The dream for most home food businesses is to grow as fast and sell as many as you can. Then, like those that came before, build a commissary or set up shop to serve even more people. Raeanne Young Sagan of Hey Pie People is choosing a different path.
“Growth isn’t the only goal, especially for a home-based person like me. I think I’m quickly approaching a crossroads where one path can lead to burnout and basically bad pies,” she says. “And I’m trying to go down another path.
For an Instagram-only store in Muntinlupa that started March this year, selling out within 45 seconds after posting your first product is an amazing feat. Sagan—who has been anointed by mentor Erin McDowell, author of “The Book On Pie”—bakes every pie by hand. With a 250-people waitlist, however, it can be quite overwhelming. If growth isn’t her only goal, then what is?
“I love making pies for people. I’m so proud that people are so obsessed with my pies. I just want to meet the demand as much as I can. I feel it when people say they need my pie. I really want to do it for them in a way that it doesn’t lead to burnout,” Sagan explains.
“Growing uncontrollably is dangerous to the kinds of relationships I’m trying to build with my customers and community. So I thought it was important to step back and reflect on what my values were. I found that the way to do this was knowing that I can’t say ‘yes’ to everyone,” Raeanne Young Sagan says.
She regards her customers highly and considers them a community—the simple definition of which reminds her of the times she would bake pies for friends and neighbors just because she wanted to. It’s this intimacy that she wants to maintain and cultivate.
“I’m making this pie for you. I’m doing every single one by hand. The pie people really respect that and I’m lucky to have come across this market that cares as much as I do. Somehow I feel very valued.”
The perfect pie is one that is true to your values
For all the adoration however, there is an almost unimaginable flipside, one that is akin to the rigors of social buzz catching up to individuals thrust into the limelight. And these woes are universal, too: Behind Hey Pie People is a person.
“Growing uncontrollably is dangerous to the kinds of relationships I’m trying to build with my customers and community. So I thought it was important to step back and reflect on what my values were. How do I want to talk to people? How do I keep going sustainably? I found that the way to do this was knowing that I can’t say ‘yes’ to everyone,” says Sagan.
Not saying yes to everything and everyone has proven helpful. Not only does it give her more time to do things she really wants to do, but it also places her values front and center. “If you need something today, this is not a place for you. I have a community that I want to serve and if you’re not part of that, you’re probably not my customer. A lot of home businesses forget that they can say ‘no.’”
And it’s this gutsy philosophy that anchors and augments Hey Pie People’s reputation as a potential blueprint for sustainable home business success.
Hey Pie People has the keys to a sustainable dessert business
When Hey Pie People started, Sagan was familiar with every person who followed and commented on the account. Now that it has reached almost 10,000 followers (as of writing), she can no longer keep up and occasionally switches to private mode to help slow things down. “I hope it communicates to my customers that this is a safe space for you. I want people to feel that they can talk to me.”
This option of making Hey Pie People private when she feels like it is an exercise in autonomy. “It’s important that I remember I have the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want to. So I feel like it’s really refreshing to remember that and not to feel I’m beholden to anybody’s expectations of what they think is supposed to be. Ultimately it’s me and my story and what I want to create,” Sagan shares.
I just want everything that I’m doing with these pies to 100 percent reflect me in my values. I don’t want to ever pretend or ever feel like I have to be different or bigger than I am.
The pitfall of gaining an audience so quickly is that you unknowingly get burdened by other people’s expectations. But it’s important to dial it down when you need to catch a break. “Even as the popularity is growing and people’s expectations are growing, just continue to have the courage to not be afraid to [not] blow everyone’s expectations away,” Sagan advises. “Or even not meet them at all or just not even worry about their expectations.
“One of the biggest takeaways I want readers to learn from this article is that people have a lot of expectations of how a home-based baker or home-based business is supposed to be. There are so many ideas of how you’re supposed to be. It doesn’t have to be anything,” she stresses. “You’re the one who is making this. You don’t have to have a logo, a brand, a visual identity, and whatever. You can just be a person making stuff out of your house who gives it to your neighbors and friends. You can express yourself artistically. You can take a break whenever you want to. You can stop at any moment.”
“I honestly don’t know where all the energy is coming from,” says the mother of three who admits she has never worked this hard in her life. “Making pies for people is really motivating for me. I feel like I’m creating something really important and fulfilling—more than just pies.”
As Hey Pie People’s story continues to evolve, one thing is for sure: Its pies are as good as its maker. “I just want everything that I’m doing with these pies to 100 percent reflect me in my values. I don’t want to ever pretend or ever feel like I have to be different or bigger than I am. I’m trying to stay true to myself and be really authentic. I want that to come through in what I do and in the pie itself.”