The Neophyte Author is excited to present a woman who went into business to dispel the myth that black businesses have horrible customer service. This week’s “More Than” Monday feature is a sweet treat coming from a mom who demonstrated the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman when it came time to provide for her family. Nigeria Rolling-Ford owner of Couture Cake Boutique, LLC shares how to overcome when you feel like giving up and the process of re-branding, which is something important to consider when trying to elevate your business or stand out from the crowd. Not only is Nigeria a great baker she’s my name twin (LOL).
What motivated you to start Couture Cake Boutique?
Couture Cake Boutique began with the realization that my family’s financial needs outpaced what we were currently earning. We would soon have a high school senior that would need a ton of financial help and I needed to generate more income by doing something that I loved to do.
Your company recently underwent the process of rebranding–can you explain what that is and what prompted you to do this?
Yes. Rebranding is when a business changes their logo, mission statement, and/or advertising with the goal of taking the business to another level.
My rebranding began in January of 2014. As I mentioned earlier, when I began this business it was more out of a financial need. However, as my customer base began to explode through word of mouth and social media, I decided to make a real go at it with the hopes of being able to one day leave my day job and focus solely on Couture Cake Boutique.
How do find time for yourself in the midst of running your own business, running a family, and working full-time?
I multi-task. Those of us who are moms or actually anyone in today’s fast-paced world knows what it means to wear multiple hats. I have extended hours and am always available to return a request for a quote or question from a client simply due today’s technology.
Has there ever been a moment in which you considered giving up? How did you resist that feeling?
Yes. I recently took on a job that was larger than I could handle. This particular job simply did not turn out well and I was crushed. I wanted to all but hide under a rock. But, I learned what my limits are. The very next day my phone began to ring off the hook with potential business. Lol. We don’t actually have phone hooks anymore.
What advice would you give to any woman who desires to be “more than”?
My advice to any woman who desires to be “more than” is to simply be more than. Sometimes if you walk in the actions of what you want to be, you will find that you have become just that.
For some custom made cakes, cupcakes, and excellent customer service (trust me I know Couture Cake Boutique supplied the cupcakes for the Born at Dawn Cover Reveal Party) please visit Couture Cake Boutique online at:
Mondays generally aren’t days we look forward to, but that is going to change starting now. Every Monday the Neophyte Author will feature an inspiring woman who is staking her claim in the world. This “more than” woman is more than a mom, more than their day jobs, more than you expect them to be, and more than willing to share knowledge and inspire women to be everything that they want to be.
To kick off this feature is Shana Lawson, owner and designer of GotCake! GotCake! is a boutique cake shop creating unique and custom made cakes for the New York area. It was founded by Shana Lawson and she is the head designer of Got Cake!
In this interview Shana delivers some poignant advice on what it takes to be “more than” that is applicable to anyone in any field. Sit back, scroll down, be prepared to be motivated to become “more than” this Monday.
When did you discover that you had a passion for baking?
I’ve been baking since I was a child, it was my contribution to dinner to make the cornbread or whip up some boxed cake mix. My family began to enjoy my cakes so much that they began to request specific cakes for events. By the time I was sixteen, I was responsible for the entire dessert spread for every major holiday (except sweet potato pie- that’s my mother’s expertise). Having that responsibility and reverence from my family made me want to experiment and learn.
How did you transition from baking as a hobby to being a professional baker?
For my daughter’s third birthday in 2009 I created a treasure chest cake that impressed guests, suddenly, friends and family wanted decorated cakes and were willing to pay me for them. The problem was I had zero experience actually decorating a cake, so I took a few pro bono orders (with the disclaimer of inexperience) purchased a lot of books and realized that many techniques are similar to the skills that I developed as a ceramic sculpture major in undergrad. Each time I create a cake it looked better than the time before. I took my first real order in 2010 for a three tier wedding cake that I had no idea if I could actually create. Once I accomplished that task,I went into business.
Prior to opening GotCake! what did you do? How did you determine that you were ready to leave your day job?
Prior to Got Cake! I taught art in a transfer high school in NYC to over age and under credited teens (ages 16- 21). I absolutely adore this population because they are completely disenfranchised but are great kids who have survived atrocities that would break the back of most of us. Working with my students was more than a day job, I am passionate bout helping these students see their value. However, there was a system wide change in the belief of the role of the teacher, students were not receiving the social emotional support they needed from all adults, and teachers were required to work off of a script. I was no longer living out my dream as an educator, I was operating to bring someone else’s vision- of which I disagreed- into fruition. At the same time, I was seeing much progress in my skills as a cake designer and business owner. After a lot of prayer, tears, fears, thoughts, and conversations I determined that the season for this career in my life was coming to pass and it was time to step into faith and go in a new direction. This decision is scary and exciting at the same time!
What are the most essentials things you need to launch and run a business?
I believe the single most essential tool (as cliche as it sounds) is knowledge. Knowledge begets creativity!!!! Obviously, you need to know your craft, but you also need to know everyone else in your industry, especially the heavy hitters and the closest in proximity. You need to know yourself and what you offer that sets you apart from them all and be able to articulate that (I can’t tell you how often I get asked that same question). You need to know other factors that are not your craft specifically but impact your function (like marketing, branding, graphics, and accounting). You need to know trends and people! Especially those in complimentary industries. Most importantly you need to know your Blue Ocean Strategy- how you are going to enter market and thrive (not survive) in the market. Knowledge helps me become creative and solution oriented about my business.
What motivates you? What inspires you?
My biggest motivation is my daughter, I want to impress upon her individuality, work ethic, and brazen ambition. I don’t want her to ever feel that she has to follow one specific path, I need to show her that she can create her own! My day to day motivation comes from mini victories like establishing a new partnership, networking, or as simple as completing my to do list. I am inspired by those who came before me- people who were bold enough to change the course of their life from job security to happiness.
What advice would you give to any woman reading this who desires to be “more than”?
I would advise to have a very honest conversation with yourself. Determine what it is that you really want, what skills you have that will help you get there, what skills you need to do the same. Be honest about habits and circumstances that are preventing you from going there- devise a plan to fix things that are holding you back and to develop necessary skills. Figure out what day to day actions and spending need to be rearranged to make way for your dream. If there is something that you cannot do, find someone that can!
If you want more from Shana Lawson of GotCake!–get some cake!
If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley@hotmail,com with “More Than” in the subject line.