Have you ever wanted to walk off of that job you hate, and finally start your own business, and sink or swim you at least wanted to know you gave it a shot? Well that’s not what this interview is about, but it kind’a is. Taking a chance and doing something you might actually love requires more than just thinking about it, at some point you have This interview is about Amanda, the owner of Sugar and Ribbons bakery. She shares with us what her life was like before Sugar and Ribbons and what it is like now!
Amanda, take us through the decision you made to leave your job and to pursue your passion?
The thought of pursuing cakes full time had been in my mind for years. The fear of failing at it kept me from acting though.
I had started working for a large company and was not very happy there, plus I was spending 3-4 hours driving each day. I was taking in so many orders that I was at a point where I needed to either do cakes or stay unhappy at my day job. With lots of encouragement and thought; I decided to just take the chance on cakes.
What made you decide on going into baking vs. starting any other type of business?
Cake decorating was really just something I wanted to try for my own personal use. I did not plan on it becoming a business. At the time, I already had a side business making homecoming mums, and it was doing great!
When you first started, who were your customers, and where did you find them, or how did they find you?
When I first started, my coworkers were my customers, and they started to order from me. I donated some cute cupcakes to a bake sale at my son’s school, and that really started something! I think my name was passed around from that.
Besides being a really good baker, creativity is at the core of what you do. What has been the most challenging project you’ve taken on that challenged your ability to be creative?
That is a tough question for me. Cakes are definitely the most challenging. I am constantly asked to do something spectacular. A lot of times, my customers don’t even know what they want really. I have to know something about everything, at least that’s what it feels like. From TV shows to guns or cars.
How well of an everyday cook are you?
I can cook. I’m not an experimental type cook though, I need a recipe.
Who are some of the people you are inspired by in the baking world?
I love Lauren Kitchens! Her work is really flawless!! McGreevy Cakes is also a favorite. She is really good at sharing tips.
Tell us why you are the someone to do business with, what will a customer’s experience be when ordering from you for the first time or what should they expect?
Honestly, I put so much love into these cakes. I have been in bakeries and seen how they treat the orders. It’s all about how fast they can put them out. When someone orders a cake from me, it is extremely important that I do my best work every time. I want them to be in love with what I make for them.
I try to make ordering simple. I usually get contacted by phone or through Facebook. Most of my customers are repeats or have already tasted my cake at an event. I ask a few questions regarding design and size, and then create a quote for them.
I took a little craft store class to get started. After that, I just practiced. If I saw something I liked, I tried to figure it out and did my best with it. A little imagination works great. It was a great way to learn what doesn’t work! The past few years, decorators have been very generous with their knowledge, and you can find just about any technique online now.
11 years ago, you started decorating cakes to learn how to decorate for your kids. Were you already an avid baker, or did you also take up baking around that same time frame?
I really was not a baker. I mean, I could do cookies and brownies… simple stuff. I was more interested in the decorating aspect. When people made such a big deal about the taste, it was surprising to me. I’m just really careful to not over bake!
What has the decision you made two years ago to become a baker / cake decorator meant to you?
The decision allowed me to, of course, focus more on cakes, but to also stay at home with my kids. I think that was the best part.
Sure! I have taken orders where I really was nervous about the size or design. There have been orders I’ve actually tried to get out of because I was afraid it wouldn’t turn out great, but my customers always seem to have confidence in me and encourage me to try. My biggest issue is usually when I take too many orders in a week and have to figure out how to get them finished. I’ve gone without sleep many times.
Where will Sugar and Ribbons be in five years?
I would love to say in a shop, but I really feel like that would take away from the quality of my work. I hope I’m still getting the same love I am today!
Baking up happiness is a great motto. Is your happiness in your baking or in the entire process of becoming an entrepreneur?
My happiness is knowing that my customer feels happy when they see their cake. I have had people cry, jump up and down, hug me and be speechless when they pick up their order. Not much can beat that feeling!
Which cake has been the most challenging for you to create due to the amount of detail required or the shape / moving parts: for example, your Batman cake or your orthodontics cake completed with braces and the white smile. Where do they rank on that list?
Batman was definitely a challenge. I had never made a cake that big, or used that much fondant. I planned that cake out for weeks in advance. It was for my son, so I had that in the back of my mind to keep me from going crazy with worry. Any cake that is carved, really tall or really heavy is going to be a challenge. Batman was tall, carved, and weighed 61 pounds! Some cakes are challenging just because of little details. The bass cake took a lot of hours to complete.
It’s one thing to be able to make a pretty cake; your cakes are actually very good. How important is it that your cakes look good and taste good?
When I first got into caking, it was to decorate. I really didn’t think much about the actual cake. Every time I made one though, the cake would get equal attention. It is very important that it tastes good! I always have someone telling me, ” I was at a wedding and the cake was pretty but tasted horrible. ” I don’t want anyone to ever say that about mine. I stand at the oven and watch them bake so they do not dry out. No timers ever! A dry cake is no good.
When you wake up first thing in the morning, how different is preparing for your day now that you control your time? Also, how would you describe the challenging aspects of what you do now compared to the job you left with its unique challenges and stressors, and how have you been able to use what you’ve learned to apply some of those skills to Sugar and Ribbons?
Waking up is definitely different now being able to work from home. I don’t really rush around trying to get somewhere. I plan my days according to the number of cakes I have that week. The challenge is shutting work off. At my job, I went in at a certain time and left at a certain time. Now I work all day and all night sometimes. I get wrapped up and don’t allow myself to shut off the work. I think there are many days that cakes are more stressful! I’m responsible for all communication, shopping, cleaning, baking, decorating and delivery. It’s a lot of running and there are days I just can’t fit it all in.
You had to believe you could make it in business to even try starting one, or was doing this as a full time gig the last thing on your mind, and it simply happened because of how good you were?
I honestly never thought this would turn into a business! It was supposed to be a hobby, but my name was passed around so much I was blessed with enough to have a business. I have even tried to stop doing cakes in the past because I just didn’t have the time, but the calls wouldn’t stop. 🙂
What have you had to change about your life while building your business to where it is now, two years later?
The only change has been that I have more time to makes cakes. I was already doing it, just squeezing it in with really late nights. Now, I can work in the day.
What has been your favorite cake you’ve made thus far because it was just so fun to make or because of the reaction you received from your customer?
I made a deer cake way back when I first started. A bride ordered it as a surprise for her groom, and when she saw it, she cried! The chef of the hotel even came to talk to me about it. That was a great feeling. I have had so many awesome reactions – it’s hard to list them. I love when I get a message after the event too!
How would you rate happiness in describing how important it is to what ones does in life?
Happiness to me is number one. Doing something that doesn’t make you happy makes everything else miserable too. There are days when I don’t want to look at a cake. It’s still a job, but it’s a job that I get to make people happy in the end, and that makes me happy!
How happy are you?