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Macarons, truffles, chocolate-covered Oreos, cake gems, cotton candy cakes, oh my! Take your pick because we just can't decide! Jenna Rae and Ashley Nicole of Jenna Rae Cakes have thought about every detail when it comes to delectable desserts! Meet the sisters who are the dream team when it comes to running a successful bakery that has turned into an Internet sensation! Learn how these lovely ladies turned their talents and passion into a well-known beautiful brand and business!
Hi, Jenna + Ashley. Please introduce yourselves. How did you start your magical bakery?
Jenna: Hi! We are twin sisters and best friends, and we always dreamed of working together one day. We just had no clue how it would happen! I decorated my first cake in 2009 in the apartment Ashley, and I shared with her boyfriend, Trev (now her husband and our Storefront Manager). I had a knack for it, so I kept at it. I YouTubed and Googled everything and anything I could about cake decorating tips, techniques, and recipes. I posted pictures of cakes that I had made for friends on Facebook, and I continued to get orders from friends, then friends of friends, and then complete strangers. When I got really busy, I rented a commercial kitchen space to bake and decorate my cakes between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am. I was a server during the day so, needless to say, I didn't get much sleep! There came the point where I was running myself completely ragged, so I decided I needed to make a decision to either quit cake decorating to focus on school and become a dentist or to pursue cake decorating full time and open a bakery with a storefront to pay the rent. I couldn't imagine not making cakes, so it was a pretty easy decision, despite how daunting it was. In March of 2014, I opened the doors of Jenna Rae Cakes! Ashley: And by May of 2014, I had joined her as co-owner! The shop had gotten so busy so quickly that we realized we had a business with a lot of potential on our hands. What had started as a storefront to "pay the rent" had turned into a very busy bakery, so we started to rethink the initial business plan and have been perfecting it ever since (aka taking it day by day!).
"I posted pictures of cakes I made for friends on Facebook & I continued to get orders from friends, then friends of friends,
& then complete strangers."
It must be so fun to work with your sister! Tell us about each of your individual roles in the business.
Jenna: It really is. Working together has been an integral part of our success! My motto has always been "I just want to make cakes!". I do some admin duties as well, but the majority of my time is spent taking custom orders via email, and baking/designing cakes – and I wouldn't have it any other way! There are a ton of late nights involved as I design all of the cakes myself. I just pulled an all-nighter this past weekend to finish a large custom carved cake that included a shoe, a two-tier globe, an edible watch, and a HUGE bible. Creating custom cakes is so fun because each one is so different. Ashley: I agree with Jen in that working together lead to our success. I always tell people that you need a "Jenna" to start a business, and she will tell people that you need an "Ashley." Jenna's cake talents are insane, and we make sure that she has time to dedicate to her passion. I manage the business (orders, staffing, company growth and future planning, etc.), social media, and do all of the design/branding work. I just had a baby in October, so my role has shifted from being at the store all the time to working mainly from home during Leo's nap time and in the evenings. Being a working mom is tough, there is that constant feeling of "I'm not doing enough"! I can get a ton of work done on my phone, and I have a very competent and organized staff, so I feel thankful for that.
Your branding is perfection. How would you describe your style? What is the inspiration behind your branding and bakery?
Ashley: Thank you! I started the branding for Jenna Rae Cakes way before the storefront even existed, back when Jenna first started baking cakes for friends and family. We're pretty lucky that I am a graphic designer and was able to create the brand from the ground up. I would describe our overall style as clean, ornate, fun and polished. Do those words go together? Not really! But it's a combination of those that work for us. When we first opened the bakery, we collected a lot of interior design inspiration, but not much else. We're thankful that we were able to approach JRC as a completely blank slate – no previous misconceptions of what a bakery "needed" to be. Jenna: We started off with a menu that filled a gap in our industry, both locally and internationally. Our menu was also quite different than a standard bakery menu at the time because we based it on what we could bake ourselves! My sisters and I were the only employees for the first year. We are self-trained bakers and had no formal experience. Luckily, we mastered macarons pretty early on (after A LOT of trial and error), and they still remain our best seller (and we will be shipping them very soon!). We now have a team of skilled and creative bakers who we work with to perfect recipes, create new signature items, and to keep pushing our flavor combinations!
We're obsessed with your Instagram. Your Insta Stories takes the cake as well! Walk us through your process of coming up with creative concepts, shooting content, and posting.
Ashley: I am a graphic designer and photo stylist by trade, and I worked in the wedding industry for a few years before teaming up with Jenna. I've always been a very visual person, and my love for styling and design have played a huge role in how we market ourselves online. Although it's very mainstream now, when we first created our account on Instagram, there weren't any bakeries that we knew of who were marketing their daily menu items. We would post a pretty image of a new flavor we were trying out that day, and within a few hours, that item would sell out. Instagram has been an integral tool for us since we opened our doors! We've always made sure to dedicate time and resources to our social media; it's such an important extension of our brand! I typically take most of my photos in the morning, when the natural light is best. For shooting, I use my iPhone 7 Plus 95% of the time and edit photos in Afterlight. PLANOLY has been a lifesaver (and HUGE time saver) when it comes to scheduling - I'm a bit obsessive over our "grid"... it always has to look balanced.
"Planoly has been a lifesaver. I'm a bit obsessive over our "grid"
[as] it always has to look balanced."
What are your top three tips on shooting and planning content for Instagram grid and Stories?
- Devote time and money. If you don't have a designer/stylist on staff, think about taking beginner photography/styling workshops, or about hiring a social media consultant.
- Develop your own style and continue to evolve that style.
- Stay organized! I organize my photos into folders on my phone (currently sitting at 23,049... ) so that I can easily find what I'm looking for.
You obviously work very hard to slay the bakery game, but what else do you think has made you so successful?
Ashley: Our constant need to create and perfect. It drives everything we do - from creative tasks to mundane/administrative tasks. You also have to have confidence in what you can do. Jenna started this business out of pure passion for cake decorating, and because she knew she was talented enough to turn it into her career.
What advice do you have for aspiring bakers out there?
Work hard to find your own voice, and perfect something that makes you stand out. It's a very saturated and competitive industry, but also a supportive and creative one!