Author: Heather Lowey
Gwendolyn Rogers took the largest crowd ever for Linking Indy Women through the inspiring story of Cake Bake’s inception and incredible success. What stuck out to me the most is the amazing intention she has for every action. Every detail thought out in a microscopic view.
“I’ll do anything to promote my business.”
This philosophy in not preventing herself from making the ask has served her and her business well. Pushing limits most would not even consider due to fear.
IN THE BEGINNING
At 41 years of age, Gwendolyn and her family made the move from Idaho to Indianapolis. No more mountains or morning skiing. She didn’t want to start over making friends and acclimating to her new environment, so instead threw herself into baking. An avid baker, she always made the kids’ cakes for birthdays and enjoyed time in the kitchen. Even with a house full of boys including her husband and three sons (now ages 17, 19, and 22).
After a few years of baking cakes and cupcakes for every soccer game, school event, teacher gift, etc., she had built quite a reputation for her delicious baked goods. The PTO requested she prep the entire teacher appreciation meal. Gwendolyn felt great purpose having this skill she could share with others.
She began catering and for two years baked entirely out of her house. A social media following also emerged by staging her masterpieces on the front porch. “I don’t even understand where these people come from,” she laughed discussing social media.
TIME TO EXPAND?
At this point, her house looked more like barracks with “sandbags” of flour and sugar lining her dining room walls. The refrigerators in both kitchen and garage completely full of milk and eggs. It was time for a kitchen outside of home for her growing business. 10 different locations and 4 banks later, she was at a crossroads. Even with the amazing baked goods she took to each bank, her lack of collateral was a cause for concern.
However, she had a weird intuition, even in rejection. Following this passion was exactly what needed done, she somehow just knew it! Standing in the parking lot looking at a strip mall space she was going to rent, everything changed. A stranger began discussing the strip mall space. He pointed to a house across the street, “what if I bought that space for you to put your bakery?” Not thinking he was serious, she described in grave detail and visualized exactly what is now the Broad Ripple Cake Bake we all know today.
Two days later, he called to let her know the house had been purchased and she needed to secure a loan for her renovation. In disbelief over the stranger following through on this parking lot conversation, Gwendolyn saw a glimmer of her dream.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE, THE REST FALLS INTO PLACE
Gwendolyn knew she wanted a homey, comforting place, filled with happiness. She began making notes about every place she visited. Favorable details and anything missing. Cake Bake is about being together. This is the reason there are no televisions. She especially wanted it to be a magical experience, similar to Disney. The initial Broad Ripple location was so homey, it even included her personal plates, silverware, and pots & pans from home!
She dove into the business plan with a lack of knowledge for the how, but a drive to make her dream come true. Putting it together was a challenge in pure “guestimation.” Guessing how much to sell, make, and price. As she discussed this with a friend at Starbucks, an IU student overheard. He approached Gwendolyn and wanted to use Cake Bake as a concept for a school project on writing a business plan. Problem solved!
She shared so many examples of chance meetings and what they lead to. It really made everyone in attendance believe in the power of putting a request out there in the Universe and seeing what is provided back.
CAKE BAKE AND CELEBRITIES
Gwendolyn has an amazing approach to promoting her business. “I ask for it, I don’t wait for it. You make your own success.” She has been in a series of uncomfortable situations but forced herself anyway. Here are a few examples of her celebrity fans:
- Rachael Ray
- Will be on her show December 10th in New York
- Just Jenny
- Will be interviewed December 11th in New York
- Why? She told her she would be in New York doing the Rachael Ray Show!
- Elton John
- Invited her to three nights of front row concerts in Paris in exchange for a cake
- From this she met a 68-year old French woman who is a fan and now life-long friend. Cake Bake London may be a reality some day!
- Hugh Jackman
- Made his birthday cake at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse
Additionally, we can’t forget Oprah! Gwendolyn began by sending Oprah’s staff a cake. “What else do you have?” 14 cakes later, she was on the O list. I found it fascinating when she admitted being glad, she didn’t make it on Oprah’s Favorite Things list the first time. “It was a good thing because it would be too easy. You need to have things be a challenge to keep pushing you to grow.” What a humbling and important statement!
LEARN AND GROW
After the success of the Broad Ripple location, it was time for expansion. The Carmel location took three years to complete and meeting with the architect every day.
Gwendolyn also meets with the makers of EVERY product she utilizes. The chandeliers were out of her price range, but she is building a business for 10 years down the road, not the now. She flew to meet with them and worked out a payment plan for the specific chandeliers she envisioned. This attention to detail includes everything from the plates and silverware down to the boxes utilized to transport the cakes.
Also, she brands EVERYTHING. And if you don’t believe in the importance of this, ask her about the ONE TIME they ran out of Cake Bake branded boxes. It will never happen again!
Gwendolyn left us with amazing stories of her journey to success. A journey not always easy, but she took risks others would never dare. Here are a few key take-aways:
- “I am my advertising. I send cakes to people; I don’t buy billboards.”
- Brand everything.
- Ask for it. Don’t wait for it. Make your success.
- Know what you want and go for it.
- Attention to the details creates the experience in the way you envision.
- Build for the future, not for the now.
- Ask, even if the answer is no. What’s the harm?
- Don’t let fear take you over.