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Introducing Julie Greguol, the founder of The Bake Shoppe, a Kitchener-Ont.-based bakery that provides delicious, home-style treats, sweets and bakes in a nut-safe environment.

This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We ask readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories.

Introducing Julie Greguol, the founder of The Bake Shoppe, a Kitchener-Ont.-based bakery that provides delicious, home-style treats, sweets and bakes in a nut-safe environment.

1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?

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The Bake Shoppe is still relatively new. We opened in Nov. 2013 in Kitchener. We're Kitchener-Waterloo's only 100 per cent peanut and tree nut-free bakery. We focus on old-school recipes and techniques, like Nana used to make. We specialize in scratch baking with a big focus on real ingredients. Strawberry cake is made with fresh strawberry puree, not artificial flavour, and buttercream is made with actual butter and cream, not shortening.

2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?

Baking has always been a passion of mine. The joy of making something with your own hands that puts a smile on someone face is beyond compare. I spent years making cakes and holiday sweets for family and friends. When doing a wedding cake for my brother-in-law, one of the guests happened to be a pastry chef. He came to me and said that my cake what better than any he`d had in the city. That little comment was just the push I needed.

When looking at other bakeries in the area, I realized that there was no bakery in Kitchener-Waterloo that to those people dealing with nut allergies. Having a peanut allergy myself, I understand how frustrating and disheartening it can be to always be excluded from things. Office birthday cake, dessert at a dinner party, trays of Christmas cookies, all of these things seem so innocent and fun, but to a person with a nut allergy, they can be extremely dangerous.

I wanted to create a place where anybody, including those with nut allergies, could come and not have to worry. A child can pick any cookie from the shelf, never having to ask their mom if it's safe. A bride can have a wedding knowing that her cake won't be a worry. It's a great feeling to have.

3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?

We've been blessed to with an extremely loyal group of customers who are quickly spreading the word for us. Most of our new customers do hear about us through word of mouth. Our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed is mainly how we reach out to the rest of the community.

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Our customers are quite diverse, since we do such a wide range of products. We have everything from neighborhood locals who come in for a loaf of bread every week to the once is awhile customer ordering a custom cake. We have people who come in every day for a coffee and a cupcake and we also have couples looking for a wedding cake.

4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?

I work with my sister and two other employees. As a small business, everyone has to pitch in as needed, so the roles are flexible. As the owner, I do everything from baking to mopping. There`s no job that is beneath anybody here in The Shoppe. Cleaning, front counter help and baking are all daily tasks for most of the employees.

Since our company is growing, it`s not uncommon to see our families helping out. My husband helps out most Saturdays and my parents are here many weekends as well. We would never be where we are today without the support of our families.

5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?

I believe that exceptional customer service is what makes us stand out. We really go above and beyond to connect personally with each customer and to build a relationship with them. We often receive comments that people like coming to the Shoppe to chat, just as much as they like the baking. We love hearing that from our customers!

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