Open For Business, The Story

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I did not bake as a child. There’s no family history of baking that I had a part of. It also did not interest me to learn on my own. When I went to college I never could figure out how to make decent chocolate chip cookies, not even the recipe on the back of the Nestlé package was written well enough for my level of beginner. Flat cookies, greasy cookies, ugly cookies…my roommates who grew up baking couldn’t believe how bad I could be at something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie, but believe it, I still don’t have it down. The only thing I do worse is golf, and my lack of ability there literally defies laws of physics, my husband could attest to that.

At 21 years old I had a friend who worked in a bakery, she made wedding cakes and I was fascinated. For fun we went to a craft store and I loaded up on some [very] basic tools and a Wilton Yearbook. A magazine that was part idea book part catalogue. Something about it all mesmerized me but the “stick to it until it’s perfection chip” seemed missing from my DNA. My cakes made me realize my cookies might not be the worst thing to come out of an oven I turn on.

In spite of my lack of natural ability I was drawn to the art of cake. Off and on since those early seeds of interest I have dabbled in cake making and decorating almost continuously, though really only once or twice a year.

If it’s celebrated with cake, I’ve probably made one for it. Tons of weddings. But there was always a moment in the middle of the batter mixing process for pretty much every single event I have ever done that I promised myself I was going to throw away every single pan and tool I own so I could never take on another project again. Every. Single. Time.

And I did. I gave away probably one or two thousand dollars worth of accumulated tools and supplies to a friend starting her own home-baking business just a few years ago. I was so happy to be rid of it all that when she agreed to take it I made my husband load it all up with me and drive over an hour away to deliver it practically immediately. Zero regrets.

However.

About 9 years ago God told me I was going to make the wedding cake for one of my friends in Bible study. I didn’t tell her because she wasn’t even dating anybody and though we knew each other casually through church and our alma mater I didn’t know her well enough to approach her and say “Hey! God told me that someday when you find the right guy I’m going to make your wedding cake for you. As a gift, it’s on me.” How DO you say that?? That’s crazy right??? I wouldn’t have confidently said that to a cousin! And a few years later we moved away, so our connection was reduced to Facebook (though she is a completely awesome woman of God and I adore her to pieces, God knows what He’s doing with divine connections!)

Well it’s 9 years later and 2 things have changed. She is married and I did indeed fulfill that challenge from God. She thought I was crazy but let me as she knows the Lord too and trusted I probably did hear His voice. And I am no longer the timid Christian woman I once was, unsure of God, His voice, my ability to hear it and most importantly the courage to act when I know it’s Him. Let me tell you how crazy cool it is to blindly act on things God says to do and see water-into-wine level miracles and divinely appointed encounters. Seriously cool.

Three things converged the weekend of her wedding.

First of all her event was HUMONGOUS. 320 servings I prepared out of my ill-equipped kitchen with 20+ year old ovens [yes 2] that are so small I can only get 2 – 8″ cake pans or 1 – 12 cavity cupcake tin into each. [I can squeeze 2 – 10″ pans but I can’t get the airflow I prefer when I do.] But I did it, and it turned out gorgeous. That’s the image on this post. Most of the recipes were tasty and many people wanted to know if I have a business. No way no how! LOL

At the same time a friend of mine started a non-profit to help veterans in need finance things in their lives that most of us take for granted. Her story and mission are truly inspirational, you can find her by searching “Theressa’s Troops” on Facebook.

The day after my friend Patty’s wedding I was talking to my husband about Theressa’s Troops. It would be so great to be able to really get behind great organizations that are doing good works and need support. My husband and I both have a heart for giving. But we have things in our own life we need, as do most people, and giving on that scale is simply not in our budget even if it is in our hearts.

Inspiration struck. Maybe I don’t like baking enough to open a shop. But I DID love the process of making the cakes and cupcakes for my friend Patty’s wedding. Doing something because God says to do it comes with a perk I didn’t see coming.

His help.

The week before Patty’s wedding it was as though I had a sous chef in the kitchen. All day every day, things I needed to remember popped into my mind at exactly the right time. I had energy when I needed, motivation when I was tired, creativity that goes beyond my natural abilities. It was positively surreal, the experience of doing something I don’t quite care for with my limited skill set plus poor equipment when the power of the Holy Spirit infuses the process with help and guidance that can only be described as dancing around the edges of miraculous. I don’t even have ovens that properly keep temperature yet everything came out beautifully!

I looked at my husband during this conversation about Theressa’s Troops and my experience with Patty’s wedding and said, “You know? What if we CAN give more?

What IF I take the interest I have in doing something I am able and created a business out of it for the purpose of giving?” “Reverse tithing” popped into my mind. When I said it out loud, that supernatural highlighter God uses to infuse ordinary words with power and purpose ignited.

THAT’S IT!!!!

While I don’t care to ever turn an oven on for personal gain, I absolutely loved doing so for Patty. And would I be happy to do so to help Theressa and other organizations like hers? You bet I would. Most people would if they could.

I glanced at the unopened mail, tossed aside in the hustle of wedding day preparations. Tucked inside my copy of Sophisticated Living, a Cincinnati magazine I don’t even subscribe to it just somehow comes to the house, was their annual special edition called “Sophisticated Giving”. As I glanced through the pages I had what can only be described as a second spiritual experience. While flipping through glossy pages illuminating so many local organizations doing so much good and definitely in need of people and businesses with giving hearts to help finance and further their causes tears actually sprang to my eyes in the emotion of recognizing I was hearing the Lord loud and clear. It was strong enough to be the kind of event in your life where you remember details. I remember where I was standing. I remember the sun was beautifully pouring through my gorgeous living room windows. I remember my husband had walked out of the room and the kitchen was quiet. Then an angel appeared.

