How Partnering with a Nonprofit Can Build Your Brand

If you’re working on a tight budget like I am marketing options can be limited. There is social media but even with targeted sponsored posts and ads your reach may not feel sufficient especially when social media overall has a global reach.

One inexpensive method to getting your business known while supporting your community is to get involved with nonprofits. While some of you may find the idea of working with nonprofits to build your business opportunistic keep in mind it’s a symbiotic relationship. Here are some tips when working with nonprofits.

How Partnering With Nonprofits Can Build Your Brand | The Aubergine Chef

I love working with Together We Bake, a nonprofit empowering women by teaching them professional baking and business skills

Choose a nonprofit that you care about

It can be easy to want to partner with the largest or most popular nonprofit but it will benefit you in the long term if you really care about the cause. First of all you’ll enjoy the work you do with them. Second your efforts will be more authentic. People can tell when you don’t actually care about something. Much like doing something you love for a living makes it easier to work, loving a nonprofit will make volunteering and donating more enjoyable.

If you choose an organization that is industry related this will also enhance your authority as an expert in your field. As a baker who gets asked to teach students from food and baking nonprofits it shows my customers that those organizations trust my competency. They could be thinking, “I know those organizations know what they’re talking about, so he must know what he’s talking about too.” Of course, you need to be a good product to sell. If you don’t do a quality job it won’t matter much who you’re partnering with.

Choose a nonprofit that has a similar target market as you

As a businessperson you have to make sure you spend every minute of your day wisely. You only have so many resources and you don’t want to exhaust your time without a reasonable return. The way to maximize your relationship with a nonprofit is to make sure you both serve the same communities. Nonprofits locally can help you reach consumers in your backyard. Does the nonprofit service a segment of the market your service or product could benefit? If you’ve been having trouble reaching a demographic, partnering with a nonprofit that is successful in that market could boost your connections with that segment. You could also learn why you were having such a hard time reaching that particular community. Learn from the nonprofit’s experiences and apply it to your business.

Promote your work with nonprofits

People who want you to work for free always bring up the word exposure. For the most part, I’m not encouraging you to do tons of work for free for only exposure. Exposure is one marketing goal of many and when you’re on a budget donating services or products can help you bridge that gap in your marketing plan – in a smart effective way.

The exposure works both ways though. When you publicize your charitable work you aren’t being insincere or self-important. You are also helping that nonprofit get exposure to your audiences. Sharing your work also encourages customers to support you – because supporting you means supporting causes they also care about. Sure they could just donate to the cause directly, but buying a birthday cake from you that they were already planning on purchasing will increase their support for their favorite nonprofit two fold.

How Partnering With Nonprofits Can Build Your Brand | The Aubergine Chef

I helped with last year’s local Red Cross prom. One thing I did was put together a ‘Foodie Basket’ for silent auction with my friend’s cookbooks and other goodies.

Make sure your volunteering and donations make sense

As mentioned, time and money are not unlimited resources. Your donations must have meaningful impact at some point – you can do those feel good only donations, but you can also donate yourself out of business. If you go out of business both you and the nonprofits you support will suffer. In other words, your sustainable business model is everybody’s goal.

I’ll give you some personal examples. I get asked a lot for cupcake donations. As fellow bakers I’m sure you understand that cupcakes – like any baked good – take time and money. I’m sure you get the feeling, as I do, that people assume we bake for fun and the business side is just a happy coincidence. With the rising costs of butter, eggs, and milk and the sheer fact you deserve to get paid like any other employee you know that business – even in baking – comes first.

So when people ask me for cupcake donations I hesitate as straight cupcake donations do very little for me. For me, because my business concept is conducting private baking classes and demonstrations a cupcake conveys next to nothing about what I do. This is why I prefer to be there with my cupcakes so I can talk up my business – or even better I like to do on site interactive demonstrations so I can show exactly what I do for my business. Having a unique business like mine can be difficult for people to fully understand but when people at a large nonprofit event see a crowd at your table because of your demonstration they immediately understand the value of your services.

But let’s say that you just sell cupcakes for your business. At first glance donating cupcakes seems like the best idea to get your quality and name out there but remember you can enhance the impact of your donation by attaching branding and literature to it. If you can individually package your cupcakes with your branding – including your website and contact info – that’s a start. You could get picks to stick into your cupcakes to decrease your packaging costs and environmental impact. You could include a coupon with each donation as a call to action. Think creatively to get the most out of your donation. Look online and check sites like Pinterest for ideas.

Remember that you can also offer nonprofits a discount. If you sell your cupcakes for $4 a piece, a donation of 600 cupcakes is the equivalent of giving away $2400. At that amount you might as well hire a marketing firm for a month. Instead offer a discount of $3 a cupcake and negotiate prominent branding like in their program or on banners. You could also offer to get 600 cupcakes by connecting with other bakers – each donating 60 cupcakes – on behalf of the nonprofit. You’ll still get your donation in, you’re now volunteering with the nonprofit, introducing the nonprofit to additional businesses, and creating a more positive environment for your fellow bakers (which I always encourage).

