How to be a baker

Emily Elsen, cofounder, Four & Twenty Blackbirds.



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Emily Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Emily Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Former profession: Image archivist

Making the switch: In 2009, Emily Elsen (then a staffer at a photography agency) was joined in New York by her younger sister, Melissa, and the pair decided to start a business together. The siblings had grown up baking pies with their grandmother and noticed a void of bakeries focusing on the American classic. They began whipping up treats for private parties and then spent a year recipe-testing and drawing up a business plan. Emily, who also cofounded the artist facility Gowanus Studio Space, had her eye on the up-and-coming 'hood, and spotted a location in the area. With the help of a small bank loan and carpenter friends, they transformed a corner space into a charming caf specializing in pies. Today, the indie dessert outfit draws hordes of pastry hounds from every corner of the city .

Word to the wise: "Have a good support network around you. This business isn't just me. It's me, my sister, my family, my friends and our employees."

Get your feet wet: Aspiring pie entrepreneurs can learn the basics at The Brooklyn Kitchen's "Pies Intensive." 100 Frost St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-389-2982; Aug 30 6:30--8:30pm; $60.

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