in the mid-18th century where women congregated to enjoy sweets and each other’s company. As her own boss, Ulrika also has the opportunity to spend more time with her two daughters, and to pass on her own childhood memories through baking with them. Ulrika not only shares her passion with her children but uses their own dietary needs as a guide for developing new products, as Ulrika is currently making a gluten-free cookie for her older daughter’s gluten intolerance.
From its origin in an incubator space at Hotbread Kitchen, Unna Bakery has grown immensely, with items now sold in Whole Foods, Fairway, Fresh Market and Dean and Deluca. “It’s amazing to see something you created by yourself actually working. I love when I get great feedback from my customers.” From starting out with no entrepreneur experience, Ulrika has come a long way as well, with every challenge and success inspiring profound lessons for the future. “I’ve learned to stand up for myself, be strong and believe in your product no matter what.”