How Partnering With A Nonprofit Can Build Your Brand | The Aubergine Chef

I love Food & Friends Network in DC and I was elated when they asked if I would attend their Chef’s Best Dinner as press.

Be consistent with your efforts

You can’t expect customers to bust down your door the instant you start working with a charity. Working with a nonprofit is about relationship building. You’re building a relationship with the nonprofit but also with the community they serve. So just like you need to see your friend regularly to maintain your friendship, you need to work with your nonprofit regularly to maintain this relationship.

This doesn’t mean that I expect you to make large donations every month. I have a great relationship with Together We Bake and I only see them once every two months, but I make myself available to them. When they ask if I can come teach their ladies a class, I’m there. If they send me an e-mail, I respond timely. Sound familiar? If your friend needs a favor or is trying to talk to you, you don’t ignore them, right? Do what you can and do it consistently. Be a good friend to your nonprofits.

The benefit to working consistently with nonprofits is that it shows you are sincere to that organization’s mission. You’ll also be able to share stories of your work with the nonprofit regularly giving you consistent exposure on social media and press releases. There was a time where I was having a hard time getting out to networking meetings but I was donating several classes to private auctions in the area. When I did get back to networking meetings several people said it felt like I had never left because they saw my donations everywhere.

So now that you’re interested in connecting with nonprofits where can you find them?

How Partnering with Nonprofits Can Build Your Brand | The Aubergine Chef

Volunteering can be fun! I was invited two years in a row to be a judge for City’s of Manassas’ 4th of July Apple Pie Contest.

Perhaps the easiest way is to find a local chapter of a national nonprofit like the Red Cross or PFLAG. Another method is to talk to other business owners and friends about nonprofits they partner with and see if any pique your interest. Check newspapers and magazines for press releases or even stories covering nonprofit events. Prince William Living has a section in their magazine called ‘Giving Back’ which features a local nonprofit in my county every month. If you’re curious who I partner with or who I donate to you can see a list of some of them by clicking here.

Have you partnered with a nonprofit?

Tell me about your stories and your time working with them and how it helped your business in the comment thread below.

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Posted in Non-food posts, Non-profit

Episode 150 – Pumpkin Spice Latte Creme Brulee

Pumpkin Spice Latte Creme Brulee 1| The Aubergine Chef
Episode 150 HD
October 23, 2014
Pumpkin Spice Latte Creme Brulee

Well hi there pumpkin season! I don’t care how many of my friends tell me they hate pumpkins, I still love you. I will eat all the pumpkin pies if I have to. I appreciate your sweet, slightly tangy, mildly earthy flavor as well as your cooked puree’s smooth custard-like texture. You know what? Let’s celebrate that texture and enhance a creme brulee with it!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Creme Brulee sprinkling sugar 1 | The Aubergine Chef

Obviously this dessert was inspired by the popular coffeehouse beverage

Earlier this year we learned that Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte doesn’t actually contain pumpkin. While most of America was getting bent out of shape over this, the rest of us with eyeballs could easily see over the counter that this was always the case. I mean there is a reason why it’s called ‘pumpkin spice latte’ rather than ‘pumpkin latte.’ Could you imagine what a pain it would be to stir pumpkin puree into every latte? Maybe a frappuccino since they blend it… but that’s all besides the point.

I didn’t design this recipe because I love pumpkin spice lattes. (Actually my favorite drink is an earl grey latte made with soy milk). I developed this recipe because one of my friends said that they could only imagine that coffee and pumpkin together would be gross.

Challenge accepted.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Creme Brulee caramelizing with torch 2| The Aubergine Chef

This recipe is a variation of a standard creme brulee

When it comes to changing the flavor of standard dessert recipes it’s actually easier than you think. In the few cases where it’s tricky… well that’s where it becomes fun.

For the most part though this was easy since all I needed to do was steep the espresso powder and spices in the half-and-half (you could also use the heavy cream too) then strain them out. Of course, because the powder and ground spices are so fine you do have to use an extremely fine sieve or a coffee press. As I state in the video, I use ground spices instead of whole spices because I already have them on hand and I don’t want to get whole versions of spices – especially when I have Costco sized ground spices. So basically I was just being cheap and lazy. That’s the best kind of baking though. Keepin’ it real.

In most cases bake your creme brulee in a water bath

Water baths help even out the temperature and keep your delicate custard from getting overwhelmed especially on the sides. Ideally your water bath should go up at least halfway the pan or ramekin but even a third will help. The easiest way to do a water bath is to fill the pan while it’s in the oven. That way you aren’t trying to shuffle a large pan of water around.

