Red Poppy isn’t your typical bakery. Soon to open at 1 Elm Street in Waterbury, Red Poppy offers cakes as well as classes. Meanwhile, founder Janina McCue conjures the cake of your dreams: raspberry-jam–filled, espresso-buttercream–frosted, white-chocolate-ganache–dripped; whether its lemon lavender cupcakes, or bestseller maple chocolate cake drizzled in caramel, vegan, or allergen-friendly, McCue loves a challenge. McCue dreamt of opening a custom cake shop since age 14. Launching her own brick and mortar is more than a lifetime passion project, it’s a staple of community and connection. In April 2019, McCue started Red Poppy Cakery out of Burlington’s New Moon Cafe. When the pandemic hit, she offered virtual baking classes from her kitchen to connect with others who were homebound. By 2021, Red Poppy Cakery found its commercial home in downtown Waterbury, where McCue offers custom-order cakes and virtual baking classes. Her tip to customers, especially during wedding cake season, is to plan ahead.Although there is no walk-in retail area, the front space of Red Poppy will soon be dedicated to on-site workshops, events, and parties. In addition to the upcoming grand opening, McCue will be expanding her one-woman team at Red Poppy. Other upcoming projects include working on a recipe book. McCue, who plans to open the cakery to the public in May, answered a few questions from The Bridge about Red Poppy Cakery’s collaborative environment, the magic of teaching, and when is the best time to launch a business. The Bridge: What’s the role of community at Red Poppy? JM: Offering classes, offering just a way for people to come in and get creative and be part of the process of playing with sweets, or playing with food, in an interesting way. Sometimes, in the off-seasons in Vermont, it’s hard to find things to do inside other than just eat. So how do you create an experience out of it? That’s what I’m looking to do here. The Bridge: What do you love about teaching? JM: When you’re making a cake up, you’re typically behind the scenes. At a birthday party or wedding, I make a big, big thing, put it on the table, and run away. So it was nice to let my extroverted side out a little bit more and spend quality time with people while being creative. I think so many people feel so intimidated by baking. So I’m just trying to help people feel really empowered. If you can cook a steak, well, that’s harder than making cookies. And just trying to help people feel the confidence that they can build from baking is important. The Bridge: What piece of advice would you offer young people who are interested in becoming future entrepreneurs? JM: You’re never going to feel 100% ready. So I would say just start at the scale that you can. … You want to have all the details figured out, so you launch really strong with the final idea, and it’s never going to work like that. It’s always iterations, and scaling, and testing something out, and growing. So just don’t wait till you feel ready, just start.