Miggy’s makes colorful, indulgent desserts

Shelby Olstad turned her sweet tooth into a successful business.
White box holds a dozen cookie and cookie dough confections
Photo by Nikki Hansen

Baking has always been a focal point of Shelby Olstad’s life, but it wasn’t until she was about to graduate from college that she realized her lifelong passion could be her full-time work.

As a child, Olstad spent nearly every afternoon after school baking in her family’s kitchen — of course, only when her mother allowed it. That passion continued while she studied economics and entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she baked for her friends, charging only the cost of supplies and materials.

“I didn’t think of [baking] as an actual business model that would sustain me,” Olstad says.

Olstad didn’t always have plans to open her own business, but while working at a startup during her senior year, she decided to launch Miggy’s Bakes, which she named after her dog Wrigley (nicknamed Miggy). It was Olstad’s boss and co-founders who encouraged her to pursue full time what she’d assumed could only be a hobby.

“I was mostly baking out of my apartment and out of my parents’ house,” Olstad says.

Now 25, Olstad has established a flourishing local business, which moved operations to Marigold Kitchen last summer. Olstad is dedicated to providing her customers with delicious cookies, cakes, brownies and more.

Since launching online in 2019, Miggy’s Bakes has attracted 15,000 followers and counting on Instagram, and it now offers nationwide shipping. Olstad also draws on previous experience working within the communication and media sectors. Until April 2021, she worked as a social media manager before making the pivot to baking full time. “I feel like that’s probably my strongest area of the business — creativity and social media,” she says.

In preparing and designing her baked goods, Olstad thinks about how to make each item Instagrammable and interesting to her audience. “I try to make really cool and exciting things that you want to post,” she says. Miggy’s profiles are filled with colorful cakes (some even featuring mini alcohol bottles for birthdays), ooey gooey brownie cups and thick cookies in flavors that are sometimes classic, sometimes unexpected — think puppy chow, key lime, raspberry cheesecake, doughnut-stuffed sugar and cinnamon roll cookies. Olstad also does custom orders for just about any event, from weddings to graduations to birthdays.

While aesthetics remain important, quality is never forgotten. “Everything on my menu is stuff that I’ve tried, and I can’t just have one bite,” Olstad says. “It has to be something that you just can’t stop eating.”

For the upcoming football and basketball seasons, Miggy’s Bakes snagged a contract to provide all desserts in the suites at Camp Randall and the Kohl Center. “I love doing different partnerships,” Olstad says. “That’s one of the biggest areas I think we’ve grown.” Partnerships were something she thought could one day be a possibility, never anticipating they’d become a reality just three years after launching Miggy’s. Babcock Dairy Scoop and Creekside Scoop are among Miggy’s other partners.

With Miggy’s exponential growth, Olstad has expanded her previous one-woman, home-kitchen operation to a team of five part-time employees and one full-time employee. “It does not feel like a job,” says Kalli Acker, Olstad’s right-hand employee. They went to the same high school and have since become friends. “[Shelby is] always there to ask questions, and she’s always there if I need any kind of guidance, but I love that I have my own kind of freedom.”

In addition to the new Badgers contract, Olstad had hoped to make another big move this fall: opening a Miggy’s Bakes storefront in Middleton. Those plans fell through and so she is currently on the hunt for a new space.

Therese Merkel, Olstad’s best friend and the founder of Tricky Foods — a charcuterie board and table business — had planned to move in next door. Now Merkel says she will go wherever Olstad goes.

“I think my favorite part is all the connections I’ve made with other business owners. They’re the people that I hang out with and that I spend time with every day,” Olstad says.

Zehra Topbas is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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