Katrina Johnson has been able to spend a lot of time at home as her three children have been growing. Being able to start and grow a business out of her kitchen was, well, the icing on the cake.
Johnson starting making and decorating cakes for her own family to enjoy. Her business – Cake me With You – began from requests and recommendations from family and friends.
“I started doing it more as a hobby,” Johnson said. “From there, it just kind of snowballed and then it just kept rolling.”
Johnson grew up in Massachusetts and came to Northern Virginia while she was getting a degree in administration of justice from George Mason University.
“I was in human resources for a while,” she said. “Then I got married and had kids and I found myself staying home. I wanted to do something for the community, and get myself out there.”
Gradually, through family and friends recommending her, Johnson decided to go into business. Without any formal training, she found herself dealing with more and more orders.
“I didn’t even get business cards until I was two years into this whole thing,” she said. “I thought, ‘I don’t need business cards, I’m already too busy.’ I started this in 2013, and that was when Facebook groups were taking off. I get a lot of my customers through recommendations on Facebook.”
Johnson credits trial-and-error and YouTube for helping her improve her techniques to get the desired results. Her most important ingredient, she said, is patience.
“You have to be patient, and be OK with failing and not giving up,” Johnson said. “I just made this carousel cake, and it was my third time making this cake. I remember when I delivered the first one, the horses were falling off and it was just a mess. The third time around, I delivered the cake and everything was perfect. I was able to figure out what I did wrong and fix the problem.”
Johnson said she averages about five or six orders a week, with most of her cakes picked up on Saturdays. With one child still at home and the others coming home from school in the middle of the afternoon, Johnson said time management is another important skill.
“I did nine cakes one week,” she said. “I used to deliver them all, but I just can’t do that anymore. They pick them up, except for something like the carousel cake or if they specifically need me to deliver.”
“It is all strategic planning and planning out my week and knowing how much time this takes and how much that takes. Making the cake part, that is easy. I have eight to 10 recipes. That is mindless stuff for me now. When it comes to the design, that is going to take more time.”
Most of Johnson’s business comes from birthday cakes, with some wedding cakes and a growing business in small cakes for 1-year-olds.
“I have done five-tier wedding cakes before,” she said. “I get a lot of orders for smash cakes. I work with a lot of photographers on 1-year-olds’ birthday parties.”
Johnson said she might move her business out of her kitchen someday, but she does not want to grow to the point where quality suffers.
“It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” Johnson said. “I make everything from scratch. I want that to be my focus. The quality of my work.”
She said the most important thing to her is making her customers happy.
“Some of the thank-yous I have gotten back from people, that is the highlight of my career,” she said. “I had this one lady I will never forget. She said ‘I have been dreaming of your cake. I have been waiting for something special to come up so I could order one, but nothing did. Will you just make me a cake? I’m craving it.’ That really put a smile on my face.”