Have you ever wondered how the people running creative businesses got their start? We thought it would be fun to feature someone every once in a while who is pursuing their dreams using their creativity. Our first creative dreamer is a close family friend who grew up with my kids. Kimberly Wheeler is the owner of Cakes By Kimberly, and she graciously agreed to answer a list of questions about herself and her creative business.
Tell us about how you got started decorating cakes.
It all started with my need for a summer job. My mom was working in the floral department of a local grocery store and knew the bakery was hiring cake decorators. I had never really done any cake decorating other than cookies at Christmas time or spreading icing on a cake that was still in the pan, let alone hold or do anything with a pastry bag…needless to say, my skills were very limited…but I needed a job. I applied…I was hired…and, surprise! I liked it! Who knew the job I kind of turned my nose up at would lead to my own cake business 12 years later.
When someone commissions you to make a cake for them, do they tell you exactly what they want? Or do they give you the freedom to be as creative as you want? What process do you go through to figure out how you are going to decorate a cake?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I have a lot of repeat customers, whom I am so thankful for, and they usually give me the gist of what they are wanting and then allow room for me to be creative. Some people say, “Oh, whatever, you’re the expert…just make it pretty.” When I hear that I always try and nail down a few more specifics as the category of, “Whatever”, is pretty broad…and whether they know it or not, most people do have a vision for their cake, and I really try with each cake to make that come to life.
First of all would be price range as this determines the extent of decoration and size of cake.
Next- Theme/Design/Their vision for the cake
You’ve started branching out doing other yummy edibles. What are you doing and what motivated you to start that aspect of your business?
I’ve started making some gluten free refined sugar free items such as biscotti, granola, bread, muffins, pancakes, cakes…and hopefully soon some cookies and brownies.
This is a whole different ballgame and definitely a learning process as I figure out how different flours and ingredients work, or don’t work, together.
It can be fun and frustrating at times..but very exciting and rewarding when I am able to create a recipe that works and is enjoyed by all who try it.
My motivation for branching out to this area involves several reasons…one being, for many years I struggled with Anorexia and Bulimia. Although I have made much progress, the road to getting my health back has been rocky, and one big side effect of the eating disorders was that I completely screwed up my digestive system. My tummy is very sensitive, so I have had to do a lot of adjusting and found by cutting gluten, refined sugars, and dairy…I felt better. But I still needed the whole grain fiber whole grain flours offer, and I also wanted some treats that I could enjoy and feel good about eating.
Also, I am finding a lot of kiddos have food allergies and can’t do normal birthday cakes or other baked goods…hense the bread, muffins, and pancakes. I’ve actually been making these for a little boy who has had a lot of problems with food allergies, and I’m keeping his freezer stocked with all sorts of great stuff! I’m thrilled that he is loving all the goodies! (I think his mommy is too). I would love to do more bulk baking like this for other people that face the same challenge.
And thirdly, there are also just a lot of people becoming more aware of their sugar intake, and I wanted to have an available option for them as well.
What kinds of creative things did you do as a child?
As a child I can remember doing TONS of creative things as my mom and dad and grandmas and grandpas are all very crafty…it’s just in the blood!
I loved to draw and doodle! I went through a phase where all I would draw was Garfield and Friend’s cartoons, then I moved to setting up still lifes and doing charcoal/black and white drawings. My church bulletins were forever (and still are) covered with my flowery doodles…let’s just say I always left my mark.
I also liked to sew as well and made lots of Barbie doll pillows and blankets…I also went through a phase where I did the plastic canvas with the yarn. I made an entire Barbie doll living and dining and bedroom set…chairs, couches, pillows, tables, lamps, dressers, entertainment center, t.v. vcr, speakers…you name it…I made it! My nieces are even playing with it now…makes me smile every time I see them enjoying it!
What other creative things do you like to do now as an adult?
I like to crochet (love to make baby blankets for all my friends and sister’s having babies-but they started popping those suckers out so fast I couldn’t keep up- so I switched to making hats and scarves for Christmas presents.) *Side Note from Melinda–We got one of those beautiful crochet blankets from Kimberly when Ninja Boy was born. We still have it and use it!
What kinds of things inspire you to be creative?
I love color! I love patterns! When I walk into a craft store and see the scrapbook paper…I see cake! I think..wow..this would be neat on a cake! Fabric is the same way. Or ribbon. I am learning to think outside the box a little more and stretch my creativity to places it hasn’t gone yet…it’s a process, gaining confidence in my abilities, and being willing to try something new..even if it doesn’t work the first time…learn from it. And then try again!
What encouragement can you give to someone just discovering their creativity?
Embrace the ideas! Try it, why not? You’ve got nothing to lose. Who knows, you might be on the brink of an amazing discovery! Also, don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. We aren’t perfect; we are human. You’ll always learn something, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you thought. Learn to say, “Oh well, won’t do that again,” then move on.
Don’t spend too much time looking at what others are doing. Limit your time on Pinterest, or Google or Facebook. It’s easy to see all the amazing ideas, and before you know it, your search for a yummy brownie recipe, decorating or party idea, or whatever you might be looking to be inspired by…has suddenly made you feel worthless…like you never have any good ideas..and before you know it…your excitement to be creative has greatly dwindled.
I’ve learned I can only take a peek at a few ideas…just to get my juices flowing and figure out a direction to go…then I turn it all off and allow the creativity God has put inside me to do it’s thing. We are all different- that’s what makes us unique! The last thing you want is to be a cookie cutter designer, doing it just like everyone else…just. be. you! Just do your thing!
Is there anything else you would like to share about your business?
My business is fun. My business is challenging. My business can be stressful. There is a lot to learn about running your own business. No matter how big or how small…there are a lot of facets, and also a lot of different directions it could go. I’m just taking it a day at a time, being thankful for the provision God has brought into my life and praying that He will give me the creativity I need with each cake or specialty baking order. I don’t know what’s around the next corner with it; I do know I just want to do the best me that I can be.
Are your taste buds longing for a bite of these delicious looking goodies? Head over to Cakes By Kimberly to take a look at a couple hundred images of her awesome cakes and other yummy goodness. Give Kimberly a call when you have a special occasion needing her creative touch. Your guests will thank you!