Today I want to share something very personal with you: my story
I’ve been wanting to tell the REAL story of how I started my cake business for a long time now. The true, raw, uncensored story.
Welcome to draft no. 3… I’ve written, deleted, rewritten and deleted multiple drafts of a chapter that very (VERY) few know.
Many who have been following my cake journey know me from the glossy details of being a cake blogger, Youtuber, Cake TV! instructor, award winning wedding cake designer, an online cake school business owner, winner of Threadcakes and international cake instructor… … BUT how I started couldn’t have been further from all of these things (which I’m immensely humbled and grateful for).
So, how did I start my cake business?
It starts in a hospital. Me, stuck in a hospital to be precise for over two long, sucky months fending off a sudden autoimmune condition that left doctors baffled. Prior to this, I had just wrapped up a Business degree at uni and was in the midst of clocking up some serious hours as a pastry chef in hopes of one day conquering the world of haute patisserie.
So at the age of 24, I found myself quite suddenly caught in a whirlwind of medical complications, infections, MRIs, tests, seizures, memory loss, stroke, ICUs, operations .. you name it. Call out any medical division in a hospital and I can betcha a slice of tiramisu that at some point, I was there.
Like I said…sucky.
What I needed, was a miracle…
As things seemed to peak to a terrible crescendo, fervent prayers of my church, friends & family led to a sudden breakthrough when I was in ICU. I can’t quite explain it, but I know God healed me. In the deepest darkest time of my life, He was right there with me and walked me through it. And in the weeks that followed, I gradually inched my way to a full and complete recovery (!!!) without any lingering impairments or need for ongoing medication (can I get a ha-llelujah..?)
Once recovered, I was keen as beans to start LIVING again, and I thought that meant getting right back into my pastry job (prior to the whole hospital fiasco I was promised an awesome promotion which would see me designing new desserts for the large hospitality franchise I worked for). But fresh outta recovery, I was unexpectedly made redundant, which I suspect was a result of my bosses getting freaked out with my whole sicky-stroke-seizure-gross-weirdo fiasco. So yeah…MAJOR bummer.
Almost at exactly the same time, my then fiancé (now husband) lost his job too. Which meant we were planning a wedding and a life together without any money.
So here I was, post recovery, skinny, semi-balding (due to prior treatments), broke, jobless, living in a moth-infested rental… what was a girl to do?
I bounced between random jobs at the time to keep things afloat but I knew I needed to embark on a new career path. The only question was…what? Starting a business couldn’t have been further from my mind. What I needed was a safe, secure job which paid the bills and put some stability back into my life. I mean.. who on earth starts a business under such circumstances?!?
Cue random phone call from a friend one day…
“Hey, do you make those pretty colourful cakes? The ones with the sugary figurines..?”
(Internal voice: err…no) Oh, why you asking?
“It’s our anniversary and I just thought to ask if you would make one for us, we’re happy to pay”,
(Internal voice: Hrm…I’m a pastry chef, how hard will it be to figure it out.. I wonder what that sugary stuff is called..) Yeah sure!
So that night, I taught myself how to make the “sugary stuff” (which I later found out was called fondant), then proceeded to cover & decorate a novelty cake for the first time and *cue confetti drop*…
My first sale was born. Cha-ching!
(Yes, I know, I know… I had broken all the cardinal rules for properly starting a Cake Business and very simply, fell into it. We’ll talk about THAT in the very near future). But broken rules aside, something had gone off inside me.
A spark was lit and I was bewildered to realise how much I enjoyed making a handcrafted, meticulously designed cake AND selling it to someone who appreciated and loved it so much.
It was a no brainer for me.
I realised didn’t JUST want a job for job’s sake. I didn’t want to work for (or have my future reliant on) under-appreciative bosses. I didn’t want to spend a majority of my life doing something I didn’t remotely enjoy.
I wanted to create. I wanted to bake. I wanted to be a #girlboss (cause c’mon, that just sounds way cool). And call me immature, but I wanted to work at home in my pyjamas everyday!
So the decision was made and I went for it. I had set myself a steep learning curve but I was determined to make it work because I thought “if others can successfully carve out a career out of this, then I can too”.
Which leads me to share a few very important core mantras that saw me through the rough patches of my caking odyssey:
There’s always room at the top
The fact that there seems to be many, many others more successful than you, doesn’t mean there isn’t space for you to succeed too. No industry ever says “Nope, we’ve got enough gifted, influential people here. Please try somewhere else”. There is opportunity and space for each one of us to come out tops in our chosen field of work.
You have to faith it till you make it
In the lyrics of the rock band Journey (or Glee if you’re a millennial) … Don’t stop believing! It’s actually possible to make a career out of something you love. I’m living proof! When the doubts or fears hit, you just have to “faith it” and move forwards.
Success is an iceberg
Err…where you going with this Amanda? Hear me out. It’s a metaphor. People only see the tip of the iceberg (success) however the REAL bulk of the iceberg is underwater and goes completely unseen. That’s majority volume represents the hard work, focus, learning, grit & persistence that is required to form that wondrous, icy tip. Success doesn’t come by luck, accident or ease. It costs us something.
Healthy builders are Happy Builders
In the pursuit of “greater things”, don’t neglect your health, wellbeing or families. Yes, sacrifices are sometimes necessary – but be wise. My husband & I have shifted responsibilities depending on the different seasons of my business. Unavoidable sleepless nights should be followed by some proper form of recuperation, and if I’m feeling stressed or pressured, I always open up to someone for help. You cannot be your most effective self if you’re not looking after YOU (body, soul, mind) & your family.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
And neither is a cake empire. Give it time. Build it every day. Keep laying those bricks and eventually, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve travelled.
The reality is that it wasn’t smooth sailing all the way when I first started my business. Far from it… every win would be followed by a loss and it was a constant “two steps forward, one step back” situation. I was a no-name cake decorator trying to make it in an endless sea of talent. It was H.A.R.D and at one stage, I very nearly threw in the towel and quit my business completely (I’ll be talking about THAT in a future blog post).
I remember times where I’d quietly cry in bed after a night out with friends having just learnt of their shiny new jobs or promotions, whilst I had only managed a $50 profit that week. I recall being so consumed with self-doubt as I was constantly comparing myself to other cake decorators (I share more about How I overcame Caker Comparison in an older post). I also remember the many occasions I’d have to forgo sleep on a Friday night just to remake a cake or fix a topper that fell apart (due to my shoddy skill level).
Nonetheless, I could see very clearly where I WAS, and where I WANTED TO BE.
So I determined in my heart to keep chipping away at the dream until it became a reality. I invested in courses and classes and got skilled. I practiced, perfected and honed my craft. I pored over my business textbooks. I then started a strategic plan of developing myself to become the cake decorator I KNEW I could be (if you’re interested, you can read more about How I Accelerated My Cake Skills in One Year).
The truth is, I’ve never stopped chipping away. And I think, I never ever will.
But today as I share my story, I’m taking a sneaky peek behind my shoulder and seeing that indeed, I’ve come very, very far and am living out the career I had wished for way back when I first made that “sugary stuff”. I get to make pretty cakes, work every day as a creative entrepreneur, teach passionate like-minded bakers & connect with incredible people from all over the globe.
And I get to do it all in my pyjamas.
If you’re telling yourself defeating things like having a dream is for other people but not you, or that others have a better shot at it than you do, or if life’s throwing you some serious punches… Then I hope my story helps encourage you that dreams ARE achievable and they are doable. I’m living proof.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in, and day out.” – Robert Collier
Embrace the process, stay the course, live each day with gratitude & most of all, never stop learning.
You’ve got this.