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Rising Stars: Meet Kate Brown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Brown.

Kate, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I went to pastry school about nine years ago because I’ve always loved baking and wanted to find a career where I could be creative and make people happy. I worked my way through many pastry kitchens, including Publix, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Walt Disney World, and the Waldorf Astoria. Each place gave me a new perspective on the industry and helped perfect my skills. As I began to work my way up the ladder, I realized that this path wasn’t fulfilling for me. I missed the connection with the consumer and felt restricted by company policies. I was just a number in the corporate world and knew that I wanted to make a difference in my own way. It was time to make a change, so I decided to start my own business, and A Sweet Whim was born.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I first started A Sweet Whim in January 2020. I dropped down to a part-time position with my corporate job so that I would have the time to put into my business. I wanted to keep some form of stability while at the same time have the flexibility to pursue my dream. Then Covid happened and I got furloughed from my job in March, completely throwing off my business plans. I am incredibly grateful that my husband’s job remained intact, and I was able to put 100% of my focus on A Sweet Whim.

The first few months were the most overwhelming. There were endless hours of research, learning what permits and licensing I needed, how the food laws applied to home bakers, figuring out where and what I could sell, learning budgeting and bookkeeping, marketing, building a brand, designing a website, establishing a presence on social media, pivoting during a pandemic, the list goes on, and that doesn’t even cover the baking aspect. Seeing as I was used to working in a commercial kitchen, I had to re-learn how to bake recipes on a small scale from my home. I can honestly say that blood, sweat, and tears have gone into my business, but as one of my favorite bands would say, “nothing good comes easily, sometimes you’ve got to fight.”

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a trained pastry chef with knowledge and experience in breads, classic French pastry, laminated doughs, standard and wedding cakes, banquet events, plated desserts, and chocolates. What I am most passionate about, however, is custom cakes and French macarons. With custom cakes, I get to build relationships with my local clientele and design beautiful, one-of-a-kind, delicious works of art. Macarons are one of the most challenging baked goods, which is what initially drew me to them. Then I realized how much room there was for creative freedom and it sealed the deal. I love that I can get innovative with flavor combinations and appeal to those with an adventurous spirit. I am most known for my whimsical (see what I did there) macaron flavors, entertaining baking videos, inserting puns in any possible situation, and most importantly, my focus on environmental sustainability.

One of the things that frustrated me the most about the corporate world was how much waste there was and the negative environmental impacts that seemed to go unnoticed. I knew that when I started my own business, I would make environmental sustainability a top priority. Of course, this came with its own set of challenges, but I truly believe that it’s the small steps that can make a big difference. This mindset also inspired my monthly donations, where I donate 5% of profits each month to an organization, charity, or project in need. I love having the freedom to bake what I want while committing to practices that will make a positive impact on our planet. Baking the world a better place one macaron at a time!

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
I am a naturally introverted person, so networking has been interesting for me. I will say social media (Instagram and Facebook in particular) has made this a little easier and less daunting than face-to-face interactions. My advice is to follow those individuals or accounts that inspire you, and this doesn’t necessarily have to be in your field of expertise. Make a genuine connection with them, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Once you’ve established a relationship online, you can proceed to meet in person or collaborate on a project. The main thing to keep in mind is that it should feel natural and not forced; follow your instincts. Surround yourself with people that are positive and supportive (this goes for in-person and social media). I think I was the most surprised at how supportive the online baking community has been. There are Facebook groups dedicated to almost anything you may be interested in or looking to pursue. I suggest joining them and participating in the discussions. Be your authentic self, be honest, be humble, support others, ask questions, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or make a fool of yourself; it’s part of the journey and you’ll be surprised how many people relate to you and want to see you succeed.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Headshot photo by Anthony Hunter Photography, 1st wedding cake photo by Sydney Marie Photography.

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