Not everyone would give up a job as a lawyer to become a baker, but that is just what nationally renowned baker Warren Brown did.
He shared the circumstances that led up to that decision as well as what led to the success of his bakery business, CakeLove, during a presentation as part of the Harold Smith Cultural Series at Butler Community College Tuesday evening.
CakeLove is a bakery that bakes cakes from scratch. They make cakes for wedding, birthdays and parties.
Brown said their desire is to not take away from the celebration focusing on the celebrant with fancy cakes. Rather, he likes to focus on what tastes good.
"It's the commitment to not having too many shortcuts," he said of what makes his cakes stand out from others. "The people that you're celebrating, they deserve something exceptional."
To tell how he got to where he is today, Brown went back to when he was working as a lawyer. Although a good job, he was not satisfied with that.
Brown did cook, but he did not bake at that point. His new year's resolution in 1999 was to try baking. He tried a variety of items, but kept coming back to cakes because they were fun.
His mantra that year and still today is: Direct yourself to greatness. Answer your calls. Answer to yourself.
"I began to see that perhaps a future with baking cakes was what was on the road ahead of me," Brown said.
At that time he was baking cakes, experimenting with new recipes, and bringing them to work.
He would experiment with different ingredients to find the best methods.
He was trying to discover "how do you find the best flavor an ingredient has to offer and bring that into a cake." During this time, he sacrificed giving up his social time on Friday nights because that was when he had to bake for Saturday events. He was taking orders from his co-workers.
His next question was how to open up a business if this was what he wanted to do, knowing he would face a lot of difficulty and adversity.
"I had cake open houses to demonstrate what I was capable of," he said. "I could see people were beginning to see what it would look like. I saw the future of what I could build and how difficult it could be.
"I knew that I had to build this business. I was a little afraid, but I persevered. You've got to be a little nuts to do something sometimes."
He said there is never a right time to start a business. One just has to have a plan, a lot of dedication and spirit.
Page 2 of 2 - "You've got to remain totally in the game in your head," he said.
He continues to work to remain knowledgeable about his field.
He opened CakeLove in March 2002 and in January of 2003 he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which increased his business by a third. He also has been on Today and NPR. Then from 2005 to 2007 he was the host of the television show Sugar Rush on the Food Network. He also received the 2006 Small Business Association of Washington, D.C. Small Business Person of the Year Award.
As a business owner, he spends a lot of time on the operations side of the business rather than baking.
"For me, baking and cooking is about memories and sharing," Brown said. "The kitchen has so many opportunities to pay you back way more than you put into it. I want you to get into the kitchen."
The Harold Smith Cultural Series was established as a means to bring free speaking events to the local public, Richard King, executer and attorney for the Smith estate, said Smith attended El Dorado High School and El Dorado Junior College before going away to college at Chicago's Northwestern University in 1930.
While in Chicago, he discovered an access to certain kinds of events that hadn't been available in El Dorado. Never married, Smith left nearly his entire estate to local charitable organizations and Northwestern. He felt it would be nice "to give local people the opportunity to hear speakers they wouldn't otherwise get to hear."