Over the past several years, we’ve been lucky enough to feature many sumptuous recipes by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle Et Vanille, the food blog covering nostalgic edible creations of the Basque Country expat herself. Aran descends from a family of pastry chefs, and the sweet, earthy notes in cinnamon and vanilla are strong reminders of a happy childhood. It was only after studying business and economics that Aran began her career in baking, food styling, and photography, and authored the cookbook Small Plates & Sweet Treats.
Now a mother of two with a busy freelance practice, the celebrated food writer, stylist, and photographer admits that an ideal work-life balance is hard to establish, and during busy seasons her personal life must acquiesce. She maintains that finding consulting “work comes from talent, but also how well you are interconnected and your reputation as a person.” And despite having received an MBA, her activity around food developed as a passion first and a business second, when the personal nature of her blog attracted clients and burgeoning business began. In addition to maintaining her website, which functions as a journal of “recipes, travels, and life stories,” Aran was a James Beard Award finalist twice over in 2012 and 2013. Practical business experience and a lifelong appetite for beautiful, homemade food are a highly recommended pairing. —Annie
Portrait by Dorothee Brand
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I never thought I would actually be a business owner. It really did happen organically. I started blogging for myself, but in that process I started working as a freelancer and then finally incorporated and thought “Well, I suppose I own a business.” But it still feels very much organic.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what it would be?
It has been a very natural progression and evolution. I never sat down and said, “This is my business plan and I am sticking with it,” although I probably should. I started developing recipes, styling and photographing food, and that has been the constant throughout.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when starting off?
I don’t think this necessarily applies only to business, but one of the biggest pieces of advice and lessons has been not to burn any bridges and to really treat everyone well. As a freelancer, personal relations and contacts are everything. Work comes from talent, but also how well you are interconnected and your reputation as a person.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Doing so many different things at once. There is so much that goes into it. First it’s the actual work, but then there are communications, finances, maintenance of any physical space such as studio and equipment, marketing, and also paying attention to what is coming. It can be very overwhelming to run all these aspects and I still do it all myself. When I have a big project I hire a crew, but I run the business all by myself.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
That I need to be a better delegator. I am still working on that.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience?
The truth is I haven’t had many big failures. Sure, there is actual work that makes me cringe a bit, but if we are speaking solely of the business part, I have grown slowly and comfortably. Lean and flexible. Those are important qualities for a business.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
Running a business takes energy away from personal and social time. There really isn’t such a thing as balance, and as a mother of two children I feel this every day. When work is thriving I am probably abandoning aspects of my personal and family time, and vice versa.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experience?
I am humble, but so many wonderful things have happened to me ever since I started my business. I have been a finalist for two James Beard Awards and that is a dream come true even if I have never won. Also, writing and photographing my own cookbook was a personal success. Truly, meeting so many amazing people feels like a success. And I still remember the first time I was featured on Design*Sponge. That was a big day for me!
Which books and resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
You know, I actually went to university and I have a MBA and I couldn’t even tell you any of the books I read in school that have been influential in my work. I suppose, subconsciously, that education and time in school has shaped me, but I actually think doing the work and meeting other business owners is the best thing ever.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses so you can get help in those areas in which you are not as strong.
2. Start your business as small as possible with just the right resources in place, and then grow slowly. You need to be flexible.
3. Have 80% output and 20% input, meaning, leave that 20% of your time to learn and gather ideas.
Photography by Aran Goyoaga