Just kidding, I wish. Maybe not, most of the people in the Bible suddenly visited by angels were stricken with terror.

A few other things in my life worked themselves out for the logistics to line up.

Our oldest daughter has Autism and is a non-driver. At this writing she’s 27 and loves her local job. I have been a stay-at-home mom since a month after I said “I Do” marrying she and her dad when she was just 5 years old in 1996. I even homeschooled her for 8 years. When our own youngest child was approaching the driving age my mom-taxi status could see no expiration date as taxis and busses were not an option in our area and Candy would always need transportation to work in the middle of the day. Enter Uber. We are now in an Uber market where transportation for her is 100% except occasionally at end-of-shift, a time when her father is home from work.

So I am physically free to start a business. Patty did give me a rather large check for the wedding cupcakes. And I put my faith in God and gave it all to Theressa’s Troops since faith is a verb that requires action.

I ignorantly believed that doing what God said to do would be easy. The Christian word that usually applies is “favor”. While I did have God’s favor for sure I did not magically develop a love of baking. Nor did I miraculously stumble upon a bakery’s worth of delicious successful recipes. In fact I would describe the last year of baking as semi-torturous. How in the world can I fail at so, so many recipes?

But God brought exactly the right people into my life at exactly the right moments when I needed encouragement. People I could trust to hear the Lord, to tell me even they know I’m right. This is right. Grace Cakes is right.

I know we’ve put 4-5 figures into my efforts in the past year. Easily. Where previously I had maybe one or two engagements per year involving my ovens this past year I did several weddings, a bridal shower, a baby shower…all kinds of events, even a destination wedding. EVEN a seriously huge corporate event, my cupcakes were the dessert for a local business awards meeting! I had to scramble to get the business card of my dreams designed because they were placing them on the tables for 250 local business owners to have!

I designed my business cards. And my logo. And I love them! My photo doesn’t do them justice, a deep rich plum [royalty, daughter of the King] and shiny metallic gold on super thick paper with a texture like linen. They were my Christmas gift from my husband this year.

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Turns out? I love design! And I evidently have a little natural talent there, who knew?

About 2 months ago I felt like God was telling me, now’s the time. I haven’t been willing to open the doors. I needed to perfect my recipes. It didn’t seem fair to pass along inexperience and the extra time it took me to produce products to the price point of bakery items customers are paying for.

Now that all seems like just a bad dream. I have a very long way to go but I have learned so much.

God led me down a path of learning that has enabled me to write original recipes to suit my purposes. I can’t explain them all scientifically, but here’s an example of how it matters to know the why’s and how’s of baking science.

One of my cousin’s got married a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t confident to do more than 2-tiers and that was fine because it was all she needed. I used pink champagne buttercream and Smuckers® strawberry jam to fill a vanilla bean cake for the top layer as she loved strawberry jam. On her way out of our tasting she casually mentioned she would LOVE a peanut butter and jelly cake but didn’t really think that would go over for all the guests so vanilla it would be.

The day before her wedding I strongly felt the urge to make that peanut butter and jelly cake she mentioned she’d love. What bride doesn’t get the cake she really wants on her own wedding day?! Least of all my own cousin? One thing I’ve worked hard to do is formulate recipes that are pretty foolproof for employees to execute. Whether I make it or someone else, the end result needs to be the same.

So while I was transforming the bottom 2 tiers into birch tree cakes I had my 17 year old daughter whip up a peanut butter cake recipe I created on the spot. It was perfect! Almost completely level, firm enough to stack, very peanut buttery. On the outside chance I might get to it I had made the buttercream for it the day before.

At the venue I wasn’t sure I was going to have the courage to stack it. Her brother and I were chatting and I sent her niece up to her dressing room with a card letting her know what flavor the surprise tier was, but I wasn’t sure if it would be on the cake or in the kitchen and to look for it. But stack it I did and then I knew.

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I probably am ready for a soft open. I have enough products that are sure things and delicious plus my calendar is completely filling up whether I am open or not. Relatives and close friends, but still. Since I’m not trying to collect a salary it doesn’t really matter if I’m not as fast as I could be or if I make rookie mistakes and have to start over. I don’t have to charge for my time and if I have to do something over, so be it.

So on this, Easter Sunday 2018, I am open. And I enjoyed that knowledge peacefully, not broadcasting on social media, not wanting to take one second of thought away from the purpose of the day’s celebrations. I can broadcast tomorrow. Or as I’m still typing at 1:01am EST I see tomorrow has slipped in quietly all on its own. Day 2. It was written on my blog March 31 and last week I updated my Facebook page with business hours. Maybe somebody saw it coming.

Here’s something I know. You and I can watch this unfold together, it will be a story. If God simply wanted me to hand over $5,000-$10,000 or even slightly more a year I could have gotten a fun part-time job with zero strings attached and just handed over my paychecks.

This will be something else.

Obedience is rarely easy but always worth it.

Be blessed,
Michelle

One thought on “Open For Business, The Story

  1. Quite simply the Best cupcake I’ve ever eaten was at Patty’s wedding and it was gluten free! I may add that I used to make wedding cakes and am very picky. Yours were Awesome. Now I know why. Hun, He can part the Red Sea And be your sous chef too.

    Liked by 1 person

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