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Monday
Dec302013

Why I Have a Dessert Website

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Hi, my name is Jessie, and I'm a blogger. Only, I really despise the words "blog" and "blogger", possibly owing to their similarity to words that don't have the most pleasant connotations, such as "booger" or "blob". So if I say "I have a food website" or "I have a dessert website", it's not trying to make the site something it's not, but more of an aversion to the b-word itself.

I get asked frequently how I got into this world, and it gives me pause, because what started me out isn't necessarily what keeps me going. 

Do what you love = love what you do

I started this website in 2007. At the time, I was working at a greeting card company in Seattle, where (I still love this) I managed and art directed the refrigerator magnet division. I called myself the Magnet Magnate. I loved my job--how could you not be tickled each and every day to go to an office with that as your title?--but I still yearned for something more--something my own. 

Cuppie at the Olympic Sculpture Park

So, while taking part of the day off for a personal errand, I decided to take advantage of the moment and sit in the lovely Olympic Sculpture park for several moments to think about life. I had also been reading Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin, a though provoking volume that anyone who thinks "what should I do with my life?" should be reading, and re-reading once they think they figure it out. 

Not to skip around, but it seems very poetically suiting that for the re-issue of the book, I was actually mentioned:

Me in the Purple Cow book

But anyway.

So, I figured I'd make a list of the things I loved best, and try to figure out how to make a business out of it. 

Coming up with the things I loved best wasn't hard: writing, illustrating, and baked goods. Those were definitely the things I loved best. But what the hell could I do with those?

It being 2007, rather than figure it out, I thought, "I'll start a blog." I figured blogging would be a good platform to figure out how all three fit together. 

Be engaged = engaging

Having been a freelance writer for DailyCandy at the time, I thought that I would follow a somewhat similar format, but focus completely on sweets, and puncutate daily finds with my illustrations.

But quickly, the focus began to expand. I started doing interviews with bakers, which I always found fascinating. I did bakery roundups in cities I visited. I wrote about the history of desserts. I did funny baking experiments. I engaged myself with things I found fascinating, and was rewarded to find that others were engaged by what I did. 

I decided I wanted to get a book deal in 2009, two years into the website. I thought I was definitely famous and accomplished enough.

Well. publishers disagreed, and my proposal was rejected by every single person I sent it to. I let it ruin my day, but just one day. The next day, I got back to blogging and said "whatever" to publishing.

Think local, act global

Back wall at CakeSpy Shop

Did I ever tell you I used to own a store?

I had an opportunity to take over a retail gallery in 2010. I took the chance, even though it hadn't been something I'd actively been pursuing. In March 2010, CakeSpy Shop opened.

If I am completely honest, I will tell you that I had some issues with shop ownership from the get-go. I mostly consider myself a behind the scenes person. I'm happy emerging from behind the scenes every now and again to host an event or attend the Pillsbury Bake-Off, or contribute to a book, but being "on" as I needed to be in a retail setting was trying. So was the fact that I wasn't able to up and go on a trip, as I so love to do. 

Nonetheless, I loved my store. It was my baby. It even did so well that I could afford an employee. An employee!

People who know me know that the store closed in fall of 2012. While it was partially financially motivated, it wasn't because the store was failing--more because it was making people involved wilt with all of the time and energy required. We wanted to live our lives. Plus, I didn't want to live in Seattle forever. It was time to move on. 

If you build it, they will come

My book is going to be on the TODAY Show!

But let's back up a bit. With how busy I was with the store, I stopped caring so much about getting a book deal. Of course, that is when I got a book deal.

In December 2010, Sasquatch Books (one of the publishers who had rejected me!) came back and gave me a book deal. It had taken a while, but finally, I was going to be published. 

And I was, in October of 2011. CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life. I had a book party at my store, and my parents came from NJ. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to see a line out the door. The book (not me) was featured on the TODAY show.

Book launch party

Change your perspective

In early 2012, I moved from Seattle to Philadelphia. Suddenly, I went from being a minor celebrity in town to nobody knowing who I was. In a way, this was a good thing. It gave me some time to question who I was, and what I was doing--and did it really please me? 

The answer, I was surprised to find, was no. What had once been so easy, so exciting, had turned into a grind for me. I know you have trouble believing that this can happen when you write about, draw pictures of, and bake sweets, but it is true. It wasn't necessarily time to change everything, but time to evolve. After all, I had evolved as a person. Why couldn't my little blog evolve, too?

So, I decided to buckle down and write my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts, and to figure out how I wanted to continue growing. 

I am not my blog

During and after the time the store closed, I went through a series of trying times, personally.

It was a big realization for me: I am not my blog, although my blog is me. 

I moved around a little bit more. I've been so many places this year: Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Columbus, Washington, DC, Pie Town, NM...and so many more!

At this moment, I am writing to you from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I came to a powerful realization: there's something to that saying "get back to your roots". 

As it turned out, the answer has been right in front of me the whole time: go back to what got you started. Focus on the fact that by doing what you love, by being engaged, you will inspire others to love and be engaged. 

My recipe in an upcoming book!

That doesn't, I think, mean that I have to go back to blogging (writing a website, that is) the same way I did in 2007, but more, it means that a return to what makes me happy is necessary.

So I suppose that in 2014, my resolution or goal is to be myself, focus on what I love, and therefore, love what I do. Because if you are engaged, you are engaging. Does this mean I might incorporate even more of my loves and passions into the site--fashion, yoga, teaching baking and artwork to children, travel? Who knows how that all might work in a delightful world of baked goods?

If following my heart (and a ton of hard work, too) has gotten me this far, then I suppose I will keep on doing what I am doing, with room to grow and evolve, of course.

What's your resolution in 2014? Foodie or otherwise? 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

Love this, Jessie! I just wrote the other day about getting back to being "real" and true to me. It's tough when you have a website (I hate saying blog too) that kind of pigeonholes you into one topic because when you're writing about one topic it tends to be draining. But at the same time there's a fear in straying from that topic because you might confuse people (or lose people). But at the end of the day (and the beginning of the new year) we HAVE to do what makes us feel alive.

Besides, authenticity rocks :)
December 30 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Saffer
I loved this informative article, sometimes it's easy to lose yourself in your site especially when it takes so much hard work, something you don't realise fully when you take the plunge to start a site. And sometime I think it pays to be a bit daring and branch out from a narrow focus. After all its your, mine, our work and we all need to remain true to ourselves otherwise what was meant to be fun can become a chore. I love your site and all your recipes & drawings and I look forward to more in 2014.
December 30 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
Loved reading your full story, Jessie!! I'm such a longtime megafan of cakespy and you have always been such a sweet supporter of my blog. I hear ya on blob and booger. The words blog and blogger are the worst! Instantly unprofessional seeming -even though it's our jobs! Dessert website, yes!! You're basically the cakey Wonder Woman of rainbow unicorn land. Had no idea you were a yoga head. Thank you for sharing all your ups and downs - totally inspiring. Happy 2014!!! Xo

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