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Recent college grad grows business through Miss Muff'n acquisition

By Published: March 20, 2019 6:01 PM CT

In three years, Kelsey Loebel went from baking in her parents' kitchen in Collierville to buying one of Germantown’s most established bakeries.

Loebel founded Confections & Connections, a home bakery that donates 10 percent of profits to local charities, after graduating from the University of Mississippi in 2015.

Seemingly overnight last summer, Confections & Connections went from being a one-woman home bakery to having its own storefront and a staff of nine, the result of Loebel's acquisition of Miss Muff’n Bakery in Germantown.

The weekend after her 25th birthday, Loebel bought the bakery, which has become a staple in Germantown and the local wedding scene since its founding in 1987. 

Buying a bakery was never part of Loebel’s business plan, but when the opportunity fell into her lap, it was hard to pass up.

“It was definitely a timing thing,” she said.

Loebel never seemed to be able to find the time to attend a meet-up of the eWomenNetwork Memphis chapter, a business association for female entrepreneurs. But Melissa Kaye, managing director of the local chapter, was persistent and got Loebel to a small group where she quickly discovered networking can pay off.

As the women entrepreneurs went around the table talking about their business needs, someone responded to Loebel’s needs for a commercial kitchen and storefront.

“I know a bakery that’s for sale,” said Mark Kaplan, an agent at New York Life Insurance Company, who was invited to sit in on the women's networking event.

Kaplan helped connect Loebel with Miss Muff’n’s former owner Lieu Nguyen.

“I had been working two to three jobs before I bought Miss Muff’n, and after 16 years later, it was definitely time for me to retire,” said Nguyen, who bought the bakery from its founder Mildred Galloway when she retired.

“She is the perfect match to Miss Muff’n,” Nguyen said of Loebel. “I haven’t seen any young lady working as hard as her.”

As a recognized brand, Loebel kept the Miss Muff’n name and added “by Confections & Connections” to the end to help build her brand as well.

“There are a lot of benefits from buying a business that’s already set up,” she said.

But, as a new business and a young entrepreneur, the move has not come without its challenges.

“Jumping into a fully running business, I had to learn how someone else was running theirs. I had to learn their way,” she said. “But there’s a reason why this business has been around for 30 years.”

Loebel went from making cakes on her own to managing nine employees and baking on a much larger scale than in her home kitchen. Business went from about 10 orders a week to what can be as high as 20 orders a day.

“Dealing with the people who have been such loyal customers to Miss Muff’n, it’s not always a positive response,” she said.

Loebel assures she is keeping all the staples Miss Muff’n customers love.

“Don’t worry, the strawberry cake isn’t going anywhere,” she said of the bestseller, while she also seeks to increase walk-in business with her cookies, cupcakes and bars. The chocolate chip is her signature.  

Women-owned small businesses boom

Loebel is being honored as this year’s Rising Star by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

She will accept the award Wednesday as part of national SBDC Day, a national proclamation of the impact America’s Small Business Development Centers have on the success of small businesses.


BY THE NUMBERS
The impact of TSBDC at Southwest Tennessee Community College in 2018:

  • $14.8 million – capital generated from TSBDC clients  
  • 2,617 – individuals who attended small business training
  • 373 – business owners who received one-on-one advising
  • 97 – new small business jobs created
  • 91 – small business jobs retained

“While larger companies often think about the merger and acquisition route, it’s rare for a small business,” said TSBDC executive director Rory Thomas. “It was a perfect move for her. Instead of buying her own building, here is a great established business in Germantown.”

Loebel discovered the TSBDC right out of college and got free business advice through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) largest funded program.

When it came time to take out a “pretty large loan” to buy Miss Muff’n, the TSBDC helped her make a case to Financial Federal using Confections & Connections’ sales data.

The most helpful resource for Loebel was a “free extra pair of hands” through an SBA-funded internship program.

“Southwest student Rashaa Armstrong, who has a retail background, was able to come in and immediately provide extra support after class and on the weekends,” Thomas said. “(Armstrong) got the experience, (Loebel) got the extra helping hands and she was able to teach a young person about building a business.”  

The latest U.S. Census Survey of Business Owners showed Memphis leads the nation’s largest cities in woman-owned business growth.    

“We’ve seen a dramatic shift,” Thomas said, as 60 percent of the small businesses utilizing the TSBDC are women-owned.

In addition to recognizing Miss Muff’n by Confections & Connections, the TSBDC is bringing together a panel of local women-owned business owners who are growing their business not just locally, but nationally.   

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged.  

Topics

Small Business
Michelle Corbet

Michelle Corbet

Michelle Corbet covers business for The Daily Memphian. Prior to, she was a reporter at the Memphis Business Journal. A native Memphian and University of Memphis graduate, Michelle covered business in Conway, Arkansas after college. Michelle got her start covering business as an intern at The Commercial Appeal.


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