"Take what you get and you’ll love it"
The tale of a vegan bakery business in a former butcher’s shop, with an unusual baker who does things his own way.
Michael Kapaun is not a baker, but that didn’t stop him from creating a thriving baking business. He’s not a vegetarian either but his baked goods are exclusively vegan!
That might seem a rather odd fit but it has developed into a very successful model with customers in Frankfurt's Westend and beyond. Every day, Michael and his team – that’s Mikey's Creations – deliver up to 80 cakes to cafés, restaurants and hotels in Frankfurt and as far afield as Darmstadt, Kassel and Wiesbaden.
Experimenting in the bakery
In front of the ovens
The remarkable thing about it is that Michael Kapaun is a self-taught baker who only ventured into catering by chance. Maybe that’s why he works differently to those in the industry? He doesn’t have industrial convection ovens, for instance. Instead, household ovens are stacked against a wall, and the shelves are full of hand mixers, bowls and baking pans like you’ll find in most households – only in larger quantities.
Michael is convinced that this is an important ingredient for his success: "If I were to operate an industrial sized kitchen, things taste like they’ve been mass produced. I don't want that. My cakes taste like they’re homemade, because they are – only vegan."
My cakes taste like they’re homemade, because they are – only vegan.
It all started with a bank apprenticeship
Born in Graz, Austria, Michael’s working life has been as unusual as his methods. He started out as a banking apprentice in the city where he grew up but soon grew bored of working behind a counter and decided he’d like to be an entrepreneur.
So, Michael crossed the Atlantic, moving to Miami, where he worked in nightclubs and even opened his own bars. The tattoos covering his arms are reminders of those wild times, after he felt Europe calling him.
He returned and has made his home in Frankfurt. It was there, in the kitchen of his apartment, where he started baking – initially just as a hobby for himself and his friends. That changed when a friend opened a café in Wiesbaden in 2013 and asked him if he could bake for him on a regular basis. The cakes sold well, and when two other friends decided to open a vegan café in Frankfurt, they asked Michael if he could also bake vegan cakes.
I know what I want something to taste like and then I experiment until the taste, consistency and appearance are right
It was a challenge that Michael rose to. "I've always developed my own recipes. I know what I want something to taste like and then I experiment until the taste, consistency and appearance are right," he says. "But I also threw away tons of failed cakes in the beginning."
I threw away tons of failed cakes in the beginning.
Until everything is finished
The heavenly result
And that's still his principle today: whatever stands up to his critical scrutiny, he offers to customers for testing. Anything that goes down well with them goes on sale.
As a result, and because he relies on household utensils for baking, the cafés and bakers who add Michael’s vegan cakes to their own assortment can sell them as "homemade".
When he started, the vegan food trend was still young, so he was able to expand his business quickly.
Passion is more important than a formal education.
Cake from sturdy cardboard boxes
Today, Michael Kapaun has a proper business. The makeshift “bakery” has long since moved out of his old apartment – into a former butcher’s, of all places.
As many as four employees assist with production, but none of them have to start work in the middle of the night – another way Mikey’s Creations differs from a normal bakery. They start at 8 am and work for as long as they have orders to keep them busy. Instead of the usual professional transport boxes, Michael packs his cakes in sturdy cardboard boxes that are normally used for fruit.
He buys ingredients not from wholesalers, but from the farmer’s market and discount stores. "They have the best peanut butter. When it's on sale, my buyer drives around and buys up all the stocks in Frankfurt," he says.
Cake in a margarine box
Shopping at the Konstablerwache
When peanut butter is on sale at the discount store, my buyer drives around and buys up all the stocks in Frankfurt.
Fresh fruit comes directly from the market stand, which, incidentally, is also where he got his right-hand man in the bakery. Shafi S., a refugee from Afghanistan, used to lug the fruit crates to the car for him. He might not have done any formal training but Michael was won over by his hands-on manner and ability to learn.
I'm good at finding people who can do something I can't do myself
With the exception of his finance and accounting expert, Michael W., the rest of “Mikey’s” team are also career changers who learned their respective skills in other industries and now put them to use in the bakery.
Cosimo A., a trained florist and set designer, for example, is now responsible for decorating unusual cakes such as wedding cakes. "I'm good at finding people who can do something I can't do myself," Michael says. "Formal training is not important to me."
Michael Kapaun enjoys what he’s doing
Michael is also unusual in how he deals with his customers. There is no marketing concept, nor does he have a website or any social media presence. He has built up his customer base solely by word of mouth.
In the beginning I always put long sleeves on deliveries to cover up my tattoos.
And his customers have been accustomed to his quirks: if a café orders a certain number of cakes from him, Michael decides what kinds of cakes he delivers.
"My customers are used to the fact that I vary my cakes and sometimes spontaneously decide to use fresh fruit. You take what you get and you’ll love it," says Michael.
He might not have any formal training as a baker but that doesn’t matter; his success is proof that unconventional methods really do work.
About Michael Kapaun
Michael Kapaun has turned his passion into a business. The self-taught baker runs “Mikey’s creations”, a catering business specialized on vegan cakes that delivers sweet creations to bakeries, cafés and restaurants all over Frankfurt and the wider region. His recipe for success? A team of enthusiasts, unusual methods and a product his customers love.
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