I have absolutely loved doing this series of interviews with people who have changed their career. It’s been interesting for me and hopefully inspiring for you. Today it’s Leonie’s turn. Prepare to be impressed!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Leoni Jena, I am 41 years old and mother of 4 gorgeous girls. Between looking after my family and house I run my own cake business called Just call me Martha.
2. What made you decide to become a cake decorator – what were you doing before? Was it an epiphany or were you actively looking for a career change?
I’ve always worked in the creative field after my first child was born in 2000 (painting sewing etc), it kept me busy and my mind active while providing a creative outlet. I didn’t really seek out to become a cake decorator as career it was more like cake decorating found me by accident back in 2009. I was looking for some farm animal figurines for my youngest daughter’s 1st birthday cake, found they were too expensive so tried to make them myself using fondant. To my utter surprise and amazement (and everyone else’s!) I found I was quite good at it.
3. What process did you go through re: courses, work experience, business advice, etc
I never trained to be a cake decorator, most things I’ve learned is through practice and trial and error. I started receiving cake orders via friends which rapidly multiplied into other orders via friends of friends. I briefly attended cake classes once a week for 12 months to learn how to make sugar flowers and have also recently done a few 2 day cake courses to sharpen skills I felt are weak. In the cake industry you never stop learning as each order is always unique asking for skills you may never have used before.
4. How long did the process take from inspiration to calling yourself a professional?
I’ve only been in the business for a total of 5 years, so not a lot of experience to call myself a professional. About 3 years ago I realised with the amount of orders I was receiving I better start registering my kitchen and also completed a Health, food and safety certificate. I also registered my business name and linked it to my ABN number for tax purposes. (Leoni is in Melbourne, Australia).
5. What does a typical day involve for you?
Typically I drop the girls at school and read my emails each morning answering queries and doing quotes. If I have an order or two due that week I create a work order sheet, and proceed to make and create all the sugar work such as flowers, figurines etc on Mondays and Tuesdays between 9am – 3pm, Wednesday evening is my baking days for cakes, Thursday cutting, filling and ganaching cakes and Fridays I cover in fondant and finish my orders ready for delivery or pickups. I never work beyond 3pm as my children come home from school and then it’s time to help with homework, start cooking and clean the house.
6. What are the best bits about your job?
I love the flexibility my work gives me, I get to pick and choose when I work (I don’t work school holidays and weekends are generally only for delivery or pickups) and how much work I take on. Since I only work from 9am-3pm each day I try not to do more than 2-3 orders a week (this usually entails a cake, matching cupcakes, cookies and pops). If any of my girls are sick I can drop what I am doing to pick them up from school and take them home. I never need to ask for parental sick leave and I never need permission for holiday leave. I love the creativity and challenge of my work and all my work is for happy occasions and make people smile.
7. And the worst bits?
You can never accurately estimate your projected income for the year, this does not worry me since we don’t rely on my work to pay the bills, but if you were the primary bread earner this could be stressful. I also don’t like the invoicing and bookwork involved at the end of tax year, boring! I also dislike the delivery of cakes, I always worry something might happen en-route, especially large wedding cakes.
8. Has the change been a good one for you?
I would say yes, I get to do something I love and create people’s ideas in cake form while being paid for it.
9. What advice would you give to anyone considering something similar?
Be patient! Start slowly and experiment on your friends and family first. You’ll be surprised how quickly your business and client base will grow. These days most of my customers are repeat clients and you start to form a friendship and bond with your clients. If you know someone already in the business see if you can buddy up with them and learn from them. In this is industry practise makes perfect. Also use the social media like Facebook as much as you can, you’ll be surprised how much work can come via this form.
You can reach Leoni via the Just Call Me Martha Facebook Page or via emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.