In 2016, Katarina Poletto was a recent McMaster Social Work undergrad, gearing up for a new semester as a master’s student. Little did she know, that summer she’d be on her way to building her own successful business, Dolled Up Desserts.
Dolled Up Desserts is a gluten free and vegan wholesale bakery and baking mix production company from Hamilton, Ontario. Founded by the young entrepreneur Katarina Poletto, Dolled Up Desserts innovates delicious sweet treats that improve the accessibility of food-focussed social gatherings for people with dietary differences.
Initially, Poletto had never considered starting her own business. “It really began on a whim!”. Dolled Up Desserts was an idea that quickly launched as a summer project. Poletto worked with the Hamilton Business Centre and participated in their Summer Company Starter Program, designed for student entrepreneurs who intend to return to school in the fall. This was ideal for Poletto as she was planning to head off to grad school come September. Or so she thought…
“I was expecting to close it at the end of the summer and continue with school in September. I loved sticking to a plan, but it was a really good lesson to learn to just let life guide you. Dolled Up is always evolving, always changing – you have to adapt as you go,” says Poletto.
Although Poletto didn’t return to school, she took what she had learned from her studies in social work and created a strong brand, focused on accessibility and inclusion in society. Poletto is a true fan of vintage, so creating a visual brand identity for Dolled Up Desserts was easy. Unlike other vegan companies that tend to focus on earth tones, Dolled Up Desserts’ packaging is bright pink and red, and covered in polka-dots. “The vintage look of our brand was inspired by Betty Crocker and the craftsmanship that went into baking and homemaking in the 1950’s. My team at Dolled Up are true craftswomen, who work to create something authentic and real,” she says.
In 2017, following a summer of training with Innovation Factory (iF), Dolled Up Desserts won the ‘Hamilton Award’ at iF’s annual Lion’s Lair Competition. “I’m really proud of winning that award over first place – I am being recognized in my community, and that’s really important to me,” says Poletto.
Today, Poletto is proud to have 4 hardworking and dedicated employees that help her to continue to grow her business. Dolled Up Desserts mixes can be found in over 50 Canadian Retail locations; locally you can purchase her mixes at Goodness Me and Pusateries. Poletto’s next big move is creating her own flagship store where customers can purchase fresh baked goods and their favourite baking mix to make at home.
From idea, and summer project to a scalable business, Poletto has one thing to say to those looking to follow in her footsteps “You just need passion and motivation to fail, succeed and do it all over again. You’ll get your MBA in experience.”