Kathleen Meisinger created the CakeVase and founded Kathleen's Cakes in Shorewood, Wisconsin in 2000.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I am marketing and selling CakeVase, a cake decorating tool I invented.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I started decorating cakes as a hobby before I found sugar crafting (making flowers from sugar dough) which became my passion and focus. Installing a state certified kitchen in my basement allowed me to work with clients who were hosting events at restaurants and country clubs. I could work anytime it was convenient and my kids could go on deliveries with me. CakeVase changed how I work. I now spend my time marketing and managing sales. I only bake when I need to create samples and idea photos. It is much easier to market and place orders than it was to physically create each and every specialty cake.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was working in restaurants and being a Mom. I decorated cakes professionally out of my home before CakeVase came to life.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Do something you love and then narrow down your focus and become a specialist and expert at that one thing.
For others who are thinking of starting a business in their home, could you tell us about the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Working out of the home requires self-discipline. Staying on task, focused and organized are key skills in coping with home life crossover and loneliness. The best part of working out of my home is that I can work around my kid's schedules.
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
I work with my husband who is an attorney. His legal skills have saved us untold thousands of dollars on negotiating contracts and patent applications. His early approach to finances was much more conservative than mine but once we reached the point of no return we both had the same focus and drive to make CakeVase a success. It is definitely more fun to share success than to do it alone.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
Don't tell anyone your idea until you are so far into it you can't turn back. Too many people will offer negative comments and useless suggestions. Being a woman is an asset because many people underestimate your drive and abilities.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow CakeVase?
Attending relevant and specific tradeshows is key to direct contact with the buyer can increase yearly sales dramatically. I find that defining your market and then pursuing television, print and internet media (bloggers) is key in word of mouth marketing. I may not be able to afford a big splash advertising campaign but I can send beautifully packaged product samples to every magazine editor, television producer and social internet writer in the U.S.
Sounds like a beautiful plan, Kathleen! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your experiences with other entrepreneurs.