Dédé Wilson, 54, founder of Bakepedia, a baking and dessert website, has always had a love for culinary arts.
She moved to the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts from New York City during college to pursue an academic career, but soon realized a desk job wouldn’t be the right fit. She tried owning a bakery during the 1990s but that didn’t feel quite right either.
“Bakeries are about production. It’s about turning out brownie after brownie, cake after cake and the same things every day. When a customer decides this is the brownie I love and I want to have it every day at three o’clock, they expect to come in and find that exact brownie. For me, that was very stifling. My creativity was very stifled. I didn’t want to do the same thing again and again,” Wilson explained.
“That’s when I made a shift and went back to my journalism and writing roots, and I said to myself that maybe I could combine my love of food and creating recipes with my love for writing. That was when I decided I wanted to write a cookbook,” she added.
Wilson has written a total of 14 cookbooks thus far.
“All throughout my school career, English had always been my best subject. I had always been a good writer,” she said.
Wilson went on to work with Bon Appétit magazine, where she gained experience in editing and testing recipes.
“I had been at Bon Appétit magazine from 1999 as contributing editor until last year, 2014. But in 2010, there was a big changing of the guard at the magazine. A lot of people on the editorial board were replaced with a brand new slate of people and I survived the cut, but I knew my time at Bon Appétit was coming to an end. So, I started to think about my own brand,” Wilson explained.
“I was coming up with all these tripe things, like Baking 911, things I knew weren’t right. Then the word, ‘Bakepedia’ popped into my head and it was a really intense moment. It surged through my whole body and I thought ‘Wow, I’ve never heard that word before,’” she added.
Less than a minute a later, she was registering for the URL.
“I immediately recognized that baking being my expertise and the word ‘Bakepedia’ having such instant branding, I knew this wasn’t going to just be a little link on [my website] dedewilson.com. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew it had the potential to be something significant, and I knew it was meant to be mine,” Wilson recalled.
Two days after buying the URL, she went to talk to a lawyer about trade marking the term; however, after that, a whole year past before she did anything else with Bakepedia.
“It felt like Bakepedia had the potential to be something big and that most likely I was going to need some other people’s help to develop whatever this thing was, so I just sat on it for awhile, partly because of inertia, partly because of fear, partly because it was too big for me to even wrap my head around. Just shy of a year later, I really needed to figure out what the whole Bakepedia thing was and that’s when I stumbled across Valley Venture Mentors,” Wilson recalled.
Valley Venture Mentors is a nonprofit group in Springfield, Massachusetts that provides key support to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“I went to a meeting there and discovered this whole entrepreneurial subculture right here in the Pioneer Valley that I never knew existed. I got really caught up in the energy, the potential and the networking. That’s when my research started in earnest. I started asking myself, ‘What is Bakepedia?’ And when I started doing my research online, I realized there is no leading baking and dessert site and that seemed crazy,” Wilson said.
At that time, she explained, there were many food bloggers and websites with recipes, but they were too general. Those that were more detailed were generally brand-specific such as Pillsbury, and they were never going to be broader than their brand.
“The idea for Bakepedia was much bigger, much broader. If there was an awesome food blogger, we would feature him or her. If King Arthur came out with a new product, we could talk about that. The idea of creating a really overarching baking and dessert site was the goal and is the goal,” she explained.
The site is intended for all levels of bakers, for beginners who want to start baking from scratch to more those more advanced, who just want a few tips to further their craft.
“One of the differentiators that I wanted to promote from the beginning was that Bakepedia is of and for the Bakepedia community, so I always knew I wanted there to be community-generated content, but I also wanted there to be a very strong editorial presence,” she said.
Wilson added that she wanted to build upon what she’d learned while working for Bon Appétit, where every recipe in the magazine had been used and approved by experts within their test kitchen.
“Many people have had the unfortunate experience of going online deciding to make say, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. They Google some recipes, landing on a link, and they decide to make it. Then, they make it, and it looks nothing like the photo. It doesn’t taste that great, and the recipe doesn’t act the way it’s supposed to act. They don’t have a great experience or a great result,” she said.
“Then, the biggest tragedy is that they blame themselves and figure that they just can’t bake. But they don’t even consider the fact that maybe that recipe wasn’t any good to begin with. Maybe that recipe was put up by someone who doesn’t know anything about recipe development, who doesn’t have a baking background, who doesn’t have the expertise,” Wilson continued.
She has guest bloggers but for the most part, the site has been a platform for her own tried and true expertise. The site has also been completely self-funded, but Wilson is trying to get a profit from it in some way.
“I want us always to be free to the home baker who is our end user, but the idea is that those end users are also our product. These people are very valuable because they are a very target rich market and they are very valuable to companies who have products and services that they want to get in front of home bakers. So anyone from an ingredient manufacturer or an appliance manufacturer to home good companies has an interest in getting the attention of home bakers. What I hope to be able to do is keep the content free for the end user, the home baker, and work as a marketing extension with these companies,” she said.
Wilson has marketed the site mainly through social media and interviews with media outlets.
“For me, creating a brand new recipe just gets the juices flowing. I dream about recipes. This is something that is easy for me. It clearly is something I was meant to do. Sometimes it starts with flavor combinations. Sometimes whole recipes just pop into my head completely done. Sometimes I’m inspired by something I tasted somewhere else. I just love getting into the kitchen and creating with the raw details,” she stated.
For Wilson, it was all about fulfilling her life and doing something she loves.
“I want to emphasize that everyone can find something that they love, that they can gain gratification, all the non-financial stuff. I think women demand a lot out of life in a good way. We want to make money. We want to be successful. But we want to be happy and we want to feel good about our lives and full. I think this happens when you can have your family and find a career that fits you. I think no compromising for mediocrity and really just believing that you can find financial success and be really freed through your career,” she said.
Kaylene Hersey is an intern at Lioness and is currently a senior creative writing major at Western New England University. She is from Colchester, Conn. Besides writing, she has a passion for baking and dancing, and she hopes one day to work in the Editing and Publishing world. If that fails, she plans to open up her own bakery.