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Marianne Carroll

How I Got Started in Cakes

Lauren and I have been best friends since 7th grade. We instantly hit it off as friends, shared a lot of the same interests in music and art, were total tomboys, and our birthdays are 2 days apart. It’s hard to believe it has been 19 years since we met in geography class!

We first learned how to decorate cakes when we were 16 at our first job at Dairy Queen in Mentor, Oh. We did the basic decorating – and when I say basic, I mean airbrush stencils, shell borders and the few occasional icing roses. We had always been artistic, so cake decorating came very easily to us, and we caught on to the basics pretty quick.

When we got older, we both decided to go to art college. Lauren attended the Pittsburgh Institute of Art for special effects and movie make-up, and I attended Columbus College of Art and Design for Fine Art. We worked part time at various bakeries to support ourselves during art school, and to be able to buy books and art supplies.

When we graduated from college, we found it difficult to find jobs that we liked, and that paid decent wages. Into our early 20’s, we continued to work at various bakeries as cake decorators. It was something we were becoming better and better at, and it wasn’t a high paying job, but it paid the bills.

I had just gotten married, and realized what a difficult time it was to find a bakery that could do creative cakes in Cleveland. This set off an idea between Lauren and I – what if we started our own business? A custom, artistic cake shop in Cleveland? We could do it. We were super hard workers, had a lot of experience in the field, but had no idea how to start a business.

We started by doing cakes out of our houses for a couple years, just through word of mouth from family and friends, and slowly built up a reputation for creating beautiful, delicious cakes. Our first business cards (that we printed off of my computer at home) had our cell phone numbers as the contact for our bakery. Before long, they were ringing off the hook! This was all while we still worked full time jobs at a bakery. We would get home from our 8-10 hour day and then start our cakes for our own cake business at night. There were many all-nighters, and lots of caffeine. We charged so little for custom cakes back then, and were probably spending more on the supplies than we were making on the cakes! We had one oven, two refrigerators, and three small kitchen aids that we made all of the cakes and frostings out of. We had to deliver every cake we made to our customers, and the busier we got, the more that became a problem. We knew it was time to open a shop, and so I turned to my oldest brother for help.

My brother Joe had owned his own business for years, so he was willing to help us get started by helping us get a loan, and get structured. We kept working out of my house while our kitchen was being built, and in March 2007, we opened our doors. We started with just Lauren and I, and now employ over 12 employees. 4 years into it, it’s still really hard sometimes. There are still many late nights, and grueling weeks during wedding season, but to actually set a goal, and follow through has been one of the most gratifying experiences of our lives. To know that at age 27, we successfully started a small business, and during one of the worst economic times in our country, have sustained a small business, is pretty awesome.