Jzabela De Paz lives in Langley, BC and is the founder, owner and operator of The Cake Mama, an at-home baking company. After falling in love with baking as a hobby, Jzabela put her passion to the test, launching her brand into business.
The Cake Mama sells custom cakes for all occasions, but also makes sugar cookies, macarons, cake pops, meringues and chocolates. Yes, we’re also salivating. This behaviour is totally normal.
After living in Vancouver for a number of years, Jzabela moved to Langley and has learned to love the small-town charm the city has to offer. She says the best parts about living in Langley are the beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies and the open, undeveloped spaces.
Here is Jzabela’s story:
1. You have been baking since 2005, when your first child was born. What provoked you to start baking?
I have always loved baking ever since I was little. My mom always baked our birthday cakes and made treats for special occasions. Fast forward to 2005, I started baking with a friend, Sara, who comes from a very big Italian family. She was always baking someone’s wedding cake! When my older sister got married, I reached out to her to make her cake with me. It was the beginning of my passion of creating something special for someone else to enjoy!
2. Do you remember the first item you baked?
One that I can recall was a castle themed birthday cake. It was two-tiered and the exterior was cobblestone and had many many details. Sara and I LITERALLY pulled an all nighter to complete this cake. We realized in the midst of this that we horrendously undercharged for this cake considering the time it took to complete it! it was a learning curve for sure and fortunately the cake turned out great! (Phew!)
3. Right now, what would you say is your favourite type of cake or dessert to make?
Right now, I’m on a sugar cookie kick. There is something really therapeutic about planning out a design, piping it out and seeing your vision come to life. It is time consuming but I guess when you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work!
4. Do you have a least favourite dessert to bake? What is it? Why do you think this is so?
I’d hate to say it, but macarons are my least favourite to bake. I love them, but they are so temperamental! It has taken me months to perfect a recipe and even then the slightest misstep can cause your macarons to become a disaster. It truly is a labour of love!
5. You launched The Cake Mama on your 30th birthday – what year was this?
Yes! I launched it in 2012. After a long hiatus from baking due to other commitments in life, I decided that I still wanted to have that creative outlet that I enjoy so much.
6. How did you launch The Cake Mama brand?
I announced the inception of The Cake Mama via social media. Being that it is a home based venture, I didn’t have the necessary connections to put together an event and frankly, my branding and business plan was very basic. Four years ago, I just thought it would be something I would do here and there. I totally would have an event now though! (Maybe for my five year anniversary!)
7. In The Cake Mama’s first year online, what did your success look like?
In my first year, I was really overwhelmed. I am truly blessed to have the support from my family and friends that spread the word that I did custom cakes and desserts and so that kept me busy!
8. What is the most challenging part about owning and operating your own baking brand?
I think the challenging part is to stay [up to date] with trends. Just like everything else out there, baking and desserts have trends and it’s really important to ensure your skills are where they need to be in order to execute what people want. Another challenge is deciding what it is you want to bake and either sticking to a group of things or a rainbow of things.
Most recently, I made the decision to stop making cakes specifically for weddings. I love making wedding cakes, but the time and pressure to strive for perfection just became too much. I am much happier after making that decision!
9. What has the best part of this journey been?
Ok, there have been two great parts of this journey. The first would be that overwhelming feeling of happiness when a client comes to pick up their order and they’re beaming because they love it so much. That alone makes all the long hours worth it.
The second would be all of the new friends I have made in the handmade and home-based industry. It’s wonderful to have people to reach out to and be a sounding board for you.
10. You’re a mother of three! How old are your kids? What do you hope your passion for The Cake Mama shows your kids as they grow?
Yes! I have two daughters aged 10 and six and a little boy who’s 10-months-old. I hope that my passion for The Cake Mama shows that with hard work and determination, you really can live out your dreams. I hope [my kids] learn that nothing comes easy and that it takes patience and sometimes sacrifice to get what you want in life.
