A Woman’s Work: Elke Hurtado

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Created in 2013, The Muscle Bakery was initially born out of Hurtado’s own craving for more sweet snack options without the hefty unhealthy side effects. The results earned her thousands of social media followers, a bakery in town and a growing list of local establishments queuing to get her protein bars and doughnuts stocked in their shop windows.

Elke Hurtado

She’s been ahead of the trend from the onset, as foodies with intolerances or just people following strict diets hankering for some sweet relief from their daily chicken and spinach monotony flock to her small bakery. Her playfully designed branding (aided by her previous career in graphic design), partnered with her constantly evolving menus and recipes, means her clients are constantly craving her next creation. More than that, it also helps attract people with no interest in the food nutrition, but who simply want something that tastes delicious.

It seems she is ticking all the right boxes, and earning more than just Instagram likes these days. We spoke to her about what it feels like to be the face of your own company, and how she juggles the growing demand from hungry clientele.

I chose this career because…

I didn’t really choose this career, rather it chose me. It came about as an outlet of creativity at a time where I was going through some life changes, trying to be healthier and when I was very unhappy at work. At first, it was just a hobby, then it became a blog, then I started selling some creations and before I knew it I had left my job and wanted to pursue it full-time. I didn’t really have a plan, I just knew that I had to take a risk and do what made me happy instead of staying in a career because of the safety it brought.

A typical day looks like…

We now have almost 14 outlets which stock our items so most hours in the day are spent prepping fillings/coating, wrapping, and labeling as well as making sure our own store doesn’t run out of treats. That means every day is very busy at The Muscle Bakery. It’s particularly hectic for me because everyone just turns to me with questions. Customers want to speak to me regarding cake orders, ingredient questions etc. So I work in the kitchen taking care of baking and cooking, but I also have to make sure we have stock and ingredients, tend to customers, take photos, keep social media updated, check all our stockists have enough items, as well as whatever surprises the day may bring. I do about 20,000 steps a day without leaving the kitchen so that can really give you an idea of what my days are like.

My career defining moment was…

I feel that there hasn’t been one defining moment but a few moments that have felt really special to me. When I left my job, when I landed my first stockist, getting sponsored by Bulkpowders to create recipes for them, hosting a baking workshop in London and, of course, finally moving into my own premises.

The best part of my job is…

When customers who have trouble finding food elsewhere are thankful for what we make, like mothers who find it hard to make stuff for their children or older grannies who have just being diagnosed with food intolerances. Those moments are particularly rewarding, feeling like you’re making a difference.

It’s also really cool when people who are not into eating healthy or don’t really care about what they eat, keep returning just because what you’re making tastes good and they enjoy it. I love that. Makes me realise that all those hours of recipe failures are worth something and that I’m (at least) doing something right!

The worst part of my job is…

Being a boss. Seriously. If anything has given me stress and anxiety it is that, no one warns you about it or tells you how hard it will be. Well, how hard it will be if you’re a softy like me!

If I could be anything else, I would be…

Me, just with more time to spare. And a better boss!

The advice I’d give to anyone wanting to go into this business…

It will be hard, at times it will feel almost impossible or that you’re failing and you will want to give up a thousand times over, but if you’re passionate about what you do, believe in yourself daily and keep at it, eventually things will work out. Having people who continuously support me and believe in me, and what The Muscle Bakery is about, has also been crucial in its success and growth.