Timid, Reckless Courage [My Story, Part 3]
Continuing from Last Week…
Sometimes I look back on the things that I’ve done and wonder how I had the courage to even try the things that I did, when I did, with what I had. I was 16 when I decided to make wedding cakes, and I had almost no experience; just the class cake that I had made, and the one I made for my cousin’s wedding, which for all I knew could have been a fluke.
Yet, I suppose, anyone who ever tries to succeed at anything knows what that feels like; to throw yourself out there with all of the little, and all of the much that you have, and try to make something of it. It takes a kind of reckless courage, the sort that I wouldn’t really have expected myself to have, except that… Somehow, by the grace of God, I did.
I never would have expected to be so courageous because, frankly, I am a fairly fragile person. I’m the girl that accidentally bumped into a lady in the grocery store, and when she was not very nice in return, felt so bad that I cried for 4 days. Embarrassing, but true. I actually went home, burst into tears, and was a sporadic erupting fountain for the next few days.
I think I’m something like an adult 3-year-old: Brave to try many things, not knowing how they will turn out. Accident prone, easily hurt, easily spooked, and easily overjoyed. I love beautiful things– pretty dresses, Christmas decorations, and anything like them; and my self preservation instincts are very sharp, like a kid clinging to their mother’s legs because there’s a dog 50 feet away and it seems like it might be scary.
For my first wedding show, I booked my timid self a 1/2 booth tucked into an obscure corner, with about 500 fliers that I printed at Staples, and a display cake I made to showcase my skills (pictured below).
Photo by my sister at Figgie Photography
I gave out free samples, and offered a draw for a free small cake in exchange for names and phone numbers. Excitedly, I collected 50+ names (or something like that) to make follow-up calls after the show. To a 16-year-old who hated making phone calls, it was a long, long list… But, I prayed, pulled myself together, took a deep breath (or 20) and called those people, one by one, to ask if they would be interested in booking a consultation. From those contacts, I received my first order – A duplicate of my wedding show display cake (above), made with cala lilies instead of roses, no draping, and silver ribbon (pictured below). My customer was very sweet and encouraging; I wonder sometimes if she hired me just to encourage me. I’m very grateful to have had such a positive experience with my first customer; she treated me like a professional, although I’m sure I seemed far from it – And her confidence in me gave me more confidence in myself.
Photo by Compliments G’lor
That was a good shot in the arm of encouragement! Not only was my interaction with this customer very positive, I’d never made so much money from one job in my life (even though I wasn’t even charging that much). Still, I was overjoyed, and decided to keep on fishing for more work.
My sister helped me come up with a better name for my business (originally I called it “Classic Confections”), and set up My Website for Silver Spoon Cakes just prior to the show (which hasn’t been updated a whole lot since then, btw). From that, I got my second order– someone who found me on Google! The cake I made for that became my business profile picture, for most of my business years (pictured below).
Photo by my sister at Figgie Photography
My first year in business, I think I made 4 wedding cakes. My second year, I think I made 12. My third, I made around 21.
Through the process, I honed my skills, learned good filing systems, and created my own paperwork. I researched other people’s businesses to see what they did, trying to learn from them. I contacted other cake decorators from other cities to ask questions about their businesses, read online tutorials, made practice cakes, and finally learned how to do my makeup so that my customers would stop thinking that I looked 14. (Or so I hoped.)
All of this I did while I finished up high school at home, helped work in my family business, kept 2+ paper routes, got my driver’s license, and did a lot of the cooking at home for my parents and 11 siblings because… That’s what I liked to do, and that was what seemed most helpful to my family at the time.
I sometimes have to look back and thank God for blessing me with a family that helped me so much, and supported me as I tried my best to make something out of nothing; to take my two hands and try to make a business out of them. My mom drove me around when I needed to get groceries, deliver cakes, take classes, etc. She and the rest of my family at different times have helped me set up cakes as well, driving me around and helping me carry my small mountain of supplies into fancy decorated halls. My sisters helped me with my website, photos, and flier design.
Truly, I have been very blessed. Especially when I think of the number of obstacles we’ve had to overcome throughout the process.
To Be Continued…