MK Wintz is an engineer and home baker based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her business found its start in 2020, when she was looking for ways to fill her time while she was sick. She’s turned her family recipe for meringues — or poofs — into Poof Bakery. Keep reading to learn how she’s growing her side hustle.
What did you do before starting Poof Bakery?
“I’m a process engineer — I have a background in chemical engineering, but my first love has always been food,” MK said.
Working in the engineering industry for large corporations, MK found herself looking for a creative outlet. Baking had always been an outlet for her, but as the world entered lockdown, she found herself even more interested in baking as a hobby.
What is the Poof Bakery origin story?
When she came down with COVID-19 last winter, she found herself looking for things to do from home to occupy her time. “I had always wanted to start a business and I just started this up while I was home. I had just made peppermint chocolate meringue Christmas cookies, a recipe that I learned from my grandmother,” MK said. “I wondered if other people would like them, so I started making them and sharing them. I experimented with new flavors, and the idea grew from there.”
“I looked around to see how to start a food business and realized there was more to that than just cooking — I had to think about licensing, permits, things like that,” MK said.
“I’m also starting a PhD program in the fall, so as I’m switching over from full-time employment to the life of a grad student, my hope is that Poof will also provide extra income.”
How would you describe your products in one sentence?
“Light, indulgent little treat that’s perfect for gifting and sharing with your friends.”
“They’re a little retro too,” MK said. “You don’t see very many people doing meringues any more. As I started this, a lot of people mentioned that they did have mint chocolate cookies at Christmas growing up, so I get to provide them with a little throwback memory.”
What's your favorite way to enjoy your meringues?
“If you ask my sisters, the best way to enjoy them is to binge on them while you’re studying for exams,” she said.
“I put them in coffee. They melt down, and then it’s like the perfect dose of sugar,” MK said.
MK makes vanilla, s’mores, hazelnut chip, ginger, lemon, orange, and gianduja meringues, and her favorite flavor varies nearly daily. “I can make them in all sorts of colors. They’re super customizable, and can be made vegan too. I’ve been thinking about doing pavlovas too.”
Who is another food entrepreneur that you follow and support?
“Mama Bear Bakery out of Cleveland is someone I’ve been following. She started two years ago, uses all local ingredients, and has a really sustainable business model. She makes really cute, delicious products,” MK said. “Mostly cookies, brownies which are really dense and delicious, and generally indulgent, home-y treats.”
“The things you make for yourself out of a box, she makes them so well. She sells them out of a couple of local maker shops, which is a model I really like. I aspire to do that. She does individual orders, too. She’s also a mom, balancing what she does in the kitchen. I just love watching her grow through Instagram. She's about my age, and it’s so cool to see your peers do cool things.”
What's the best thing about this job?
“It’s just so much fun to see the process work every time. I think I’ve only lost maybe two batches of meringues. I’m a super nerd and I love how you can take the physics of foams and structuring and build these tiny little igloos of sugar. It makes for this really interesting texture,” MK said.
“The fact that we can take something like an egg and turn it into a beautiful white dessert — it’s so cool to see. I respect the people who figured out how to manipulate food and make it into something shareable. It’s so cool to use the flavors, tools, acids, and ingredients to make a different structure.”
What advice would you share with food entrepreneurs who are getting started?
“Something that David Crabill said at the cottage food conference: ‘just do it.’ Just start. It’s something I struggled with.”
“I had a lot of ideas of things I wanted to do as a side business, and this was the first one I’ve stuck with and actually made a real effort toward,” MK said. “Just continuing to do things despite not having a huge Instagram following or a bunch of sales. Persevere.”