Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Lee, owner of Ashley's Sweets & Treats, located in Binbrook, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I spent 12.5 years as a police officer for the City of Hamilton, but during my last mat leave, I decided to teach myself to bake and decorate a cake so I could make my son's birthday cake for him. Somehow this took me on a journey that I could never have expected to embark on. I began having people in my community of Binbrook ask me to make things for them. Very quickly, my new skill turned into a business.
My customers are mostly women, mothers in particular, and I love working with each one of them to create a custom dessert for their special events. I was beyond fortunate that this business allowed me to leave a career that was slowly killing me. I now get to make people smile when they see me rather than being cursed at. There is no amount of gratitude that I can ever show to truly say thank you enough to my client base for allowing this to happen.
Tell us about yourself
I am a mother to two kids, my son is five, and my daughter is 2.5. It was the cake for my son's third birthday that started all of this, and the crazy thing is that the pandemic hit the week before his party and it was all canceled. This was a very trying time in many people's lives, but it was a blessing for me. With two young kids and no time on my hands, usually, this now led to my husband being home and me having time to experiment.
I continue to learn and get better constantly because I want to get better for my clients, but I also want my kids to grow up and see what mommy built. I had zero skills, zero-knowledge, and zero tools. Yet, I now own a public health inspected bakery that I operate out of a second kitchen in my home, and I get to be present for my kids every day. This would never have been a possibility if I had to continue working shiftwork in my old career.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is ongoing as it's selling out every holiday item I put out in under two hours. My holidays and specialty days (Mother's/Father's Day, etc.) got to be too crazy that I had to put limited menus in place. I give plenty of notice of when I will be taking orders, and each one sells out faster. My Easter menu, where I took more orders than any before, sold out in just 27 minutes! It was just mind-blowing to me to have this happen.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Time management and having to be everything for the business as a solo entrepreneur. In the first year, I wouldn't turn down an order no matter how short the notice was or what else I had going on; I got burnt out fast and learned a big lesson from that.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Tip #1 is to set boundaries, whether that be with your time or with how many orders you will take. I now have scheduled days off every single week. I have to turn down orders for these days all the time, but at the end of the day, I need this time for myself and to be with my family; that's why I am doing this after all.
Tip #2 is to get yourself a website and don't just depend on social media. If people learned anything from the day Facebook and Instagram went down a little while back, it should be that you can lose everything you have built on there in an instant. You don't own those social media accounts, but you do own your website.
Tip #3 is to focus on one avenue within your business. Don't try to be a baker and a crafter selling mugs or a candle-maker etc., keep your business focused down one avenue so you can truly hone your skills on that one thing.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
The final thing I would like to add is to not look at others in the same realm of business as your competition but to see them as your community. There is room enough for everyone to be successful, and because one person achieves something, it does not mean that you cannot do the same. Be a cheerleader for others, and it will come back to you ten-fold.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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