I was recently able to have the good fortune of talking with Hannah Maldonado; Owner, and Baker, of the 8 Bit Bakeshop; which opened in 2013 that she runs with her fiancé Matt Mcnamee. Since then, Hannah’s family, friends, and staff have worked nonstop to see that her bakery is nothing short of a success. Unlike most bakeries, 8 Bit’s unique spin on baked goods is that they are primarily made with inspiration from video games, both new and retro, and some of the most popular television shows from primetime cartoons to anime including Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan, and Rick and Morty.
Hannah herself is also an avid cosplayer who goes by the name Mika M. aka Lady Ignite and has been featured in several photoshoots and magazine spreads. It can’t be easy being a full time mother, store owner, baker, fiancée, and cosplayer, but Hannah balances all of these things pretty well, at least, that's what she shows on the surface. So I got a chance to interview Hannah and learn more about her and her business.
BlackIce: What made you want to start this business?
Hannah: Funny thing, Matt and I were driving around Long Island randomly, as we usually do when we get bored, and had this long discussion about our favorite nerdy things. Then after some odd pause he asked if bakeries make treats geared for people with our interests. You know nerds, geeks, gamers, otakus, etc. I knew they only did it on a case by case basis but not well enough for me to think it would be nerd/geek culture approved. So, we kind of just looked at each other and silently accepted the challenge!
B: Is there a specific mission statement?
H: Our goal at 8 Bit is to bridge the generation gaps of gamers, comic aficionados, and all around nerds and geeks with the one thing everyone can agree on - Food!
B: Why did you choose to incorporate gaming, of all things, into your company?
H: Passion is such an understatement but it's the closest thing I can think of. It is what brought Matt and I together as this "power couple" people have called us and unites whole masses of people from different ages, religions, creeds, sexual orientations, and so much more. Gaming is one of those things that has evolved from a few pixels and blips to a full on art form people cherish and idolize. We want to associate ourselves with the positive vibes of a wonderful hobby and lifestyle like this.
B: Are you a gamer yourself?
H: Of course! When I'm not in the kitchen and playing super mom, I'm playing something...anything haha. Matt is a huge computer gamer and I'm a console gal. Our daughter is getting into board games and we can't wait to show her the world she's about to encounter.
B: What is the hardest part of your job?
H: It's a close tie between keeping time for family and keeping up with the latest trends in our baked goods. I start working every day at 9am and clock out around midnight; if I'm lucky. I still make time to hang out with Matt and the little one, take her to school and do homework and such, but our time to have fun and do special things has dwindled a lot. So we aim to fix that by building a bigger team. Then there is the issue of keeping up with trends. We do a lot of decorating testing and we can do almost anything you imagine. Obtaining permission from the companies that own them is a long and hard process. Until we get specific permission to sell these pieces on a large scale, we create things inspired by them. Thankfully, our fans don't mind. It gives them the chance to be creative when designing their items with us.
B: How many people do you currently have on staff?
H: 8 Bit is a 2 person owned LLC with currently one member on staff:
- Bryan, my baking assistant and recipe victim...guinea pig...erm...taste tester. He lives the closest to me and is always around helping create new ideas and working on ways to make my ideas edible.
- We had another member who we recently released into the wild so she can fulfill her dreams of computer programming study in school. We are very proud to see she has been certified!
- Without them and Matt, 8 Bit would not be where it is now!
- We are hiring though, soon, but I’m currently accepting resumes and we are definitely looking for more cosplayers to join our cosplay team.
B: Your daughter is diabetic; does that present an issue when making sweets?
H: Most of the time, she wants nothing to do with sweets. Unlike most kids. She asks a lot of questions when I bake and recipe test at home so it's been hard explaining to her why she can't eat certain things when she asks if it's for her or if she could have a small taste. So, to end that awful conversation experience for her, we created "Little Luna" - a menu specifically made for people with special tummy needs. We cater to just about anyone with a special dietary consideration. It's been great having her get excited about seeing these safe products come to life.
B: Do you have a list of goods that you make?
H: It's probably easier to say what we don't make lol. We create nerdy inspired cakes, cookies, bars, and more. We also have holiday menus that change every year. Pies and ice cream make their appearances in the Fall and Summer respectively. We have a whole menu called "The Bartender's Oven" which takes our geeky treats (and not so geeky ones) and puts a cool 21+ twist to it.
For the most part, we are a fully custom bakery. Once we make your product for the very first time, it is evaluated, priced, and made available for others to purchase or use as an inspiration base as well. It's all about getting creative!
B: Do you take requests?
H: It's how we work! If you send us an email with your mental idea and a few pictures of inspiration, we start making sketches of your idea and will continue to edit the sketch until its perfect. Once you approve it, that's when the magic starts. And we involve you in every step of the creation!
B: How do people get in touch with 8-Bit Bakeshop? Is there a physical location or a website?
H: We operate out of the Entrepreneur's Space in Long Island City. It is an incubator kitchen shared between us and a bunch of other amazing small businesses. It is not open for the public but we hope to have a store front in the future. Till then, find us at conventions and outdoor/indoor markets across the East Coast or send us an email and ask about our shipping and delivery options!
B: Any words of inspiration to those aspiring to be just like you?
H: "I was told God built the universe in 6 days and rested on the 7th. But I am not God, so I'm prepared to work 8." I'm not the best with profound thoughts but I was always proud of creating this one.
Be prepared to sacrifice more than just time and money. Relationships get rocky, family time gets cut, and sanity flees faster than a deer in hunting season. Sleep is a close friend you are about to have a brutal falling out with. But when the people around you believe in your dream as much as you do, the juice is totally worth the squeeze in the end. Don't give up!
Hannah and the 8 Bit Bakeshop are doing well and she is undoubtedly busier than ever, but that hasn’t slowed her down one bit. She’s currently working on her newest cosplay: Dahlia White from the upcoming comic book series "Widows Web" by her good friends Raven Gregory and Autumn Ivy, currently on Kickstarter and doing very well.
The 8 Bit Bakeshop is also starting up something new. On April 17th, the kitchen is holding decorating classes. Only $75 for a two hour crash course in making what Hannah calls “nerdy foods”, and you get to take home whatever you make!
While the kitchen isn’t currently open to the public, 8 Bit does offer options for delivery and pickup. Here’s where you can find them: Facebook, Twitter, or click the logo to the right for the official site.
Lastly, you can find Hannah and the 8 Bit crew marketing their wares and showing off their latest cosplays at upcoming conventions. Speaking of, they should be making an appearance in Hoboken, New Jersey at CPAC (Castle Point Anime Convention) on Sunday, March 29th. They are also hoping to make it to Anime Boston. So if you’re in the area, meet up with them and be sure to get your hands on those delectable treats. And don’t forget, if you’re an aspiring culinarian or cosplayer, or both, then 8 Bit Bakeshop may be the place for you. 8 Bit Bakeshop, where the cake is never a lie.