Two weeks ago, I deliberately stopped publishing the Real Stories features because I wanted you all to have a bit of breathing space before I published this one. I would not normally post these on a “Big Post Tuesday” but this one is really important to me, and really special to me – and I wanted to be sure I got your attention. It’s going to be a pretty long post. Please, bear with me as you read it and take a moment to comment at the end with some support. This is HUGELY brave of her to share this story, and until this gets published there are some of her close friends who don’t know the whole thing – so please honour that bravery by taking the time to read and reply.
This story – and this cake maker – mean the world to me. Let me explain.
Earlier this year I spoke at a big cake event here in Australia – I did 6 workshops about pricing and marketing. I’m not going to lie, I was peeing in my pants about it. I literally ran around asking every cake maker I knew (and some I didn’t, hello there Shawna McGreevy…) to come and fill the seats because I was convinced nobody would come. I couldn’t eat that day, didn’t sleep the night before, my palms were sweaty, my notes were all smudgy from where I’d been gripping them so tight. I’d read, re-read, rehearsed and re-rehearsed SO MANY TIMES that I knew it by heart forwards AND backwards and I was still freaking out majorly. As most of you know, I’m loud, confident, capable of public speaking and I know what I’m talking about…and yet…I was incredibly freaked out. (Just typing this is actually making my hands shake. No lie.)
About ten minutes before it began, the room started to fill. And fill. And fill. My fear about nobody coming changed to a fear about me making a fool of myself or cursing too much (I swear like a sailor when I am nervous.) These two gorgeous women sat down right near the front, smiled huge smiles at me, and when I admitted that I was nervous, looked at me and said, “What? No! You’ll be great!” – and through that whole talk they were smiling, nodding, and basically being totally awesome people who made me feel really, really good about it all. Their joy at being at this cake event – and coming to see me – was just wonderful. You could FEEL their excitement. Afterwards they came and told me that I’d truly done a good job and I noticed how tall one of them was and I did a mental “YAY TALL PEOPLE!” dance (I’m tall, so I always notice tall people.) These two women, with their enthusiam and huge smiles of encouragement – totally changed my attitude from “OH SHIT I CAN’T DO THIS!” to “HELL YEAH I’VE GOT THIS THING!” I honestly will be forever grateful to them for that. Afterwards, whenever they saw me at the show they’d wave, or smile, or just be goofballs to ease my nerves. I gave some seriously kick ass presentations that weekend, and in part I owe that success to them, because they calmed me right the hell down at the very first one.
After the show, one of them (Monica) stalked me online – she’s one of my most supportive Instagram commenters, she often shares or comments on Facebook, she reads my blogs religously- you get the idea. It always makes me smile to share the love right back, because I can see and feel her enthusiasm for what she does shine through her posts, and every time I remember this gorgeous Amazon woman smiling at me and reminding me that I’ve got this thing, I really do. It’s people exactly like Monica who I started to write this blog for. Talented, gorgeous people who just want to make a living from their talent – and so often I think of her when I write posts and I wonder if she will find it useful, or funny, or interesting.
I put out the call for people to be profiled on the blog some months ago. It’s only a few weeks ago that Monica asked if I thought she could be included in these interviews – and she told me a bit about her story. I read it, and my jaw hit the floor – because Monica is no ordinary cake maker. I had NO IDEA about any of this stuff. All these months my smiley friendly supportive blog reader was dealing with her own big struggles, and yet she had the energy to lift ME up when I needed it. I remain entirely humbled by her story, so I’m sharing it today in the hopes that she inspires you the way she inspires me.
I’m going to let her tell her own story now. Let me introduce you to Monica Cavallaro, of Moreish Cakes.
Tell us a little bit about the person behind the business: What city are you in? How old are you?
I’m in gorgeous Sydney Australia! Originally from a very small northern Italian family, I scored and married a southern Italian man equal to my great height – for those that don’t know me or haven’t had the joy of meeting me as yet, I am a 6’3” Amazon! My age is *cough cough*….. A lady never tells! hahaha
|Monica’s first cake!
What’s the back story to your business? How did you get into this industry?
Around 5 years ago on a limited budget for our son’s 1st birthday, theme I chose was a teddy bear, after shopping around, I decided “ how hard can it be?” and purchased a wilton teddy bear cake mould and embarked on baking my own… suffice to say, 3 baking attempts later, 6 hours of piping, scraping off and repipping butter cream again and again, a few tantrums and a box of tissues to wipe up the tears and by 3am I produced this! (see above teddy) and then because I am a total glutton for punishment, I thought I would cover my first fondant cake for hubby whose birthday was at the same time….. I was so proud, now looking back I laugh at the corners, the fondant didn’t reach the plate, the fact I didn’t know that the cake needed to be covered in something BEFORE the fondant went on and to level the top off the cake -haha!
|This is her first fondant cake for hubby!
How do we find your business online?
Just for fun, how and where do you read the blog? (in your pyjamas on a laptop? On your phone on your way to work? while sitting in the drive-thru?)
I am often browsing around BOB, anywhere from sneaking in a read during my lunch breaks to snuggled up under the covers at night to avoid waking hubby up with my snickering.
It’s not just about the blog for me, it’s also the handy links, the interviews etc that keep me coming back.
Where are you hoping to get to with your business? What’s the big fat dream goal?
I love what I do. I did art all the way through high school and excelled in pottery so fondant work came very natural to me. I spent years doing ceramics and jewellery so this came as a natural progression. And years of management has afforded me the business acumen to give it the best fighting chance of success.
