When the judges for our Cake Fellowship 2017 selected Erin Garcia as the grand prize winner, we weren’t surprised: Not only are her cakes stunning, but she also has a big dream and plan for her business, Birdy Bakes.
Erin’s cake dream began while volunteering and working for the Peace Corps. in Belize.
Erin found that her favorite part of the experience was bringing people together through food. “Making food and sharing food was one of my favorite ways to connect with people and share my culture and learn about other cultures,” she says.
So when she returned to the U.S., she knew that food was the passion she needed to pursue. Erin enrolled in The French Pastry School in Chicago, where she learned techniques for baking intricate pastries and decorating cakes.
From there, Erin worked in high-end hotel kitchens and cake studios.
That’s where she learned so many lessons that stick with her even today. “I’ve picked up so many tidbits for all the chefs I worked for along the way.” She learned to be meticulous, practice endlessly and not settle for anything but perfection.
When she finally struck out on her own, she started with a gender reveal cake for a friend. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” Erin says. “It was so nerve-wracking. I’m still nervous every time; I’m still feeling my way through.”
These days, Erin mainly makes celebration cakes for clients, and she strives to tailor the design for the person.
“I try my best to listen to the little details that are important to my client and then incorporate them into a fun, lighthearted, colorful cake,” Erin says. A customer’s experiences, memories and interests all make their way into her playful cakes.
“Every experience, every step along the way, I’m learning something new, whether it’s how to communicate with customers, or do invoicing, or trying to nail down exactly what someone’s looking for,” Erin says.
But Erin wants to brach out to explore styles beyond what her clients want.”I love working with buttercream and making floral cakes” she says. It’s just a matter of finding the time to make cakes that match her own style while still taking every customer order that she can.
While Erin’s confident decorating cakes, she’s says she has the most to learn about running her business.
“I spent so much time teaching myself techniques and getting experience, and I realize now that the cake part is the easy part and the fun part. It’s the business part that’s the challenge for me.” The marketing, day-to-day procedures, accounting — those are the things that Erin’s still figuring out.
But she’s determined to learn the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur: She’s taken community college classes, watched tons of Craftsy classes, and learned from cake business expert Michelle Greene.
The education for Erin continues next week, when she’s traveling to Craftsy HQ for one-on-one consultations with business experts. And there will be plenty of fun to go around, too! (We’ll share some sneak peeks and special moments from Erin’s trip on the Craftsy Blog next week.)
And for Erin, the tricky business work is worth it when she gets to make beautiful cakes day in and day out. “Right at the end of decorating a cake, there’s this magical 20 minutes where all your baking is done, all your dishes are done, the cake is stacked and built and you can put on the final decorations,” Erin says. “It’s this fun little moment where everything comes together.”