What is your passion? What is the one thing you enjoy doing so much that you would do it for free?
My passion was real estate. Or so I thought. After graduating tech school with my associates degree in Computer Network Engineering in 2002, I found myself job hopping in the mortgage industry, which was very lucrative during that time. Later I decided to acquire my real estate license and sell the properties as well as the mortgages. Why not get two commissions for the price of one property! I had it going on! All while keeping my W-2 job, in mortgage closing, for the steady paycheck. I found myself having to work double hard to get a commission. I had very little quality of life between all three jobs. Around 2007, when the housing market started to crash due to mortgage fraud and sub-prime loans, the job became even more time consuming and challenging. Even though, the hustler in me moved right along with the wave and became certified in credit restoration, I just wasn't as satisfied as I thought I would be.
Now, I've always loved baking! When I was younger, my dad knew the owner of Chester Avenue Bakery, in Southwest Philadelphia, and one day he allowed me to shadow him in his kitchen. OMG! That was the best day EVER! Til this day, I still remember the huge mixers and the floury mess. It was great!
Each holiday I would create a new dessert for my mom to serve after dinner. One in particular was called, Pudding Under a Cloud, which was nothing more than vanilla pudding topped with Cool Whip on a graham cracker crust with sugar sprinkles on top! Mmmmm, I still remember how creamy it was! One day, I stumbled on a pound cake recipe my babysitter gave my mom to try, that I found in the back of our kitchen junk drawer. I revived the recipe and changed some ingredients and measurements around to suit my eclectic taste buds. Now, I wasn't a kid that earned an allowance by doing chores around the house, thanks Dad! So I had to be creative to fill my purse with extra candy money when my sister and I made our weekly 7-11 run! I wasn't a penny candy girl. Whatchamacallits and Snickers were expensive to a 10 year old! So what did I do? I borrowed a card table, table cloth and a jar. Made signs and baked away! I hustled those pound cake loafs, slices and cupcakes on the corner of Cypress St. and Myra Ave in Yeadon! I quickly became the neighborhood baker, baking birthday cakes and kindergarten graduation cakes for family, neighbors and friends. Although I absolutely LOVED baking and watching the reaction to everyone enjoying my cakes, I never thought in a thousand years that I could actually make a living as a baker. Let alone OWNING my own bakery. That profession isn't talked about in school or a subject when picking a profession after college.
After my real estate journey was coming to an end, I went to Rob with my new idea of opening a new bakery. He spent all night making sure I was truly up for the challenge of running a bakery by telling me countless stories about him working so hard running the kitchens at Old Country Buffet and Perkins. Food service is no joke! But I was ready. Besides, I’m no stranger to hard work. He immediately got busy tweaking my old pound cake recipe turning them into fluffy cupcakes. Same great taste, just cupcake worthy. We created about 10 different flavors and started handing the cupcakes out to our family, friends and neighbors in return for their honest feedback. I don't have to mention that mostly everything free tastes good anyway, so we had to put our cupcakes to the true test. We got an opportunity to be a vendor at our very first festival, the Haverford Heritage Festival! We baked 350 cupcakes in our conventional oven the entire day before. Packed them up the next day and we sold out in two hours! Rob and I looked at each other and smiled. We knew it was time! Cupcakeology was born in less than a year after the festival!
If you are one of the lucky ones to find your talent or passion in this lifetime and you want to turn it into an actual business but don't know where to start, just start with the people around you. Whether its make-up or jewelry you like to make, a cleaning service you want to start, a new baby product or pet service, try it out on friends and family. But I can tell you that there is no better confirmation than a person who doesn't know you, digging in their pocket and handing over their hard earned money for your product or service and loving it!
Research, research, research. Oh, did I mention research? Once my day is over and the kids are asleep, I’m up all night reading articles and blogs about my industry and about business in general. You must know your industry background, where its headed, who is dominating it and why and how to start a business in your area.
I’m not one for thinking too long and hard about an idea. I go with my gut. Paralysis by analysis stops many would-be entrepreneurs from starting their business. As Steve Harvey says, Jump! Take that leap. You will fail on some level or another, but as long as it doesn't kill you or make you homeless, its a necessary step to move toward your goal and you will be ok.
You will work longer and harder than you’ve ever done before. I heard Lori Greiner, from Shark Tank, say that an entrepreneur gives up their 40 hour a week job to work 80 hours for themselves. That statement couldn't be more true. But as long as your doing what’s passionate to you, it’s satisfying and super rewarding!
Start small. Don't be discouraged just because you don't have a huge savings or someone to loan you money. Be creative! Rob and I started with pennies. We couldn't afford a lavish store front so we thought outside the box. We took every extra penny we had and purchased a utility truck, gutted it and put in some tables and a hand-made sink. Rob is super handy so that definitely works in our favor. All we needed was a small place to bake out of so we found our current location, which is no more than an office break room with an old school dutch door. We were told we could sell retail out of there so we figured, it couldn't hurt. That small space ended up being our main retail store as business took off! Our cupcake truck turned into our delivery truck. I’ve learned during this journey that you can have all the plans you want, but God makes the ultimate decision. So just because you don't see how it will work now, continue to work hard with an open mind and it will happen!
And most of all, have fun! Owning a business is a train ride with lots of twists and turns. Be sure not to get on the express train. Ride the local, learning each lesson at each station and enjoy the scenery along the way!