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Finding happiness through flavor with Agatha and Erin from Ovenly

February 16, 2017
Ovenly bakery chocolate chip cookies in display

We had the chance to sit down with two socially engaged women, whose passion and determination have allowed the opening of the renowned Ovenly bakery, back in 2010.

This New York City favorite today caters to 150 wholesale clients regularly, hundreds of retail clients daily and operates two retail stores with two more locations on the way. Erin and Agatha, the founders, now wish to expand to become a national brand, and as they grow, they want to specialize more and cater to specific needs without shying away from the social impact they believe in. With an inspiring business model, they have always had the mission to provide joy through every bite.

Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, founders of Ovenly bakery in New York City

Agatha grew up in Connecticut in a small suburban industrial town. She studied psychology in Boston University and then moved to New York, where she got a job at NYU School of Medicine and worked for 10 years on mental health and addictions. All while working crazy hours at the University, Agatha was recipe testing and experimenting in the kitchen. During that time, she met her soon to be partner, Erin. A week later, they decided to start a business together. 

Erin worked in Chicago after going to College, where she got her Masters in Arts Management with a focus on arts in Youth and Community Development. She worked with low-income communities to use impactful programming to create social change. When Erin moved to New York, she continued working in the non-profit arts and social justice. On the side, she was also a personal chef for a family, selling pies for events and writing blog posts on food. Then, she met Agatha and got into business with her a week later.

Ovenly bakery chocolate chip cookies in display
Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, founders of Ovenly bakery in New York City, enjoying coffee and pastries
Ovenly bakery vibe and decor

Their first official business meeting was held at a bakery, which they are now close friends with the owner. Their first idea was to sell snacks in bars, because let’s be honest, there are never good snacks in bars! They ended up with four bar snacks, which they pitched to a friend of theirs who was opening a bar. The bar ultimately served coffee in the morning and drinks at night, and the owner knew that they were both exceptional bakers. They agreed that if the restaurant would sell their bar snacks they would also bake for them.

It was at the same time as local, independent, third wave coffee roasters we’re blowing up. Agatha and Erin saw a demand for the same quality baked goods. They entered the market with little to no competition, as they were one of the first ones in New York City to offer such product. It immediately blew up and their pastries were in high-demand all around the city. They both quit their jobs in the first year and pursued their baking passion full time. 

Ovenly bakery vibe and decor
Ovenly bakery in New York City
Ovenly bakery vibe and decor

At the core, they wanted to create delicious things that would make people filled with joy. Even before they had an existing product, their mission was, essentially, to provide happiness through flavor. As they’ve grown and developed, they now have this social impact piece, which had always been reflected in their work backgrounds. 

Their goal is to provide a sustainable business practice, which is why they commit to open hiring practices, environmental sustainability, and artisan manufacturing. They want to allow growth opportunities to all people no matter their backgrounds. A no judgment policy is their motto.

It was also important for both of them to create an experience around their brand. They never compromised the quality of their products, and as they grow more they always want to scale responsibly without undermining their integrity. With now 43 employees, they both realize how great it was for their business to start as wholesale and then grow into retail. With that, they were able to make a reputation for themselves.

Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, founders of Ovenly bakery in New York City

Agatha and Erin in a few words

First thing you do in the morning?
Agatha: Cuddle with my dog and have my apple cider vinegar water.
Erin: Drink an Americano and then workout.

Do you have breakfast?
Agatha: Yes! Breakfast is non-negotiable. I switch it up everyday, sometimes a smoothie or homemade English muffin.
Erin: I usually have a protein-focused breakfast, such as eggs or yogurt.

Your favorite breakfast?
Agatha: A plain croissant, it’s so satisfying.
Erin: If I could make it and have it on a daily basis, a typical Japanese breakfast would have to be it!

One word to describe you?
Agatha: Determined.
Erin: Tenacious.

What do you do during your free time?
Agatha: Cook and bake. 
Erin: Take a class. Any class. I always want to learn something new. 

Your inspiration?
Agatha: Travel.
Erin: The people I work with.

Any advice for entrepreneurs?
Agatha: Be humble and trust the opinion of others.
Erin: Be opened to being challenged. 

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