What is Baum-kuchen, and what makes it special?
Baum-kuchen is a lifestyle inspired by all things analogue and adventures in life. We are celebrating our 10th year anniversary in 2020 (!!). Our beautiful global community led by the amazing BK team is what makes Baum-kuchen truly magical.
What inspired the name Baum-kuchen?
“Baum-kuchen” is the name of a delicious German cake which has become quite popular in Japan. It looks like a tree stump and to us… it represents layers of happiness that have been built with time aging beautifully.
Do you have an online or a brick-and-mortar store? Do you have both?
We love sharing our analogue love both virtually and physically. Our website embodies our online shop as well as collective stories about our love for analogue, often featuring BK community members whom we are inspired by. Our brick & mortar studio/shop in Altadena (about 10 miles north from downtown Los Angeles). We are currently not open due to Covid-19; however, we look forward to opening our doors again when things settle so we can enjoy connecting with like-minded analogue enthusiasts in person.
How did you get your start with providing analog artifacts to journaling enthusiasts, and how long have you been doing it?
We started Baum-kuchen as an online store in 2010 after I had my first baby. I was transitioning from working full-time in a corporate world to creating an authentic business that serves the world in a small but in a genuine way. Starting as an online business made sense at the time because I wanted to work around my family’s needs (the newborn baby!!!). We were an online-only store for about 3 years before we opened our first brick & mortar space in 2013.
Who has influenced you the most in your business?
My family. Becoming a mother has transformed the way I look at “work”, running a business, and designing a life that pursues passion, love, and care in both family life and work. I am thankful for Frido’s support throughout the years of BK life together. He has been my partner-in-crime at Baum-kuchen and home supporting and embracing our vision.
Tell us more about the person behind Baum-kuchen. Who is Wakako? What is a typical day like for you?
I wear a lot of colorful hats! I am from Japan and have lived in LA for the last 25 years. I have a strong sense of Japanese culture within me with an adjusted lifestyle of living in a diverse community of Los Angeles. Frido, my husband, is from Germany so we call our little family “Germanese”.
What is the one thing you need to start your day?
I take my morning time seriously. I love waking up before dawn when the house is still and quiet. I make my tea, light a candle, and spend 30 minutes or so journaling and meditation to start the day while watching the sunrise. I then either cook breakfast or go for a run!
Are you managing your store as a full-time job?
Yes and no. I am always thinking about Baum-kuchen 24/7. I live and breathe with Baum-kuchen and it never leaves my heart. Having said that, I have learned to physically step away from Baum-kuchen in a more healthy way. I am not on emails nor task lists all the time. I am also physically not at the studio every day. Having a healthy boundary between myself and the studio helps me to keep a fresh perspective. It doesn’t hurt to have an amazing team whom I can trust when I am not physically around!
What are your other interests outside of Baum-kuchen?
I enjoy training for the Los Angeles Marathon every year. It amazes me how our body and mind can grow so much no matter how old we become. I recently picked up playing the piano again which I spent quite a bit of time doing when I was a child. Playing an instrument is a great way to relax and focus on a task at hand. Also, I love the process of learning new music. We travel for 1-3 weeks every three months as a family. Traveling does a few amazing things for us. Experiencing new places together bonds our family and gives us a fresh view in our life at home. We also collect a lot of inspiration for Baum-kuchen from our travels.
Inside the studio
Describe a typical day inside Baum-kuchen.
Our current “typical day” is very different from what it used to be. Since we are taking the health concern of Covid-19 very seriously, we only have one team member at a time physically at the studio. So some of us rotate to fulfill and ship throughout the week and the rest of the teamwork virtually to contribute to design and help with our online customers.
What is a product or service that you are most proud of and why?
I am excited for our BK TrulyYours service where customers can send in their own TN leather covers (or purchase new ones from us) and have it customized with sewn-in pockets, embossing stamps, patches, etc. I love that we can help our customers to love what they already own and transform it even more unique to them. The service breathes the fresh air to the already special artifact.
What is your best seller? What do your customers like about it?
Our current best seller is BK JIYU Planner. It is an open-dated monthly/weekly planner designed by Baum-kuchen. The design is minimalistic and flexible with just enough structure to encourage real-life usage.
How do you see the future of Baum-kuchen? Any new product lines or store events coming up?
We just celebrated our 10th birthday virtually with our community! It was exciting and so special to mark the milestone birthday. We are now coming out of the bit project and starting to think about what is ahead of us.
How do you decide what products to offer?
The most important criteria of what we curate at Baum-kuchen is if we love it, if we believe in it, and if we have personally used it.
What recommendations can you give to someone who is shopping for journaling materials but is not quite decided on what to get?
Start with “why” you need journaling materials. Dig deeper into asking the question and I think the answer will be very clear.
Wrap Up & Parting Words
What are you most thankful for?
I am most thankful for an opportunity to continue growing from inside and out and people whom I had the honor to have crossed the path with.
What are the 5 things you can never live without?
Notebook and pen for self-care, day-to-day organization, and creative process. My iPhone for much of photo/video documentation and staying connected with my community. Honestly, I don’t think I need much more than that.
What advice would you give to someone getting their start in your field?
- Stay true to who you are and invest in creating original content and stories instead of putting a lot of money into a quick marketing trick. (Fun fact: Baum-kuchen has never put money in advertisements. Instead, we have worked diligently to put love in what we do every day so we can shine through.)
- Don’t trade filling the cup for the business with filling your family’s cup as well as your own cup. I am a firm believer that the quality of our personal life to be genuinely reflective of our BK mission.
What are your hopes/what is your vision for Baum-kuchen in the future?
We are excited to continue evolving our analogue system offerings based on feedback we receive from our community. We believe a well designed analogue system can bring rich rituals to our every day whether having a good planner to keep track of the schedule, a place for memory keeping, or having an open page where people can write their hearts out to heal and grow.