There is power in a memory. Although they may seem small, our memories hold the power to will us into great things. Like local baker Montanna Altmix. For her, baking brought back memories of simpler times. Memories of baking with her grandmother or cooking with her parents. Memories that she cherished. So for Montanna Altmix, what started out as a fond memory has now turned into a business that she thought only existed in the movies.
Being a home baker wasn’t something that Montanna Altmix ever thought she’d be doing. After going to school to get both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in teaching, Altmix started down the career path she had always intended on. “I went to school to become a teacher, got my degree, and then taught for six years at Liberty,” recalls Altmix.
With a few years under her belt as an elementary school teacher, something within Montanna was calling her to find a new path. That something was her young son, Camden. “We had our son, Camden, in September of 2022, and I did finish out the school year, but I think I knew I wanted to be home with him and be as present as I could,” states Montanna. “That’s when I started thinking about what I could do to make it possible for me to be home with him, and that’s where this all kind of started. While on maternity leave I started taking baking classes and really diving into the more professional side of things.”
The decision to move from teaching to baking was anything but hasty. There was a lot of thought, discussion, and prayer that went into it. There was even another profession in the middle. “I knew that when I was making this decision in early 2023 that I was also going to have to financially support our family. I knew that starting a business from scratch is hard no matter what it is. But I knew it was especially hard with a baking business,” says Altmix. “Because of all that, I decided to start a home daycare. I got licensed for that, had families sign up, and had planned to start that in August 2023, but in the meantime, I had started promoting my baking publicly in June of that year. I was very surprised at the response. I got very busy, very fast. When August came, I just kept thinking how am I going to do both? Of course, the first week I had daycare I was slammed with baking orders, so it just felt like everything was a mess, and I realized that daycare is not for me. To be honest, it was a low point for me, because I felt like I completely failed. I just felt embarrassed, but I had to figure something out, so I closed the daycare, and with school already starting for the year, I decided to try the baking thing full time. I’ve been very lucky that our community has been super supportive, because it’s allowed me to do this full time and be home with Camden as well.”
One thing that helped the Tannie Kakes owner along the way was her genuine love for baking. Growing up, Altmix had a grandmother who, as she says, was always in the kitchen, and that’s what helped develop her very own interest and love for creating her own delicious treats. “As far as learning about baking, I grew up with my grandma constantly baking for birthdays. She let us choose what dessert we wanted, if we wanted something special on it, and then she’d free hand and do it all. So growing up, I was always in the kitchen,” fondly states Montanna.
It wasn’t just a grandmother who helped fuel Montanna’s love for food and baking, it was a full family affair. “My dad owned his own roofing company, so in the winters, he’d be home with us kids. He’s just fabulous in the kitchen as well. I remember making homemade donuts and homemade sweets with him, and I just think that when you grow up with that, it shapes your adulthood. It truly became my passion,” recalls Montanna with a smile. “Growing up, we didn’t really go out to eat a ton, because my parents were always cooking. That was just normal for us kids growing up, and that’s something I really did enjoy.”
Even the name for Montanna’s business was inspired by her family. Her younger brother Brady, who was born with Down Syndrome, always struggled to pronounce her full name growing up. For Brady, Tannie was easier than Montanna, and so the name stuck. It became the name he called her, and much of her family and friends followed suit. As for that special spelling of ‘Kakes’, that’s all in the family as well. Altmix’s middle name is Kaye, so she decided to add in that last, special touch, and thus Tannie Kakes was born.
Education is a critical piece to any business, new or old. For the Tannie Kakes owner, education has been the largest part of her journey so far. “When you start out, there’s a lot to learn. As you get further into it, you definitely learn a ton. I have a system for how things work and where things go now, but society’s trends are always changing. What’s popular one year might not be popular the next, which adds a constant learning curve to it, but I do feel like I’m much more educated now then when I first started. I am always doing my research though. Even if I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, there’s always going to be something I could learn along the way, so I’ve learned that with being an entrepreneur you kind of have to stay up to date on all that stuff as well,” states Altmix.
Sometimes in life, there’s a bigger plan out there for all of us. Montanna Altmix certainly has seen her journey as a part of God’s bigger plan. “My husband and I discuss it a lot. I’m not a risk taker. I would never have left teaching to pursue baking full time, so I really do think God planted these seeds along the way. I had to go through some low moments during everything, but I do think he was guiding me, I just didn’t always see it that way.”
There are risks and rewards to starting any new business. In this instance, the rewarding part of Tannie Kakes isn’t the delicious treats, but rather Montanna’s own little bundle of joy. “I would say the most rewarding part for me is definitely being able to be home with Camden. That was obviously the number one goal of mine. Starting this business came from a place of really wanting to put my family first. Because I got to be home with him, I got to see his first steps, hear his first words, experience all of the firsts, so that’s definitely the most rewarding part,” proudly states Altmix. “Having interactions with my customers is also a really rewarding part of what I do. I love seeing the comments from the customers or I see the pictures from their party or event that my product was at. That little interaction really does mean so much.”
Something that has been both rewarding and empowering for Montanna is the support she has found in Quincy’s community of home bakers. “There are a lot of other bakers that are in the town of Quincy as well, and so being able to talk with them really helps. They’re super encouraging, and they want to see you succeed. Everyone offers different things and has their own area of expertise, so being able to talk to them for encouragement and vice versa has really helped me,” states Montanna.
For Tannie Kakes, 2024 is shaping up to be a big year. “We just did the Bridal Expo which helped us book a lot of weddings for this year, so that’s going to be a large focus for the business. We’re also looking to do pop ups at various boutiques in Quincy and different events throughout town all year long as a way to help promote myself more. I really just want to focus on reaching people and continue going from there,” says Altmix.
When asked about what advice she’d give to women looking to start a business, Montanna Altmix gave an incredibly relevant, truthful piece of advice that I think many of us could benefit from. “When you’re first starting your business, you look on social media and you see these perfect, flawless images, thousands of followers, just all around perfection. What you’re not seeing is how many times they’ve messed up, or where they were when they first started. I can assure you there were tears and a lot of hard work to get there,” says Altmix. “I, myself, struggle with that at times. You get caught up in thinking about how good it looks that you forget social media doesn’t always show the mistakes that have been made, so I wish I could just tell every new business owner that everyone is starting on the same playing field. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in it a month or ten years, mistakes still happen, personal lives still happen. It’s human nature to get caught up in the competition of it all, but if we can learn to focus on what we’re doing and make that the best product and hone in on the things we do well, then I think it’ll all work out.”
When looking for motivation, this baker doesn’t have to look far. “I would definitely say Camden is my motivation. I mean he was how this all started. If I wouldn’t have had him, I wouldn’t have stopped teaching, which I did love doing. But my motivation is really to provide for him while also being present in his life. I really do think that this is something that I’m going to look back on when he’s older and in school and be proud and thankful that I chose to make the career change,” proudly states Montanna. “I’m also very motivated by my mom. She really has been one of my biggest supporters in starting Tannie Kakes and is always the first one to volunteer to help me at every community pop-up and event that I have attended. I enjoy being able to bounce ideas off another person who loves baking as much as me.”
Our childhoods have a funny way of shaping us into the adults we are today. For Tannie Kakes owner, Montanna Altmix, her childhood was surrounded by family who helped give her a love and appreciation for baking, and that has given her the opportunity of a lifetime. With a pinch of dedication, a dash of love, and a sprinkle of faith, Montanna is working hard to make her childhood dreams come true.