Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food & beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Alexis Ong, Founder of Cakes By Lexi, located in New York, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My name is Alexis Ong, and I own and operate a custom cake and cookie studio called Cakes By Lexi! We do only custom, made-to-order work. This means our customers come to us with their fantastic visions and ideas, and it is our job to bring them to life. While we still occasionally make cakes, we've recently shifted our focus almost entirely to highly decorated cookies.

Our customers range from clients looking for fun party favours, to huge brands planning events or PR packages, to celebrities looking for gifts. The only commonality between all of our clients is that they are fun, creative people who love sweets.

Tell us about yourself

I started baking and decorating cakes when I was 12 years old. It started simply and innocently—I'd bake in the kitchen with my older sister and sit with my aunt as she decorated cakes. When I started improving, I started offering my services to clubs at school, friends, family, and teachers. By my senior year, I was making about one cake a week for orders. Nowadays, we've mostly transitioned away from cakes and have started putting a lot more emphasis on our decorated cookies.

Something about the marriage of art and food has always compelled me because I deeply love both things. I love the limitations of food that force you to problem-solve and be creative while still working within what is physically possible. When an artistic vision you have comes to life exactly how you imagined it, it's one of the most satisfying and fantastic feelings in the world, and that's what motivates me every morning.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I've had a lot of really fun and impressive clients. I've made cookies for PUMA, Demi Lovato, Sephora, and many more. And as much as I adore these clients and the work I've done for them, I wouldn't consider any of them my biggest accomplishments. I think that my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is the fact that I get order forms filled out every single day. Do 100% of these order inquiries come to fruition? Of course not. Most of them don't. But I still remember the days when I had just built my website for the first time.

I remember building an order form and forcing my mom to fill it out over and over again to make sure it worked. I remember obsessively checking the form submissions page, hoping with my entire heart that someone had filled it out. In 2015, I could never have predicted what my life would be like now. I get so many order forms that I often feel overwhelmed by them. People have seen my portfolio and want to work with me. That's my biggest accomplishment.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I think the hardest thing that comes with being a business owner is feeling like work never stops. When your business is also your identity, it becomes so intertwined with your personal life. This is, unfortunately, inevitable, but it can be really hard to cope with. I get business emails every hour of the day. In my room, I wake up to a massive wall of cookie cutters. When there's no separation between work and leisure, it can really weigh on you mentally and physically. You're the only person in the world that will care about your business this much, so it's understandable that it's hard to step back and take time for yourself, but you have to.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

I honestly am still figuring it out every single day, and I think that's my first tip. If you think you have learned and mastered everything about owning and operating a business, you're already set up for failure. Learn from everyone and everything. Always be open to changing the way you're doing things. Heed other business owners' cautionary tales.

My second tip is to be yourself. It sounds like a dumb tip, but I actually think it's my most important one. I used to think that being a bakery business owner meant I had to fit into a specific box. I thought that I had to be accommodating, bubbly, soft, and agreeable. So I'd run my brand accounts with this idea in my head. I'd write cute little captions with no substance. I'd never share my political views and values, and I wouldn't post any of the work that I thought people would find "crude" or "dirty." But I felt stifled and fake. Then one day, I realized that I didn't have a boss. I am my own boss. No one could get mad at me for doing whatever I wanted. So I started swearing in my Instagram captions. I posted cupcakes that said "SCOTUS sucks dick" when Roe v. Wade was overturned, and I sold cookies shaped like little penises for Christmas. All of these things are what make my brand presence stronger than ever. There's no one like you in the world, and therefore there should be no brand like yours in the world either.

Finally, my final tip is to remind yourself often that you do this because you love it. Being a creative business owner is SO hard sometimes, but it's also the thing in my life I am the proudest of. There are times I get lost in it all and begin to lose focus on why I do what I do. When these things happen, I try to start a cookie passion project: some cookie project that I've wanted to do for a long time that isn't for a client or an order. Reigniting the passion for what you do is really hard when it's your job. But loving what you do is the only reason you're good at it. So you have to constantly take time for yourself to remember why you do all of this.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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