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.
Such an encouraging and honest message! thanks for sharing. God works.
thanks for reading! so happy that it encouraged you <3 many blessings and fo sure, God works 🙂
Hi Amanda, thank you for this article. You are an inspiration and you certainly have come a long way. I really enjoyed reading and learning how you started and I’m enjoying following your journey and learning from you. I’m really hoping to start my little home baking business this year. I’m terrified but there’s nothing else I want to do and seriously to work from home making yummy cakes and biscuits all in my pyjamas would be the icing on the cake!!
Heya Nicole, thanks so much for your message and your incredibly beautiful words 🙂 Knowing that my articles & posts are helping you on your journey is what inspires me to share everyday. I hope to support you in pursuing you dreams in the coming year. Keep learning, keep growing, Trust your instincts and dream big 🙂
I am so glad that you had the courage of sharing your story. Amanda you are such an inspirational.
thank you for letting me share my story with you, its an honour and a privilege 🙂 your encouraging words mean a lot xx
I absolutely love this story and it was such a good read for me today. I have cake dummies just waiting for me to create a masterpiece for a photo shoot coming up.
Thanks for your beautiful comment Rosanne <3 so privileged to be able to share my story with you. Go go go and work on those cake dummies! Your best work awaits you 🙂
Ana Franco says
Wow you really made me cry!!! I feel that I am not alone in this thank you some much for sharing your wonderful story, from now on I will be your biggest fan because your story is the happy ending that me and a lot of cake decorators out there wanted to have some day!!!
I am so overwhelmed by your beautiful message <3 it blows my mind that my story can have such an impact, and it makes all the tough times worth it. I wish you every bit of success on your own journey. I'm totally cheering you on!
Love love this Amanda! So great and so true! I know it must be very hard to open this up but I’m grateful that you’re a great example of success, humility, gratefulness and plain hard working loveliness. God bless you, your business and all that’s yet to happen. 🎂😘
Thank you Daisy for being an awesome Insta-mate! Appreciate your beautiful comment and your thoughtfulness. God bless you and your sweet family! xx Amanda
Oh this post means so much to me as I myself at times feel the way you did but I am not giving up and I know I will have a career in this field. Thank you for being so honest
Keep learning, keep growing sweetheart… The hard work, learning and perseverance does pay off! Be encouraged, you’re not alone and I wish you all the success in the world. I’m rooting for you!
I had tears in my eyes as I was reading through. I could sense every word you said. Thanks Amanda for this lovely blog. Cheers!
Hello Shruti, thank you for your lovely comment, it is so overwhelming to know that my story can impact you. Knowing this makes all the tough experiences worthwhile. Thank you for reading and I wish you every bit of joy & success in your journey <3
Thank you so much! It’s hard to start a new business and to trust ourselves. You have a beautiful story ♡
Hello Marcia, I hear you <3 I hope my story has inspired you to dream big and know that you are capable of so much xx you are awesome <3
Wow Amanda! This is incredible and so inspiring. Thank goodness you made it through your medical condition! The cake world and everyone else who’s been touched by you are so lucky. Thank you for sharing and caring ❤️
<3 thank YOU for letting me share my story and for your beautiful message xx So much love for the incredible people that make up this cake community!
Firstly I’m just going to go ahead and say thanks to God for your healing! Secondly, Thank you so much for such an honest and encouraging post. I’m learning how to look at things more positively and you’ve shown me that whatever we put our hands to, we can positively impact those around us.
<3 Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your beautiful & genuine message xx It means so much to have such incredible, kind women in this cake community like yourself. I am so thankful for my healing, God has been so kind. Much love and many blessings! x Amanda
Elisa Mijin says
Hi Amanda! Thank you for sharing your story.. it’s such an inspiration for me. I’m currently doing a homebaking business and I can totally relate the part where u mentioned the lost sleep part .. always happens to me.. not fun but it is always satisfying to see what I created. Thank you again .
Warm Regards from Kota kinabalu,
Hello Elisa, as you get into the rhythm of improving systems within your business, hopefully you’ll start to get some sleep whilst caking <3 lotsa love xx
Janine Nicolas says
Yes! This is absolutely true, your really inspired me. As per Robin Sharma “Start small, Dream big and Act now” & “Walk with giant” this quotes inspires me a lot ,hope to inspire you as well. Let’s do what makes us passionately happy.
Love and pleasure,
So glad this has inspired you Janine <3 thank you for sharing 🙂
Thank you Amanda for being open and transparent, I just clicked on your website by chance ( which I believe God ordained it) at the verge of giving up on my passion. This piece brought more light for me to keep going… I want to keep working in my pyjama too 😆 thank you God bless. Greater heights I pray for you
hello Dolly, I am so glad this has encouraged you in such a timely way. Ask for wisdom and His ideas for your business, it’s what has helped me every step of the way. May 2019 be better and brighter for you!
Anna Fennell says
Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for sharing tour story. I am an aspiring creative entrepreneuer myself and I was wondering what the legal details behind a cottage food industry are. Is there any way I could get in contact with you about these questions? Thank you!
Thank you so much for encouraging me with your story. May God keep blessing you.
Amanda Lee says
Thank you and Im so glad it resounded with you <3 stay safe & well xx