The Thin Line Between Passion and Business at Babettes Artisan Breads

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Business versus creativity. Art versus money. Selling out versus starving artist.

For anyone who considers themselves to be creative, these are the tensions we must live with. Where do we draw the line between “living the dream” and and “giving in” to make ends meet?

No one understand this tension better than Steve Scott, owner of Babettes Bakery. Frequently featured in Bon Appetit magazine and boasting more than 16,000 followers on his Instagram account (which is followed by some of the best bakers in the world), Steve has developed a cult-like following.

When it comes to drawing a line between passion and work, Steve all but erases the line completely.

Doing the Work

Steve Scott balances passion and business

“Business departments should have a bullshit detector.”

-Steve Scott-

Soft-spoken and intensely passionate, Steve makes it extremely clear that without hard work there is no need for passion. He attributes the majority of his success not just to his drive to be the best, but to his willingness to do whatever it takes to earn that title.

“Business departments should have a bullshit detector,” he says. “We need more people who are committed to what they’re doing, not what someone in New York is doing. We need more people committed to the project they are working on.”

This focus on “doing the work” began long before Steve was ever a baker or owned Babettes. Having worked for others since a young age, Steve says he was always driven by a desire to make things perfect. He often found himself putting in more hours than the owners.

“I’m searching for the perfect everything. We get it once in awhile, then it goes away.”

As a home-school student, he often found that if he didn’t push himself, no one else would. It’s the same fire that drove him to competitive bike racing and eventually to opening Babettes.

“I’ve got the drive and the insanity to push to the next level. I don’t want anything else.”

Keeping the Passion

Babettes encompasses 800 square feet, a tight space for racks of bread and pastries, ovens, a retail counter, and a few bodies. And Steve wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We could have more business, be bigger, but we don’t want to compromise what we do.”

And it’s that commitment to not compromising that has earned him a ton of recognition and respect – both locally and worldwide.

“When we first opened, we weren’t 100 percent sure, but people started showing up. They were saying, ‘we haven’t seen bread like this since we were kids.’ They tasted it and they keep coming back.”

Steve Scott with pastries at Babettes Artisan Breads in Denver ColoradoBy using the best ingredients available to him, Steve is able to remove a lot of the variables others struggle to control, allowing him to focus on perfecting technique.

When there’s such a heavy emphasis on quality and integrity, Steve says the hard questions become easy to answer. If you need to raise prices because the highest quality ingredients went up, then you make that adjustment to continue using those ingredients. He adds, “but if you’re [raising prices] just because, then you’re ripping your customer off.”

But it’s not just about using quality ingredients or perfecting techniques. For Steve, it’s also about preserving the integrity of his craft. To prove this, he points to the recent damage Volkswagen caused to the diesel car industry when they were found cheating emissions testings.

“When you find out something isn’t great, that you’re not getting what you pay for, then you start to question the entire industry. I see lots of [restaurants] open who are half-assing what they’re doing. If you’re asking me to pay high prices for quality, prove it.”

For Steve, it’s not about bashing other business owners or bakers; it’s about raising the bar for the entire craft.

“If you talk the talk, walk it. You never know who’s going to walk through your door.”

Finding Balance: Passion and Business

Steve is clear about the good and bad of working so hard and being so passionate. “It’s a double-edged sword.”

Blaming himself for creating “the monster and the machine,” Steve embodies the kind of commitment he talks about. Because of the hours he must work to produce high quality breads and pastries, he has to give up time with his family. This means he only sees his kids once a week. But he also understands that being flexible is incredibly important.

“I’m lucky because, after a certain time, my day is flexible. I can plan, strategize, go for a bike ride, pick up my kids from school.”

Recognizing the tension that some businesses face between bottom lines and passion, Steve points to quarterly growth as a sign that things are headed in a positive direction.

While growth is a focus, Steve is satisfied with Babettes current size and clientele.

a slice of bread at Babettes Artisan Breads in Denver Colorado

“The bread speaks for itself, but we would like to offer more pastry items. It would be nice to have sit down coffee. [These things] would add a lot to our business, but we don’t want to get much bigger than this. We’re a teeny bakery and we’re really personal. It’s one of the reasons people come here beside the quality. We want to keep doing that.”

Pointing to the “massive amount of experience” that got him here, Steve has no fear for what’s next. That’s what’s being the best gives you: total confidence.

“You have to be competitive for the right reasons. Not dollars. Quality. It’s about putting out the best product I can put out. I’m gonna do it consistently, every day. I want people to visit a friend in London and say, ‘this place in Denver crushes everything.’”

Babettes Artisan Breads is located inside The Source at 3350 N. Brighton Blvd. Suite 140 in Denver, Colorado. You can watch the video Quadrid produced for Babettes below.
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