We had the good fortune of connecting with Abby Peterson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Abby, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
Choosing to leave my career as a zookeeper and go out on my own was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My identity was really wrapped up in zookeeping and I was not sure who I was without it. People always introduced me by saying “this is my friend Abby, she takes care of monkeys!” I wondered how people would describe me if I did something else. I had worked so hard to become a zookeeper, and it was a dream job, but I felt a pull to do something different and push myself beyond my comfort zone. Saying goodbye to the animals that were under my care and that part of myself was the hardest thing I have ever done. My career defined me, but it wasn’t all of me, and I was excited at the opportunity to try something uncomfortable and vulnerable. I was able to follow a different passion and follow my dream of baking bread and other goods. Here I am, doing a different dream job, and now people say “this is my friend Abby, she is a baker!”
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My desire to make real, flavorful bread and baked goods available to my neighborhood and community motivated me to pivot from my career as a zookeeper to a micro-bakery owner, thus Big Raven Bread was born.
My love for baking is in my roots. My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Vogelbacher, started a bakery in 1890 after immigrating to the US. Inspired by my family history and operating under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, I believe the best bread comes straight from the baker’s hands and not a plastic bag. I produce naturally leavened loaves, coffee cakes, and cookies by hand in small batches; each item is rich, flavorful and unique.
Big Raven Bread keeps to what’s important- the community. Through bike delivery, sourcing ingredients locally when possible, and donating a portion of profits to local organizations and foundations, I hope my baking makes the community better for everyone. I am so proud to be a part of the community. I really love building relationships with my neighbors through bread, I feel like I get to share a special piece of myself with every product. I especially connect with the community when I am out delivering on my bike. What’s a better way to see Denver than riding around delivering bread?
I am still a new business, and learning as I go. I often find myself looking for the ways to work smarter, not harder. It was really scary leaving behind my career to pursue something that was out of the box. I have felt really vulnerable in producing something by hand that is so close to my heart. I am self-taught and with that, I have had many bakes that were so rough. With every doubt and hiccup though, I have grown stronger and more confident- because each time I learn something new. I am sure that with owning my own small business, the challenges never stop- I just will keep adapting. My dream would be to get to a place where I can teach others how to bake and start their own community bakeries.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would definitely start the day with some of my own Big Raven Bread- whether they are an avocado toast afficianado or just a simple butter on toast friend- I would hook them up, and probably take them out to see my neighborhood on bike during my daily deliveries.
My favorite coffee shop is Crema, so hanging on their patio and drinking a coffee would be a must.
-I love running and checking out Denver on foot, so a run through the different neighbors and parks would be a must
-Mountain biking is a great way to explore the mountains, so maybe a ride at Lair O’ the Bear, or Centennial Cone
-Hiking- anywhere! There are surprising things to see on any hike whether its just in Golden or a 14er- so I would add that to this list
– Maybe even camping!?
-There is a tiny little Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood- Tres Girasoles, that we would hit up for some tamales
-Rooftop Patio at Odell Brewing Sloan’s lake for the best Colorado beer and soft pretzels (made my yours truly)
-Lou’s Italian Specialties- for a delightful Eggplant Parm Sandwich
– Grill in our own backyard! We love making pizza on the grill- especially when I have leftover bread dough to turn into pizza crust!
Jazz in the park (fun people watching)
Ride bikes to different Breweries- Odell, Great Divide, Ratio, Lady Justice
Marczyk’s for snacks and other unique foods
Comedy at Rise Comedy (I sometimes perform too!)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Mural on Market Street
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It was my friends and family that kept asking for my bread that propelled me into looking how to start a company. People kept saying “you should sell this!” I brushed it off a lot- thinking that starting my own business would be too much of a leap and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. But people kept asking, and it spread by word of mouth, and before I knew it, I had a following. I am so grateful for my friends and family that kept asking for bread and gave my a lot of encouragement. I think it gave me the confidence to really go after it.
I also have to shout out my mother. She is so independent and hard working and really taught me to be that way too. She has always encouraged me to follow my passions and not get too caught up in what other people think. I had some doubts after leaving my zookeeping career- because everyone around me had what I viewed as “normal careers” or the careers that felt like society deemed as successful. I asked my mom if she would think of me as successful if I did not have a career that followed the lines of my degree or what already was out there… she reminded me that pursuing my own business is braver and bolder than following a laid out career path. I am really happy that she helped me see that success sometimes is just going after something crazy.
My husband Chris also deserves a special shoutout. He is incredibly supportive of my ideas and creativity. He has never once said no to an idea of mine and is always by my side to offer support. He is also my number one helper- whether I need help hauling flour or just washing some dishes!