11. On an average day, how long would you say you spend in the kitchen baking?
I probably spend about three to six hours depending on what it is that I’m working on.
12. How many clients do you prepare baked goods for on a weekly basis?
Right now it’s a little quiet, but only because I’ve made it so. I’ve got some other projects on the go that are The Cake Mama related but [they have] taken me away from doing custom orders. On average, I book about three to four clients per week.
13. The Cake Mama also hosts cookie decorating workshops. When did you host your first workshop?
I hosted my first workshop two years ago. I did one for Easter cookies and another for Christmas cookies.
14. How many guests attend the workshops, on average?
I have been blessed to have a sold out workshop every time I have hosted one. I set the maximum of guests to 15 people, because I…give each person some one on one time if they [need] it.
15. Are you a one-woman army? Is there anyone who helps you with baking, web updates, markets, workshop hosting, etc?
When it comes to my baking, I am a one woman show. I will say there have been times where my husband has put or pulled something from the oven for me, (haha), but that’s about it. The social media, website and blog updates I also do myself. I like to think I have a knack for telling my “visual story” through social media, so that’s a hard job to pass on to someone else.
My sister has been a very big help with markets. She has “manned” my booth and helped merchandise my product. This year’s cookie workshops have been hosted at Essential Packaging in Surrey. They have graciously offered up their store after hours so that I can do my thing there!
A good friend of mine and business partner Tracy of Vancity Makers (another venture that keeps me busy!) has been kind to be my wingman at my cookie workshops as well.
Vancity Makers is intended to be a hub for those in the handmade community to come together to be inspired, collaborate and learn from one another. We have successfully put together two events and have a market in December 2016.
16. As with any creative endeavour, finding inspiration is key to stay motivated! Where do you turn to stay alert and upbeat?
I draw to Instagram a lot and scroll through [the profiles of] all of my favourite bakers from around the world. I am mostly inspired by a lot of bakers in Australia. They are all about making statements with their desserts! I try to take pieces of what I see and incorporate my interpretation into my work.
17. Who would you say is your biggest support?
My biggest support is undeniably my husband. He has been on my side throughout this entire journey. From moments where I thought I’d had enough and wanted to throw this all away, to moments of absolute triumph and getting opportunities to work with really amazing people. He knows how much I love baking and that sometimes translates into sacrifices that the whole family has to make because their mom is busy. I am forever grateful that my husband and kids have such patience! Or maybe they’re just used to it by now, haha.
18. As a mom of three and a business owner – what advice do you have for other parents looking to jumpstart their own brand?
My advice would be to take the time and seek out what it is you really love to do. Too often I see parents trying to take the “easy way out” and join businesses that are home-based but don’t represent themselves as who they are and what they are passionate about.
Some are great storytellers that should have a blog, others can knit or sew or create works of art! Everyone is good at something, you just have to find it! From there, I strongly suggest finding someone who can create a great logo. Take social media courses online to understand how you can promote yourself. Create a website with good content. Image is everything and your audience can pick up really quickly if you have what it takes to become successful.
19. Further to that, you must be quite the time management pro! What is your favourite time management method? Why?
I would be lying if I said I had some kind of legitimate method. [Using] my planner is something I strive to do daily (doesn’t always happen) and I make it point to update the family calendar on the fridge and share on our phone [calendars].
Sometimes, the scheduling works, but as a mom of three, the plans can go out the window. This means that I occasionally work late into the evening to finish up a project, but I try to make a point not to do that.
20. What is next for The Cake Mama?
I hope to see The Cake Mama grow into a storefront someday so I intend to work very hard to get there. For now, I am currently working on my brand presence at [upcoming] markets. I really want people to get The Cake Mama “experience” whenever I pop up somewhere. I’m really excited about how it’s all going to look!
Keep up to date with Jzabela’s journey by following her on Instagram and liking The Cake Mama’s Facebook page.