We had the good fortune of connecting with ASHLEY RAPP and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi ASHLEY, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
In the last 2 years, like many, I have really put thought behind where and how I am spending my time, and what is most important to me. This has resulted in me moving from working 16 hr days, or even regular overnights in the bakery, to taking weekends off and leaving when my team leaves. Of course I want to show my team and my family a good work ethic and striving for big goals, but not at the cost of running my body and mental health into the ground. I want to inspire others to kick ass by day, and actually allow and praise rest so we can keep making amazing things and spreading joy. I feel like I have also embodied a more feminine style of entrepreneurship where instead of having a set schedule, I allow myself flexibility in completing tasks in the way that feels the most aligned and lights me up. I don’t really think a balance is even my goal anymore, but feeling good about what I do while I am doing it excite me. If I have a fun new idea and stay up late making graphics and social media plans and that feels good- then I do it and I don’t beat myself up for “working late.” I also allow myself to work from home, or out in the sunshine, etc; rigid rules about how and where to run a business did not serve me, and I am looking forward to expanding further on these ideas, inviting in more support from my team, and showing we can honor our whole selves and still be successful and profitable.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started my business in Jan 2012 when making a cake for a co-worker. I charged her $30 and it took me TWELVE hours to make a football themed sheet cake and left me with cramped hands, but I thrived on all the compliments I received. After I brought the cake into work, word of mouth referrals started and never stopped. I decided if I was going to invest all this TIME into custom cakes I wanted them to, no they HAD to taste as good as they looked. At that time I worked every single night trying different homemade recipes from my family and switching things up to make them my own and continued to change them until they were amazing. If a customer asked for a dessert or flavor I hadn’t tried yet…I just said YES! I took it as a challenge to make the best version of that flavor or dessert they had ever had! I switched careers and got a whole new set of co-worker customers and referrals, got my LLC and became licensed and insured under cottage food law in OCT 2013. I set a personal goal to start my bakery in 3 years and made a plan to do so. In June 2016 I left my secure, full time job in insurance to do cakes FULL TIME and it was so scary! In July 2016 I started doing weekly pop up shops in addition to my custom cakes on the weekends, but I was baking 16hrs a day several days a week and facing real burn out. I got a business mentor and attended free or low cost classes to increase my business knowledge. It was at one of these courses I found an incubator kitchen space and started there May 2017. Friends and family helped me there 2 days a week and I cut my time from 16 hrs to 5-6 and it was an amazing relief.I added additional pop up shops and my monthly business soon doubled. When I got close to burn out again I hired two employees in September 2017, I also joined a business accelerator competition at that time so I could set myself up for success. In November 2017 I won the competition and had business projections, a business plan, a vision for a storefront and a will to MAKE IT HAPPEN. I decided to invest in MYSELF and took out my 401K and a home equity loan and signed the lease on my storefront in FEB 2018. The buildout and dealing with the landlord ALMOST broke me mentally, physically, financially, but I was able to pull through and have our Grand Opening 8/24/19. So many friends and family and even my cake business mentor flew out to surprise me and help me with the big day! The gratitude I felt for the community I had and the support of friends and family was truly overwhelming. Fast forward to growing the business over $100k during a global pandemic it’s safe to say my entrepreneurial spirit is still strong. I’ve surpassed many hardships with key team members leaving, stealing, or otherwise hindering business and have focused my last 6 months on rebuilding the strongest team I’ve ever had! I am so thankful and proud to be a female owned and run business that creates edible artwork and helps people feel loved and celebrated. We truly believes everyone deserves a treat and have worked very hard over the years to perfect treats in a variety of dietary needs including: gluten free, vegan, keto sugar free (low carb), v+gf, and even soy free in addition to the classic goodies we offer weekly. The variety of items, dietary needs available, and our easy to use website with the ability to choose from cute designs you can customize with as little as 3 days notice really sets us apart and helps us best support our community. We have also started construction to expand the bakery next door and have seating, coffee, pastries, rentable space, and a party room for birthdays but also for in person teaching /classes in the years to come!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, you’d have to start with Holtman donuts- they are just simply the best! I love morning hikes with my two puggles at Cincinnati Nature Center, I always leave feeling so refreshed! In Anderson area, we love Kitchen 1183 for a phenomenal lunch, customer service and cocktails. If we need to relax, I love telling people about getting a float at Think Tank in Newport. To recharge I love to grab an IV drip at hydration station in downtown Cincinnati. For dinner we love sitting outside at Mt. Caramel Brewery and enjoying truffle fries and burgers while the kids run around and burn off energy. Of course, we know great bakery for dessert as well … Oliver’s Desserts!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have had many female role models and mentors along my journey. Mavis Linnemann-Clark welcomed me into my first commercial kitchen space at Kickstart Kitchen. She helped me navigate “scary things” like health inspections, business projections, overhead and profitability and encouraged me to join a business accelerator and expand my knowledge. I then found my bakery mentor, Janelle Copeland, who not only taught me the numbers and how to price for profit, but also expanded my mindset and confidence and offered endless support as I grand opened our bakery. Currently, I am still investing in female mentorship with Nichole Sylvester and expanding into my own potential, embodying female leadership, and really actually focusing on learning about myself, my desires, and my natural talents and how I can use those learnings to best serve my community and those around me. I am so thankful for their support across my transitions and each were pivotal in my success.
headshot @saramoniquephotography all cake and dessert photos I took myself! :