The 10-year old By The Way Bakery, started by a former lawyer, spans four locations in the NYC area.
If a bakery owner said she woke up at 6:30 a.m. and started working, you’d probably picture her kneading dough and surrounded by industrial ovens. But for Helene Godin, founder and CEO of By The Way Bakery—a kosher, gluten-and dairy-free enterprise that has two locations in Manhattan and two more in New York City’s surrounding areas—Wednesday morning started out with a Google search.
That’s not only because the entrepreneur, who stands at a diminutive 4’10 but makes up for a lack of height with a big personality, was looking for a new vessel to transport cupcakes—a potentially large customer said they like her cupcakes but hate the box they come in—but also because she’s a former lawyer, and for her, the business is all about research.
“Lawyers solve problems through research and I kind of do the same thing,” the 59-year-old told NewsBreak. “I would get so excited about research; I loved it.” Problems that have arisen from the Coronavirus pandemic have given Godin a reason to flex those analytic muscles.
“There’s a supply shortage and, being dairy- and gluten-free, we can’t just substitute one butter for another. So we have to constantly try new things and test them.” Not kosher, gluten- or dairy-free herself, Godin seems to love a challenge.
Her pivot from legal eagle to dessert maker began of course with research after her 22-year law career stopped being satisfying in 2010, she said. Without any prior experience or expressed interest in baking, and one small foray into entrepreneurship with a legal firm she started with a friend, Godin’s search for what to do next landed her in a five-day vegan baking class, and by 2011 she’d opened her first store.
The shops aren’t vegan, she concedes, after noting the value of an egg in a baked product. However, she decided to make them gluten-free as a differentiator, and after noticing that section of the super marketing growing while she—say it with me, researched—her next chapter.
And while she had no prior baking experience, she once again relied on research, “going deep on google on things like egg whites and types of flour,” then taking “copious notes on what worked and what didn’t, and starting over.”
Her efforts paid off. By the Way Bakery (so named after an attendee at a workshop led by her husband, marketing guru Seth Godin, said after tasting the products, “you should say, ‘By the way, they’re gluten free!’) can be found on the Upper West and Upper East Sides, as well as in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY and Greenwich, CT, and several products can be found in Whole Foods. There are about 30 items on the menu at a time, with a regularly changing product mix. By the Way also makes cakes for weddings, birthdays and other occasions.
Godin introduces new products each year for the Jewish High Holidays, which are in the fall, and 2021 is no exception. Available for orders placed by September 1st, this year’s addition to the product offerings is the Shana Tova (or Happy New Year) cake, a vanilla layer cake with vanilla filling. Made to look like an apple—a key part of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year—the “stem” is made from a gluten-free pretzel.
Asked whether the product will return next year, Godin said, “it depends on sales.” In other words: research. But diligent investigating has paid off for the mother of two boys: Alex, 27, and Mo, 25.
“When I was a lawyer, I was so tired, I was working ridiculous hours and not sleeping,” she stated. “Sometimes in life, you stumble on stuff, and I happen to have ridden the right wave.”
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