Monday, October 25, 2010


So, my cupcakes will be the special guests at 5 parties this weekend. I'm kinda excited by it, and I'm sorta scared. It's a lot in a short period of time, but how great will it be delivering these bad boys in my kick-ass costume?

I feel like my little baked goods are like seeds being planted all over the city. Maybe one will take root and lead to better things. On the other hand, I hope I can just have some fun with it.

I'll be hopping on the J train on Friday to drop off two deliveries, and it has me a bit anxious. I haven't been on that train since I lived in Woodhaven, and I have done everything I could to try and stay away. I don't have a choice, though. No car, no choice. And I'll be riding this God-forsaken train in my costume.

This should be interesting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ball and Chain

I think age 31 has so far been the absolute worse year of my entire life. Besides just personal failures, I feel like I've lost a lot of my identity in my business, as well. I have all these fantastic ideas that I want to get off the ground, but I know I fall short in execution. Rather than do something half-assed, I'd rather not do it at all. Then, again, I also believe that in-action is even more pathetic than failure.

So, I'm at this fork, wondering which road to take. In a way, birthing a business is much like marrying someone or popping out a kid. It's a strong commitment that will anchor you to one place for a very long time.

The problem is that I don't want to be anchored. Being perfectly honest with myself, maybe the idea of having a family and marriage was more of a theoretical wish rather than a realistic one. I'm a runner. When I'm stressed. When I'm worried. When I'm scared. When I'm uncomfortable. When I'm unsure---I run.

I'm not saying it's a gift. It's a very cowardly trait to have. The problem is that I can't run away from a husband or my kids. I also can't run away from a functional business.

I have doubts now. I don't know if it's because I'm stuck here spinning my wheels or if it's because I really don't have confidence that I'll be successful. I just have a lot more thinking to do.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Call Me!

Well, these are my new business cards. I'm no good at making things look all marketable and pretty, but these are a million times better than my original cards. Like I said, I have the graphics to thank for that. Without them, they would suck. So far, they've worked out great and people have responded very positively to them.The only thing I don't like is that only the front is glossy, but I can live with it. My next big expense will be labels for my boxes.

With my new idea being fleshed out, I'm hoping it will generate enough of a buzz to pay for all these out of pocket pains, but in the end, I'm sure it will be all worth it. I, for one, am very happy with my cards. I'm sure they can be tweaked and I'm sure I probably used the wrong font and positioning, but I'm a baker, not an artist, and I can only work with what I've got.

Props to the artist who designed my graphics and logo! Without a doubt, I am very much grateful for the hook up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Make Lemonade

It came to me last night while I was mixing up my fifth batch of cannoli cream. I have a GREAT idea for a new line of baked goods. They will be themed and they have to be just right. I thought about a lot of things last night. While I was whipping up the cream for the tiramisu and dusting the top of the tray with cocoa powder, I thought about how much fun I have when I put together a party. Not a huge party; just a small intimate get together.

Lucky for me, my ex let me throw two get-togethers at his apartment last year. The first was a Super Bowl party, which I loved because all the food was stuff I would eat while sitting out in front of the TV- empanadas, nachos and cheese, chili, and quesadillas. The second was a Lost Series Finale wrap party. We didn't get too many rsvp's for that one, but it was  their loss. I had a menu with things like: "Not Penny's Potato Boats", "Kate's Bucket O'Tears-tini w/ Jack's Lychee Balls", and a bunch of other food I made up awesome "Lost"-themed named for.

If it's one thing I'm good at, it's coming up with a great menu, and thinking of a great little name to go with whatever theme I'm working with. Yes, I'm utterly fantastic at that.

So, in light of everything that's been going on in my life and my struggle to get back on top of my baking world, it suddenly struck me. Why not combine the two? Take all the fucked up stuff and turn it into something very NOT fucked up.

I'm so excited about this plan. I've been writing all morning, outlining the initial test batch. I even have a great idea of marketing this thing and getting every one's attention. With the holidays coming up, my busy season will start in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping to get my new idea up and running by Valentine's Day, but I want a soft opening before Thanksgiving to see how the market will receive it.

I can't begin to describe how incredibly alive I feel again. I'm finding myself underneath the mountains of emotional crap I've been buried under. I have a very positive hunch that my idea is going to take off. I have to make sure I execute it right. I need to find people who can give me the help I need, and I need to be able to pay them for their services so that I won't owe anyone anything. That's the worst of it; being in debt to anyone.

So, after I have my thoughts all penned out and some initial diagrams sketched, I will need to find myself a new artist and probably someone who can advice me on proper business practices. I've been skating along on the fringe of actually legalizing my business and making it official. I know I don't have the money to hire an accountant right now, but I'm sure there's a way to do this in the cheap. I just want to make sure I don't fuck it up, and that I do it right.

