I have five kids and I'm married to a disabled Marine Corps veteran so my life was already insane. In fact, I started the business to pull us through a pay cut and a major health scare that turned into a financial nightmare. My little profitable hobby wouldn't stay quiet and demand grew out of control right from the start. Two years later, the demand had grown exponentially and I'm pulling my hair out. So people see The HofF and think I'm some über professional cake boss winner with a full team of assistants and accountants. It's pretty funny actually. They don't see the frazzled mom, pulled in a dozen different directions, running on a few hours of sleep with no makeup and a ponytail, late for a kid's band performance, trying to get to the grocery store because we're out of milk (again), praying that last 1/8th tank of gas holds out long enough to get me there and back because I sure as hell don't have time to stop at the Marathon between errands. I'm picking up kids from school, dropping some off at home, picking up another after rehearsal, heading to another school to pick up kid #2 after practice and running her across town to a soccer game before racing home to make dinner. And somewhere in there, I'm expected to have the laundry done and dinner on the table. Where, I ask you, where in all of that am I supposed to fill the bakery cases with pastries, answer all my messages, and fill custom cake orders? I have no cloning machine. I have no minions. I have only this broken, tired housewife body and what little energy a quad shot latte will buy me for a few short hours. People don't see any of that. They think I'm a cake baking machine with voicemail and a built in cash register. When I built the HofF, I turned a nasty hearing aid office into a beautiful pastry shop, a kitchen, an espresso bar, a tasting room...with no office. Not even a desk or a computer. This is how much I know about business. I was grossly unprepared for this.
The first inklings of impending disaster came last summer. I was turning people away, but still agreeing to more than I could handle. It showed in my work and I wasn't happy. I was always running late. Hours late. I didn't sleep from Thursday to Monday and was like a Walking Dead extra for three to four days before diving back in again. My house got out of control because I'm a terrible mother and failed to teach my children responsibility. They are a force of destruction that has no equal. There are five of them and one coffee table; a coffee table I haven't seen the top of since 2015. It's really bad. I kid you not. During the frenetic caking days, I had potential customers blowing up my inboxes. They weren't nice about it either. "I've tried calling you several times now," (I was baking/shuttling kids/comatose) "but your voicemail is full," (it NEVER ENDS) "and you haven't answered the messages I sent you on your Facebook business page," (there are so many of them!) "so I'm messaging you on your personal page," (LET ME HAVE THIS ONE LAST PRIVATE PLACE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!) "to find out if you can do a three tier Lilly Pulitzer bridal shower cake to serve 100 for $50 this weekend," (48 hour notice? I'm booked for the next two months and you're asking for a $600 cake!) "Can you PLEASE let me know if you're available?" (I won't even see this until a week after the shower, when it'll be followed by this message;) "I came by the shop to pick up my Lilly Pulitzer cake and no one was there. I had to get cupcakes at Walmart. I'm very disappointed by your lack of professionalism." (My response to this is simply the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.)
A particularly nasty bride filed a complaint with the BBB because I didn't send her a price quote on wedding favors while I was still putting in tile at the shop and didn't have a price list yet. This was the catalyst for the first wave of the urge to quit. This was when I stopped caring about reviews and stars. It was the moment I understood how two dimensional I appeared to these people. I was no one to this little rich girl. She expected me to be one of the many wedding vendors kissing up to her for a taste of daddy's checkbook. I wasn't a mother chasing a dream--I was nothing. It broke me.
There were others like her. There were wealthy housewives who expected ridiculous discounts, nitpicky moms who want exactly THIS cake but with these precise details from five other cakes they found on Pinterest, customers who've never had a cake that didn't come from a box and want yellow cake with white icing instead of vanilla bean cake with buttercream. These are the people who suck the joy out of what I do. They are the cause of my daily wish for the ability to go back in time and opt out of this mess.
I've developed social anxiety so severe, I have a panic attack when I log into Facebook and see how many messages are waiting. They never stop. It's not just the private messages, it's the constant ranting and the hurtful comments about others. Someone's always trashing someone else for everyone to see. I don't think I can handle another one of those posts about me. I leave my phone on do not disturb so no one outside my bubble can get to me. I avoid people at all costs. No eye contact, no conversations. I don't want to talk to anyone ever again. I just can't do it.
The units next to mine are now occupied. These businesses swooped in with contractors and commercial equipment and accomplished in mere weeks what I haven't been able to finish after a year of blood, sweat, and tears. Doing everything myself was a huge mistake. Huge.
I completely lost it recently. I'm talking full on, hysterical, hiccuping/sobbing. I was ready to sell off everything at the HofF, break my lease, and disappear into obscurity where I belong. I was ready to curl up in a little ball and die. If it wasn't for my family, I wouldn't be here right now.
And why isn't the shop open regularly so you can get cupcakes whenever you feel like it? Because my cases aren't getting cool enough and my espresso machine won't pressurize. Because the oven I could afford doesn't bake evenly and the bottoms of my cakes are underdone when the tops are overdone. Because I screwed up with about $10k of my capital by buying cheap equipment and I need a do-over. Because three of my kids had strep throat and gave it to me. Because I have two weddings on Saturday. Because I'm drowning in debt and would rather drive off a bridge than fight my way through another day of this. Nevertheless, I'm persisting.
I will make this work because it's what I love. My husband and my kids will be proud of me. And, by God, there will be cake.