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.
In 2013 I signed my first book deal and as the year comes to a close I also went to my very very first photo shoot. Okay, so it was just headshots nevertheless that was major for me.
I wasn’t sure if I needed a professional photographer or not. My husband offered to shoot the photos for me since he has a pretty nice camera. Tough decision, right? Let the hubs shoot and save a few bucks or get some really great professional shots that I can send out with my author’s bio besides all the really great selfies I have onInstagram. In the end I decided to go with thepro since I am building my brand (whatever that means).
I’m sure that you’ve seen at least one episode of a reality show where someone chatters aimlessly about building or protecting their brand while simultaneously slapping someone or cussing someone out. Now, if you’re like me, you’ve rolled your eyes at the television and thought, how ridiculous you’re a person not a brand. However, as authors we are a brand. We are our own brand and we must build it, promote it, and protect.
I first realized that I was building a brand when the publishing company asked me to complete atip sheeta few weeks ago. It was hard for me to come up with a few sentences to sell my book and ultimately sell me. It dawned on me that I was in the process of becoming a brand–I didn’t buy into it though.
This week I was confronted with the notion of building a brand when I stumbled upon a few meaty discussions in several Facebook readers and authors groups about book promotion etiquette and interacting with readers. As I probed into the matter I was reminded that now is the time for me to rally support around the book and build my brand.
Maybe I am a tad bit naive and overzealous, maybe I take the Word too literally, but I expect that as I lift up and magnify Christ through my work He will draw people to me and bless the work of my hands. I mean John the Baptist preached in the wilderness way before Zuckerberg thought of Facebook and people came to the woods to see what was going on.
I’m no fool though. I listened to what other authors recommended and I looked into the matter.
What does it take to build a brandand what is it that I need to do to build my brand? I don’t think the situation is any clearer for me except that I’m supposed to be an expert on something and that I’m supposed to have a message. I don’t consider myself to be an expert on anything, actuallyI am nothing without Christ. That’s who I am that’s my message and I don’t know if that’s enough to turn into a brand, but that’s me. That’s what I believe. That’s why I write.
What do you think it takes to build a brand? What are you doing to build, preserve, or renovate your brand?