Feb 4

JET Alum Business Beat: Yvonne Thurman starts Dolly Bella Bakery

Yvonne Thurman (Kagoshima-ken, 1994-95), former JETAA NY President, recently left her position as Director of the Columbia Business School’s Center on Japanese Economy and Business (CJEB) to start her own baked goods business, Dolly Bella Bakery (www.dollybellabakery.com).  Read below as she explains what led her down this path and how it’s all going.

I have enjoyed my career at Columbia Business School , directing its Center on Japanese Economy and Business with Professor Hugh Patrick.  After 10 years of working there, I was searching in the corporate sector for business development positions but couldn’t find something that really excited me.  So I pushed myself to think outside of the box, and really took a good look at my strengths and skills, work experience and education, and analyzed what I really enjoyed doing.

I was fixated on keeping my career in the international organization/international business arena, but I had to explore all options.  I had solid management skills, a degree in finance and business, international experience (same as so many…but wait!)…liked boating as a hobby…loved baking. Hmm.  I started to put all that together.

Baking has always been a passion of mine and my most basic form of meditation and relaxation.  I learned from my mom and grandma (the Italian-American side of my family) — we always baked things from scratch in my home; store-bought cookies and cakes, even ‘box mixes’ of muffins were second-rate.  My high-school friends still remember coming over to my house and tasting my mom’s fresh-baked cookies. It still surprises me how so many people do not know what ‘homemade’ really tastes like.  And so began my mission.

While director of CJEB, I held quite a few informal baking sessions with wives of Japanese visiting fellows, teaching them basic concepts of making cookies and brownies.  I was always fascinated to learn the differences in concepts between American-style baking and the traditional Japanese way of making ‘sweets’.  Food, and desserts especially, is such a basic part of culture (when I travel the first thing I do is taste the traditional sweets of the region!).  I started to take some traditional Italian cookie recipes, and incorporate elements of Asian flavors I love into them, (like the ‘Green Tea Pizzelle‘ you’ll see on my website).

Last fall, my partner and I formed “DollyBella Bakery” in Jersey City .  The name is a tribute to the truly great bakers of my family, Great Aunt Dolly and Grandma Bella.  During the spring and summer months we sell our fresh-baked muffins and scones to boaters at the local marinas (this was the initial, basic concept for the business, hence the sailboat image in our logo).

All year-round, we are an online retail baking business, delivering and shipping our cookies, muffins and scones to our customers.  Lately there has been a big surge in requests for cookie platters for corporate events, customized cookies with company logos, and individually wrapped cookies for party/event favors.

I encourage you to take a look at the website.  And if you’re trying to make your next job move, I encourage you to take stock of your talents and perhaps take a new risk as well.

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