That's another thing I learned; if you want something to work out and last, you have to start off on the right foot. That's the foundation. Your foundation always has to be solid. Or it all falls down.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Till Death Do Us Part

Even though he was my partner, Joel never asked me to put Queenie Cakes under both our names. He insisted that this company was mine and mine alone. If our catering half kept going as well as it was, then we may have opened up another division and I would have made him my partner in that, or me his partner. Whomever wanted to be the head of the catering part wasn't important to me, but Queenie Cakes was.

Over the years, people have tried to hand me money to invest. Some only wanted to be silent investors who wanted to see me succeed and probably see a return on their money in a year or two. I've had one or two people actually want to buy into a piece of my business as a partner.

Here's the tricky part. PARTNER means EQUAL. It doesn't not mean you get to hand someone part of the work; it means HALF has to be divided; each person being in charge of their strong suits. This always frightened the hell out of me. Once someone elses name is on the corporate papers you both (or all of you, depending how many people are involved) now own a piece of the pie. Legally, everything is divided among all the partners, depending what is written out in the contracts.

It was never my intention to ever have a partner for Queenie Cakes. Like I said, I don't see my business as just a money making operation. This business is the child I never had and the family I gave up on in order to pursue my dreams. Losing this business to poor management, or worse- someone taking advantage of me and taking it away is like watching someone shoot my child in the head right in front of me. It would be devastating and I don't even know if I could recover from something like that.

I've toyed with the idea of a partner when it seemed as if I had another creative soul I may have spent the rest of my life with. It would have made sense to consider this person as a partner in my business if he was going to be my life partner. My business is such a huge part of my life, I can't imagine not integrating the two relationships together. However, like some people have doubts with their relationships, those doubts are magnified when it comes to your business.

Trust is a huge issue. Taking on someone to incorporate into your business means that you need to trust them with your life. They will know your trade secrets, your suppliers, your recipes, your customer base, your financial situation (personally and corporately), and all the in's and out's that make your business tick. How many people could you trust with that sort of information?

I think that making someone your partner in your business is actually more risky than marrying them. When a marriage dissolves it can get tricky depending on the emotional mess created and the financial ties both people had with one another. Assets and kids also play a big part. Sometimes one person walks away with more than the other. When two partners splint in a business, it's legally ugly. Sometimes one person needs to come up with a ton of money to buy the other person out. If there are debts, it's a nightmare. The worse part is when neither party wants to relinquish the rights to the business. You could very well find yourself out on your ass without a penny to your name while your old partner is now the sole proprietor on your dream. Battles like this could go on and on for years in a courtroom, and often the business falls apart before an agreement can even be made.

That's why I have always been so careful about whom I speak to about my business, whom I ask for advice, and whom I allow in. I nearly made a huge mistake not too long ago. The results could have been catastrophic to my baby, and I could have found myself pushed out of this thing that I've been building for the last eight years.

Liars are never good partners. A white lie may get you a few bucks off on supplies or extend your credit by several thousand dollars, but keep in mind that someone who can easily lie to others can very well turn around and lie to you. Is that someone you would trust with the inner workings of your business? Before I ever consider letting an outsider near my baby again, I have to be 1,000,000% confident that this is a person I would trust with my life. I need to know that they will tell me the truth about everything; even if that truth will hurt my feelings or make me cry. The truth hurts sometimes, but it's always better than a lie.

If someone can call me their friend and then lie to my face, that same person can call me their partner and potentially pilfer my business and livelihood right from under me. Scratch a liar, find a thief. That means if someone can lie about something, stealing is not too far behind.

You have to protect your business the way you would protect your child. You wouldn't just leave your child with anyone you barely know, unattended. You can't just let anyone into you business without knowing everything there is to know about them. Being careless and too eager to jump into a fruitful partnership can have devastating consequences. And those consequences can't be undone.

Always be careful about who you let in. You may not be able to get them out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's in a Name?

I love my new business cards. I've received nothing but positive feedback since I've been handing them out. I should really attribute that to the beautiful graphics that were set up for me beforehand. I'm truly very proud of the cards and I feel like they represent me and my company exactly the way that I want to be represented.

The problem? My name. My mother and several relatives (surprise, surprise) have asked why I haven't gone back to my maiden name. They want to know why I've attached my ghastly married name to my growing company.

Why would I attach my ghastly maiden name to my growing company?

I've always hated my maiden name. It sounded funny. I got teased growing up. That didn't phase me as much as the fact that it represents the side of my that belongs to my father. I am grateful for a handful of life lesson's my dad has handed me over the years. I work hard. I have a high sense of pride in my work and myself. I hold myself to the highest standards. Just enough will never be good enough for me. However, let's be honest. My dad and I will never exist on a level that most daughters float on with their respective fathers. We won't be best buds. He won't be walking me down any aisle. If I ever popped out kids, I know he would love them and be great with them, but he will never look at me or my siblings with any form of loving sentiment or pride. We failed him. I failed him.

So, why in hell would I put him name back at the end of mine? My ex-husband doesn't really deserve to have him name tacked on there, either, but legally that's what it is, and it's more trouble than it's worth to go about looking for a new name to trump his.