I work 3 days a week at Domayne (a furnishings and homewares company) which I just love and hope to grow Moreish to equal this of 3 days a week in the coming years when my health permits. I am building a future for myself and my family for when I am truly well and can finally release what is holding me back.
We are looking forward to annual holidays and family adventures thanks to Moreish Cakes. So while I am personally ambitious I am cautious to ensure Moreish remains my passion and not my job.
At the moment you’re facing a bunch of different challenges – as we all do at certain times. Tell us a little bit about those challenges. What would you say is your biggest challenge or limiting factor which is keeping you from getting to the big fat dream goal? What are you doing to get around that challenge?
Deep breath Monica….So here is the bit I’ve never really talk about until now and to date, even some of our closest friends don’t know about. I guess I have now come to terms with it and feel more comfortable in sharing my journey.
In 2012, I thought after my daughter was born in March I would go for it and create a little cake hobby business, but 6 weeks after birth I got sick. Very sick. I was bed ridden from pain. Google in the middle of the night was my best friend and I self diagnosed I had a brain tumour. And I was right! However, 1 brain surgery later and delivering a bouncing 5 cm tumour, a hospital stay that went from 5 days to 30 days, the discovery of another brain tumour, we discovered all the symptoms were from a spinal fluid leak from giving birth to my daughter. 3 blood patches later and still sick as a dog 6 months later… I am told there was nothing they can do and I must stay laying down as much as possible for nature to heal it.So 18 months later I was still rather infirm….life and living was on hold, I had to give up on my career as I was (and still) can’t work full time…. Then a friend asked me to make a cake. So excited to have a project and something to do I pounced on it and produced an ok cake… I then spent the next 7 days in bed recovering from it. I was devastated. This was a big wake up call as I hadn’t realised how limited I truly was.
Over the next 6 months with trial and error and hubby’s help, we found a way for me enjoy my hobby and it truly became my therapy as I think I would have gone batty without it. Hubby rolls out all my fondants, carries the cakes around and does all my boards and deliveries so I can sit and potter with the decoration (yes I should have him stuffed and mounted as a perfect male specimen!)
After debating with hubby, friends and even family all the way through 2013 we finally worked out a way I could have my cake and eat it too and Moreish Cakes was baked…. with very strict rules…. only 1 cake per week maximum and on the proviso, hubby was available to assist.
We have pretty much stuck to this rule (give or take) and we’ve lost some friends and customers along the way, because they were offended that I wasn’t available etc.
When starting a business it’s really important to set goals for yourself and milestones to hit and we were no different to everyone else in this approach.
When we launched at Christmas 2013 I was thinking, I hope to close 2014 with 200 facebook likes, 100 on Instagran, have a website up and running and do at least 1 cake per month – this was what I considered a realistic goal and a good stretch considering I was starting from nowhere, no one knew me and I was physically wrecked! It’s only September 2014 now and we just hit 4600 facebook likes, over 300 on Instagram, by the end of February this year I had to start knocking back cake orders as I couldn’t handle the work volume physically. By August we had to close our books to new orders for the rest of 2014.
Mind blowing isn’t it? And trust me when I say, no one is more surprised than me! Never in my wildest imagination could I have imaged I would at this point within 8 months! This was like my 5 year goal!!
So here I am, 2 1/2 years later , a wonderful and gorgeous supportive family, 4600 likers, another brain tumour to contend with, a constant spinal fluid leak that seems to refuse to heal, limited physical ability and the constant lingering threat of bed time (and to be honest, regular bed time anyway)… But as bad as it sounds I am the happiest I have ever been!
No matter the circumstances, if you really want something, nothing can hold you back from achieving it bar yourself. I’ve really learnt this lesson and I hope it inspires any of you that were holding back due to physical limitations.
If I could give you the gift of an hour of time with any 3 people – cake decorators, business mentors, other business owners (anyone at all really) who you would love to get some mentoring from, who would those people be – and what would you ask them?
Ohhhhh only 3???? Omg….. La Lavande
for the bloody amazing flower work! No one does it better in my opinion! Am obsessed with looking at their flower/sugar work.
for airbrushing, I would nearly kill for some help with airbrushing!!
And finally, sounds like a cliché buy Buddy Valastro
for general business mentoring and large cake building. I want to really start focusing on the showstopper cakes!
Ok now I am being greedy and I also want Michelle Green
for a general kick up the pants every now and then when I get it in my head I can’t do it…. 😀
Lastly – give me a challenge! How can I help you? What would you like me to write about that would be of help to you in specific?
A challenge for you is simply to keep on keeping on. Don’t stop if that makes sense – I enjoy the reads, it’s a reaffirmation of what I need, know, want and need to learn and it needs to be on-going so no slowing down in the coming years Missy!! Oh and give me a big hug when you see me at events! I’ve adored your amazon statuesque loveliness from the moment I laid eyes on you!
Michelle: Okay, Monica. I can do that. If for nothing else than just to pay back the favour you paid me by helping me get through that talk, and the ongoing support you’ve given me since. Thank you, from the bottom of my buttercream heart, for taking the time and bravery to take part in this series. I wish you a long career full of health and happiness and plenty of internet stalking. 🙂
Okay my beautiful readers. There it is. Laid bare. YOU CAN DO THIS. I wrote an article about how you shouldn’t see your challenges as roadblocks, you should simply try to find detours around them
– and I can’t think of anyone better than Monica to prove how true that is.
We can ALL succeed, in whatever way we define success for ourselves – if we want to. I never said it would be easy, I only ever said it would be worth it.
I know for certain that the readers of this blog are a community of people who believe in lifting one another up, so please take a moment to comment below for Monica.