What is your name and tell me about yourself ?
My name is Anna Rainbow Alvarez. As you can tell by my middle name I am the child of hippy parents, for which I am very thankful. I grew up living in farm houses, growing vegetables in our organic garden, raising chickens and goats. We even lived in a school bus with a rainbow painted on the back for a while when I was a kid. From my parents I learned that it is best to walk to the beat of your own drum, but it took a long time to really decide to live that way once I became an adult. I sort of fell into the cubicle life working in the medical financial industry in my twenties. The pay was good, but the systems I worked with were very corrupt (insurance companies, specifically) and the longer I worked within that system, the more burned out and cynical I became. After my daughter was born in 2008 I started realizing that I had had enough of life in a soul-sucking job. I felt like I was losing my creativity.
At about the same time, my husband bought me my first cake decorating course at a local crafting store. I immediately fell in love with cake decorating. It felt fulfilling. I had always been an excellent cook and baker, and I used to be a prolific artist - and cake decorating combined BOTH of these passions. In 2011 after losing four hours of my life to (yet another) face melting in a meeting with a millionaire doctor who was upset he hadn't collected $900.00 for removing a splinter from a 96 year old homeless man's toe, I had had enough. I put in my notice and shortly thereafter opened my business.
What is your shop and how does it work?
My shop is Sweet Anna's Cakes and Confections. As of Saturday April 7, 2012 I will be selling baked goods at the Lee's Summit Farmers' Market at the corner of 2nd and Douglas. My website is: http://www.etsy.com/shop/
At that consultation, basic design for the cake is discussed (colors, flavors, size, flowers, budget, etc.). I take this information and then sketch several designs for the client to choose from. Once all the details are in order, I write up a contract for the client to sign with the final price of the cake and all of the details involved. If the client would like to pay in installments, I will list the installments on Etsy in a reserved listing for the client.
How did you get the idea for your shop?
The idea for my shop came from my sister-in-law, Elizabeth McDonald (a fanstastic and amazing painter - you can see her work at aesthetiac.com). She emailed me shortly after I had decided I needed a change in careers with the suggestion that I take the first step by selling on Etsy. She shops a lot on Etsy and turned me on to it as well.
Scariest cake you ever had to move?
There were two scary cakes. The first wedding cake I ever made for a paying client was terrifying. I had very little time to set up the cake, so I had to bring it completely assembled to the reception site - this is not the way I prefer to do it. I would much rather bring the tiers separately and then stack the cake at the site. I was relatively new to the Kansas City area and I asked my mother-in-law what the least curvy route would be to the reception site. She told me, but I neglected to ask for the flattest route. I was going up and down hills with a fully assembled and stacked cake in the back of my van. And then when I got to the reception site, someone had taken all of the signs down that I was supposed to follow to the reception room. In the end, the cake got there safely and looked great. The second scary cake was a cake I drove all the way to Jefferson City as a favor to a friend. I thought I had the whole thing in the bag because I had driven the route so many times previously for my job. But when I turned off the main highway to get to the house the reception was at I was immediately confronted with a huge 45 degree incline of a hill (at least it seemed that steep!) I said a really long, loud string of profanity as soon as I saw the hill. But the cake arrived safely, and the reception site was one of the most beautiful I have seen.
How did you decide on your name?
My company's name was decided upon kind of by accident while my husband was taking a web design class. He had to design a pretend website, and decided to make one for my dream business. He needed a name, and so we came up with Sweet Anna's. People have always said I am a sweet person, and since I make sweet things, it seemed to fit.
What is your favorite of the things you bake?
That is a hard question to answer. I don't make anything that I don't like to eat, and I am fickle. Right now I love my peach mango pie - it has a coconut crumble topping on it that really gives it a nice texture when combined with the silky fruit and the flakiness of the crust. But before that it was cream cheese brownies and gingerbread cookies.
As for cake, I love carrot cake. Since I am so fickle, and also because I like to bake with what is in season at the moment, the menu I offer at the Farmers' Market will change each month, and you can be sure that whatever I am selling that month will be my favorite at the time.
Anything else you want to say?
I have never felt more fulfilled and happy in my life since I started my business. I am healthier, happier, and more content. Follow your dreams... there is a reason you have them. My mom said this the other day on her facebook page: "Y'know all those ideas in your head ... big important projects ... plans to save the planet ... stuff you've been putting off, because it's too huge or too hairy? Well, today is the day! Just start it. Just give it 30 minutes. Just plant a couple of seeds, or make one difficult phone call, or organize one drawer.
Yay! Today, the world is gonna change!" That is exactly what it took for me to start this business. Each day I did something small. Every day when something bad happened at work I would tell myself, "Self, if you want to get out of this, you need to make the change happen. You want to bake for a living? Then find out what it takes to set yourself up as a corporation... See if you can afford to rent a kitchen... Make a call to the Health Department... DO ONE THING NOW." Because doing something is so much better than being miserable and waiting for something better to happen to you. You have to be your own change. And I am not there yet... Still have several steps in the business plan to go. This year it is to sell at the Farmers' Market... Next year I have another goal. And the final goal will be to open a permanent storefront somewhere in Kansas City where I can promote other local artists' work. I'll get there eventually, but at the moment I am just incredibly thankful that I have been able to get to the place I am. Thankful for a family who supports me, thankful for a husband who is willing to work and make enough to pay the bills while I pursue this dream, and thankful that I finally, almost at the age of 40, I have made the changes in my life to be who I am.
Anna will be donating a dozen cupcakes to one lucky winner in our Great Cloth Diaper Change Raffle! Thanks Anna and it was good to get to know you!