I know people take a lot of pride in their names. I know it means something to them. I know it ties them to their roots and makes them feel like they belong to something older and greater than themselves. Well, I don't feel any of that.

I may never change my name because I don't think I'm ever going to be married again. If fate decides to shake things up for me and I'm headed to everlasting bliss with someone else, then I would probably take on their last name. It's just a show of my commitment to them. It's just a label. And labels fall off all the time.

Seriously, what's in a name?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mixing Family and Business

Blood is thicker than water, right? So, you can see how blood can get in there and back everything up. It's a mess. It's tricky. It should be avoided at all costs.

When I first started my cake business, my extended family didn't take it too seriously. It was something like, "Oh, you make cakes! How cute! You know your cousin cooks, too!" This cousin they are speaking of is not the Black Sheep of the family, but the mangy, crooked coyote who swoops in to disturb the peace. My cousin Jennifer.

Just a little background on this girl. She's one year younger than me. Her father is a higher up Hungarian representative in the World Bank. Her mother is the eldest sister of 12 siblings on my dad's side. She was born with not just the silver spoon, but the entire service set in her mouth. Spoiled rotten. Placed high on a pedestal since birth, this girl has walked around with a sense of entitlement before she even knew what the hell that word meant.

She went to Boston University to study medicine, but flunked out of med school. She spent several years living at home with her mother, jobless. Why did she need to work? Her dying father was funding her life. But what kind of life was it? She poured over cookbooks and made extravagant meals for herself and her mother. Since she had no friends and none of the cousins wanted to have anything to do with her (because she's a bitch), she really didn't have anyone to sample her cooking. So, my aunts were her guinea pigs, and according to them, she was a decent cook.

When my catering gigs started getting serious and I was traveling back and forth from Washington DC and NY, the hinted that it would be great if I took Jennifer on as a partner at some point; you know- because we both love to cook. I nearly seared them with the laser beams that exploded out of my eyes. Surely, they were kidding. They were not. I politely explained that I would sooner run my business into the ground, douse it in Kirsch and set it all on fire before I let that harpy near my baby. That was the end of that.

My uncle has been great generating business for me through his friends in the World Bank. I've done many private parties in HUGE houses, that they don't call mansions. They only had an 8 car garage, and two guest houses out back. That wasn't a mansion, I was told. My uncle let me use his home in MD to prep and he even helped me deliver on many occasions. I can say that Jowl and I pulled in over 30 grand in gross sales doing those parties over two years. Without Joel, I did three parties, charging 5 grand a piece. It wasn't easy, and I turned down any future gigs after that. It was too hard getting out to MD without him, and it was harder getting all the cooking done by myself, even with the extra help I hired part time. It just wasn't something I wanted to do anymore without him.

Since my family realized my business was legit and that I was actually very good at what I do, I've had tentative requests for cake and food. I felt weird charging my family, so I've either worked for free or just charged them cost. Over the years, as their parties have gotten bigger and more extravagant, the cheap relatives have suddenly taken an interest in hiring me for my food services.

I have family who have paid me well for my work, and I have family who I have lost money on. It's easier to just turn them down. Sometimes, though, I run out of excuses and I don't have a choice but to take the job.

Why would anyone turn down a paid gig? The people. My family is the sort of people I hate dealing with. They want it all. The best. A lot of it. And they want it cheap. The problem is that nothing is ever good enough, the quantity is never enough, and the price is never low enough. Nothing is EVER good enough. There is always a critique hanging in the air; a complaint ready at the tips of their tongues. And no matter how hard I bust my ass, there is always someone else they know or someone else in the family that could have done it just a little bit better.

As much as I would love to accommodate my family and work myself to death just for a fleeting ounce of their pompous approval; I've sort of outgrown the need for approval. I didn't realize how detrimental it was until I spent a significant amount of time with someone who wouldn't take a step without the approving nod of his loved ones. His decisions, opinions, actions, and emotions were all controlled by what he perceived what was expected of him by those he was surrounded by. It's one thing to defer to the wiser when you're in a bind, but when your every decision is ruled by the favor of your audience, what part of your life is really yours anymore?

While I would like my family to be proud of me, I have to remember that this life is mine and mine alone. I have to do what's best for me, and not what I think everyone else thinks is best for me. I'm the one in the driver's seat, with or without a valid licence. Whether or not I pass the checkered flag or crash into a tree, it's all up to me. And I'm proud of that, even if I stand alone in that decision.

Do favors for my family? Sure. If I have the time, the patience, and the resources. As far as taking on a partner, taking them on as customers, or any other direct facet of my business- I'll keep them at a respectable arm's length. I love them, but if they get any closer to my baby of a business, I will tear them apart. I can't get any more honest than that.

My uncle is still adamant that I meet with his relatives to get something started over sea's. Australia. I know it's been a distant dream, but it's almost within reach, but the whole "family" aspect creeps me out. Like anything else that's come at my business; I'll see how solid this lead may be. Then, I'll proceed with caution. If they try to screw me over or take my business from me; I'll tear them apart. How else would anyone respond?