By Alexander Best
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
BALTIMORE – A new report that names Charm City as tops for women-owned businesses in the U.S. arrived at a critical time for partners and business-owners Michelle Bond and Joan Kanner.
“Running a business is very difficult,” said Bond of their 2-year-old Bottom’s Up Bagels. “It gets hard, it gets tiring, but we very much enjoy the craft of it.”
Bond and Kanner know first hand about the difficulties of getting a foot in the door of the male dominated field of business-entrepreneurship. While the fruits of their labors are not always immediately apparent, the Sept. 19 report from Citrix Sharefile provided the impetus they need.
Baltimore was named the top U.S. city because 23 percent of its businesses are owned by women, women business executives account for 31 percent and it ranked tops in terms of buying power for women.
Bond and Kanner, two New Jersey natives, launched what is known as a popup business in late 2015 after noticing the lack of high quality, home-style bagel restaurants in the area. Bottom’s Up Bagels specializes in hand rolled, Jersey style bagels with classic and innovate cream cheeses and breakfast sandwiches. The business does not have a permanent brick and mortar location, but offers services in farmer’s markets, pop up events, catering and wholesale.
“There are many transplant schools in the area, and many people are from New Jersey, including us, and we know that people want that familiarity here in Maryland,” said Kanner, who was previously the assistant director of grants and contracts at the Krieger School at Johns Hopkins University.
Bond said they distribute their products to 10 different coffee shops in the Baltimore area. As of this month, Bottom’s Up Bagels produces about 400 bagels a day and between 1200 and 1600 bagels a week.
“We did a pop up one day in 2015 just to see what would happen,” said Kanner. “People freaked out, in a positive, overwhelming way. We sold out within an hour. That’s when we knew we were on to something; this is something that could work.”
The partners said their success was the result of months of continuous hard work and dedication. The lack of a permanent space forced Bond and Kanner to improvise and find spaces where they could to build their business. Initially, Kanner worked full time, while Bond worked part time as a consultant in the areas of diversity training and intercultural connections.
“We were working in a combination of places: our kitchen, community kitchens, church kitchens and even a brewery at one point,” said Kanner “We didn’t have a storage space either, so I would have to transport everything back and forth by my personal car too.”
Currently, Bottom’s Up Bagel’s production center is located at the Baltimore Kitchen in Towson, a community kitchen that serves around 12 other small businesses in the area as well. The business is part of Karmic Messenger LLC. Bond and Kanner have begun expanding, adding a few additional employees as the demand for their product grows.
Despite the progress, the businesswomen said they recognize the very real challenges that still affect small business owners like themselves.
“Working with institutions such as universities and other establishments with contracted agreements is a real challenge because we cannot compete with them on price,” said Bond. “It’d be awesome if all the universities and large businesses incorporated locally produced food and goods.”
Bond and Kanner emphasized that public support is what makes or breaks the success of small businesses, particularly those owned and operated by women and other minorities.
The partners are enthusiastic about the small-business scene in Baltimore and the progress they’ve made with Bottom’s Up Bagels.
“We’re trying to allow a space for people to make memories, bagel memories,” said Kanner. “We want to give people that opportunity. I believe we’re accomplishing that.”