One exception I found in my baking career is true convection ovens – the ovens with fans where the heat comes from behind the fan. They seem to be able to even out the heat and keep it consistent enough that a water bath is unnecessary. In fact a water bath is actually detrimental. The custard below the water bath will never get cooked. I haven’t tried a convection oven where the air just gets blown around but I imagine they wouldn’t need a water bath either. If you’re unsure how your oven will work with the creme brulee, bake one off first. It’s better to sacrifice one guy rather than the entire batch.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Creme Brulee 5| The Aubergine Chef

Caramelize your creme brulee with a torch

A while back I bought and used one of those little creme brulee torches you can find in places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Don’t waste your time. They don’t take up as much space as those industrial sized torches you find in Home Depot, but they are difficult to use and impossible to refill. To refill the industrial sized ones all you need to do is remove the lid from the propane and twist on the handle/torch section. I still don’t understand how to put butane in my little torch.

To caramelize the surface of your creme brulee just sprinkle on a thin but healthy layer of granulated sugar. Take your torch and just barely touch the sugar with the flame. Start around the edge and move around a lot working your way towards the center in spiral fashion. Don’t stay in one spot for too long or you’ll make it too dark while the rest of the sugar hasn’t caramelized. Take care not to burn the custard itself as it can lend a bitter flavor. If you do it’s not a big deal. Just tell your guests that the custard has a complex flavor.

Here is the recipe for the pumpkin spice latte creme brulee

Just click here to download the pumpkin spice latte creme brulee recipe. It makes about five 7-oz servings in 4.5″ ramekins. The video is below! Thank you for watching!

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Posted in Custard, French Desserts

Episode 149 – Peaches and Cream Galettes

Peaches and Cream Galettes | The Aubergine Chef

Episode 149 HD
September 26, 2014
Peaches and Cream Galettes

The first day of autumn has come and gone but August and September are still perfect for harvesting especially peaches. There are rural parts of Virginia where people are still getting the chance to pick their own peaches and they have got to be at their sweetest right about now. In addition galettes have seem to become one of the food blogger’s favorite baked goods to make in the past year. I’m certainly not going to miss out on the opportunity to join in to the choir and add my voice.

I think picking a good peach can be fairly tricky and a lot of that has to do with my childhood

When I was a kid I was convinced I hated peaches because I hated (and still hate) fruit cocktail. If only I had known back then how unfair it was to judge the fruit on that canned and syrup soaked despair. Since I’ve only recently started enjoying peaches I’m still learning how to pick a ripe one. I tend to like them slightly soft – especially when I’m going to bake with them – but then the flesh can sometimes be very brown as opposed to that characteristic yellow-orange. When they’re softer and more ripe I think they are sweeter but there’s something to be said about a firmer peach that’s easier to peel, slice, and present.

Peaches also seem to ripen faster at room temperature than most other fruits so if you plan to use them move quickly and don’t buy them too far ahead of time (or, you know, put them in the fridge). All this being said, often times baking is the best way to use up some of your bruised or overripe fruits. One of my favorite quick dishes to use up apples or peaches on their way out is a quick crumble or crisp in a casserole dish. What tricks do use to pick a perfect peach? How do you use up your fruit?

Galettes are basically a variation of a pie

In most cases the crust encasing the filling is a pie dough which gets surprisingly sturdy after baking. Pie dough is also a little stronger than the shortbread dough I used for my galette. There are variations of cookie and shortbread dough I could’ve used (like the 123 dough for example) but I just love this shortbread recipe and I love to showcase it whenever I can even when it may not be the 100% perfect fit for the job.

Even though most people use pie dough I wanted to use shortbread dough as a way to show you all that galettes can be adapted in a variety of ways. Knowing that it’s basically a pie gives you all the knowledge you really need to make your own galette. I strongly recommend using a cooked pie filling since the filling will be sturdier, less likely to leak out, and will already be fully cooked. The cheese filling in this galette has raw egg in it, but I’m confident that the small amount gets cooked thoroughly in the oven.

I also liked making my galettes into smaller almost individual serving sized pastries because I felt that makes them easier to serve and less of a hassle to work with. All galettes are fragile and this dough in particular is even more delicate so making them smaller makes them a little easier to handle. They get firmer when refrigerated but just make sure to still handle them with care because even with parchment paper it can still get really stuck to the pan. When in doubt use an offset spatula.

Here is the recipe for the peaches and cream galettes

The peaches and cream galettes recipe includes the shortbread, the cream cheese filling, the peach filling, and assembly. Remember the shortbread recipe makes about twice as much dough as you need but I’m not really comfortable cutting the recipe in half (the recipe is actually already a reduced sized version of the original recipe). You can get about two 1# 1 ounce segments leftover which you can freeze for about a year and use for a variety of purposes including decorating cookies.

The video is below! Thank you for watching!

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Posted in Cookies, Fillings, Fruit, Pastries, Pies, Tarts
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