Owner, Oh, What A Cake!, Columbia
What sparked your interest in your career field?
Both sides of my family are full of cooks and bakers — male and female — so I have always seen people poking around in the kitchen. However, I didn’t get the baking bug until my aunt dragged me along to a cake decorating class. She didn’t do too well, but I discovered a passion for creating and designing I never knew I had. I started out making cakes for family events and taking leftovers to work. Leftovers led to my becoming the go-to cake person for office retirements and baby showers. These small cakes blossomed into bigger cakes, and the next thing I knew I was in the wedding cake business and had repeat customers.
What’s been your greatest professional challenge?
My greatest professional challenge is finding a competent and reliable staff. What we do is not difficult, but it must be precise. We do a great deal of custom-designed cakes that can be quite costly. Customers have come to expect a certain degree of professionalism. So no one wants to hear that their cake is not done because people called in sick or their decorations are wrong because the person who took the order didn’t interpret something correctly. The bottom line is that no matter who I — as the owner — can blame, the customer is looking at me, so a good staff is priceless.
What’s most rewarding about your work?
My biggest reward comes when I am sitting in the back of the shop and a customer comes to pick up their cake and the cashier walks over to the refrigerator, pulls out the cake, sets it on the counter and slowly opens the box. When a mother cries because her daughter’s bridal shower cake matches the linens perfectly, I get my reward. When a son and daughter have huge smiles on their faces because their parents’ 50th anniversary cake is perfect, I get my reward. When a 4-year-old jumps up and down and claps because his Lego Ninjago cake is “awesome,” I get my reward. I am in the “feel good” business. When we are able to make our customers feel good, I get my reward.
What advice can you offer women trying to establish their careers?
I would advise them to get an education. Some of the things you learn may seem of no value now, but give it time. I hated accounting in college. I wanted to write computer programs, not balance T accounts. But guess who creates balance sheets and income statements now?
Manage money and finances well. I can’t say enough about building and maintaining good credit. Finally, it sounds cliché, but find your passion and do it. Finding that “job” that you enjoy going to every day — the one you would do if it was simply volunteering — that’s the keeper.