Friday, March 11, 2011
Birthdays and anniversaries are good times for reflection. And since I have had more than a few people ask me how I got to where I am now, I will tell the tale of how Cup a Dee came to be!
Seven years ago I lived the corporate lifestyle. I worked for a big retail chain as a regional visual director. I was on the road constantly traveling to 50+ stores. I made good money, but I was never home to enjoy it, or my house, my kitties, or my husband.
But I had been bitten by the cake bug! Heck, I had always liked baking, but the more frustrated I became at my job, the more I baked on the weekends to relieve that stress. It felt good, and people were always happy to see what I brought them on Monday mornings.
One fateful business trip to New York we visited the Magnolia bakeshop. People were lined out the door to buy cupcakes for $3 a piece! And you were limited to a dozen!! Somewhere in the back of my mind, wheels began to slowly turn. If they can do it, why can't I?
During this time I continued to do free cakes on the weekends, and I bought every Woman's World or other checkout isle magazine that had cakes on it. Chad and I started taking Wilton classes at Michael's craft store.
And then we booked a trip to Cancun using my frequent flyer miles, and stayed at the Westin resort using my hotel points. It was the off-season and the resort wasn't busy, and honestly, we were having a fabulous time just resting by the pool. I'm a big fan of "self help" books and I used to buy them all the time hoping I would find the time to read them. One of the books I grabbed for this trip? The Practical Dreamer's Handbook by Paul and Sara Evans. I sat by the pool all week, sipping pina coladas and reading that book. And it changed me (the book, not the drinks)! I suddenly realized that there were others out there that had left the rat race for something simpler, something happier. That week I gained a laser focus - I would someday be a baker. I discussed it with Chad and we started a rough plan on how to make this dream happen.
Things at the corporate job got worse and worse, and now, since I knew something better was on the horizon, I was unwilling to put up with it. I knew my simple happy life making cakes was just around the corner. One day I came home after a horrible week at work and told Chad that I wanted to quit work and sell cakes. The only problem: I didn't know how to sell cakes and I still wasn't great at it. I considered culinary school, but we really didn't have the money for me to quit work AND spend tuition money. As fate would have it, I found out about a pastry chef opening in Chattanooga. The job was making cakes and pastries for 2 restaurants, a B&B, and a coffee shop. It didn't pay much, but it would keep the bills paid. I took the job and turned in my notice at my big girl job.
My 8 months in that pastry kitchen is what I now affectionately refer to as "pastry bootcamp". I went in at 4am and I generally got home about 6pm each night. Most weeks I worked 6 days, and it was a salaried position... so no overtime for me :( But I was learning how to do things I never imagined, and best of all, I was learning the business aspects too. I was also seeing mistakes they were making, and all the while taking notes on how I would run my own business someday.
Eight months later I finally felt I was ready so I began working with the local health department on what I needed to do to legally bake from my house. The answer was building a separate addition on to my house. We got a home equity loan and over the course of about 5 months made that happen..
I was now open, but where were all the customers? I leveraged all my friends. My friend Mark was a real-estate agent and he needed "Thank You" gift baskets for his clients. So I made gift baskets with banana bread and cookies. Another friend called to ask me if I could cater a luncheon at her office... sure I can! If someone was hungry and had money, we could do business!
As I said when I started, that was almost 7 years ago. I have continued to take classes and watch videos to hone my skills and now I exclusively do cakes from my little pink kitchen. And I am happier than ever!
As I blow out these 2 tiny blogiversary candles, my wish is that everyone out there who hasn't already will find their dream and live it!