One of the things we love most at Greater Fergus Falls is helping entrepreneurs bring new and innovative ideas to the area. That includes the way our businesses serve their customers. Over the last year, we’ve seen an influx of pop-up shops and events, which have proven to be a winning business model. Pop-ups have been especially successful for local bakers, including Emily McCune, who launched Sugar High Bakery as a pop-up last September.
With Sugar High Bakery’s first anniversary right around the corner, we wanted to take a look back at McCune’s business journey and all that she’s achieved. Keep reading to learn more about Sugar High Bakery and McCune’s first year in business!
Sweet Treats With a Twist
Sugar High Bakery doesn’t just serve healthier desserts made with natural, local ingredients. The bakery’s best-selling products, which range from cookies and brownies to gummies and caramels, are infused with cannabis. The cannabis confections are made with hemp flower and other hemp-derived extracts such as Cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and Delta 8.
People often link cannabis edibles to marijuana, and while hemp and marijuana plants are both members of the cannabis genus, there’s a key difference between the two. Both contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are naturally occurring compounds in cannabis plants. However, the ratios each plant contains set them apart.
Marijuana contains high levels of THC, which causes psychoactive effects that make users feel high. Hemp, on the other hand, contains higher levels of CBD and other hemp-derived extracts. Users who consume cannabis edibles made with hemp extracts can enjoy various health benefits without the high, including easing anxiety and reducing chronic pain.
McCune’s idea to sell cannabis edibles was born out of her own experience with THC-infused edibles. After being diagnosed with PTSD in 2017, McCune enrolled as a medical marijuana patient on the recommendation of her primary care doctor. She began infusing her medicine into baked goods, which is when she discovered the benefits of ingesting cannabis versus inhaling it.
From Concept to Reality
McCune did a lot of research to learn how to make fully legal cannabis edibles using hemp flower and other hemp-derived extracts. In addition to investigating the legalities and assessing the community’s demand for cannabis edibles, she took part in Greater Fergus Falls’ Entrepreneur Initiative. McCune admits she felt a little apprehensive about it due to the“‘taboo’ and often misunderstood nature” of the cannabis industry.
“To be taken seriously was a really big deal for me,” she explains. “[the Greater Fergus Falls team] never once showed any reservation or apprehension, which I’ve respected and appreciated from day one.”
As an Entrepreneur Initiative participant, McCune received the support and knowledge she needed to get her business off the ground. “The PR exposure, social media shares, and publication presence for my business absolutely brought in people I’ve never met before my first pop up ... which really shows the power of networking and cross-promoting.” Six months after she began selling her baked goods to friends in the area, McCune celebrated the launch of Sugar High Bakery with a pop-up event downtown at Sugarbomb.
Reaching New Heights
McCune never dreamed Sugar High Bakery would grow as much as it has. In fact, she initially intended for it to be a part-time business. That idea went out the window when she generated $1,130 in sales on opening day. Her revenue has only continued to grow since, and McCune decided to take her business full-time in January 2021.
With CBD and other hemp-derived products continuing to rise in popularity, it’s no surprise business is booming for McCune and Sugar High Bakery. Her cannabis confections account for 75% of the bakery’s total revenue. The other 25% comes from the more traditional, non-cannabis desserts McCune serves, such as scones, muffins, and cakes.
Business has been so good that McCune’s monthly gross sales have consistently increased by roughly 100% every month. Since her first month in business last September, Sugar High Bakery’s monthly gross sales have increased by nearly 1,000%. While McCune says social media exposure has played a significant role in Sugar High Bakery’s success, the biggest contributors have been her loyal customer base and the decision to expand the bakery’s cannabis offerings.
“Most of my business comes from word-of-mouth referrals from existing customers,” McCune says. “I have somehow turned ‘a few hip customers’ into literally hundreds of local consumers and most of that has come from personal referrals.”
Sugar High Bakery will celebrate its first anniversary later this month. The exciting milestone will be marked by the bakery’s final pop-up event before McCune gets busy baking for the holiday season. As far as what’s next for Sugar High Bakery, McCune feels content with her current business model. “Where I see myself as a bakery is exactly where I’m at now: your ‘go-to’ home cannabis baker who can help you in your personal journey of healing and discovery.”
In addition to continuing to advocate for cannabis medicine, she hopes to expose as many people as possible to its benefits. McCune is currently enrolled in a six-month Cannabis Medicine and Healthcare program through the University of Wisconsin Platteville. In the spring, she plans to enroll in a Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture program to learn how to grow, cultivate, and harvest her own cannabis. Doing so aligns with her degree in Sustainable Food Production and Agriculture and would help her accomplish her dream to offer 100% local “farm to table” edibles.
The Greater Fergus Falls team has enjoyed watching McCune grow her business over the last year. We’re wishing her the absolute best as she celebrates Sugar High Bakery’s first anniversary. Here’s to many more years of success!
Interested in attending Sugar High Bakery’s anniversary pop-up event? Get the details here. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and where to find McCune’s sweet treats, follow along on social media.