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Life & Business

Life & Business: Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes

by Grace Bonney

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We’ve been fortunate to share not one but two delicious recipes from Grandbaby Cakes, Jocelyn Delk Adams’ beloved food blog. As a southerner, I prefer my desserts in the “decadent” category. No skimping on the sugar or cream, please. Jocelyn’s blog has been one of my favorite places to go for homemade dessert ideas that run the gamut from gooey brownies and soft pillowy cakes to breads and tarts (none of which last long in my house). As much as I love her blog, I’m thrilled to now have a copy of her first cookbook, Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories, in my hands and on the kitchen counter. It’s full of the one main ingredient that I think is crucial to any great baking: family. Most of Jocelyn’s recipes come with a personal story or connection to the incredible people in her extended family and even though they’re not my relatives, you feel welcomed into her home and life in a way that not all cookbooks achieve. We’re sharing my favorite poundcake recipe from her book tomorrow (Cinnamon Roll Poundcake!) but today I wanted to get to know Jocelyn a little better and hear more about the process behind her work and how she got where she is today. Enjoy! xo, grace

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Image above: Jocelyn with her family.

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

I honestly think I was built this way if that makes any sense. Though there are many skills you must learn when you work for yourself, the entrepreneurial spirit is something you either have or you don’t. I knew it very early on in my career that working for others just wasn’t a good fit for me. I needed creativity. I needed independence. I needed flexibility. I had a deep longing for fulfilling my passion which a 9 to 5 usually doesn’t allow for. And I’m an odd duck in a lot of ways that doesn’t quite confirm so creating my own path was key.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do?

Blogging is still sort of in its infancy stages in terms of being a field of work. Most pioneers in the food blogger world have only been doing it for 7 or 8 years, and I have been at it for almost 3 so I thought it was sort of intriguing to jump into something where there wasn’t a set precedent or benchmark for what it could be. It also meant that I could forge my own path and not necessarily copy or follow millions who came before me. I fell into blogging when a friend convinced me to try it as a hobby. The hobby turned into a calling that I couldn’t let go of.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

Work hard. The simplest advice is always the best. There are many blessings that I have received that so many people have chalked up to good luck, and I just don’t see it that way. I see it as a mix of divine intervention and a huge amount of hard work. At the end of the day, there is never a short cut.

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Image above: Jocelyn’s kitchen, where the magic happens.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Sacrifice. I liken starting a business to having a newborn. The transition from self-focus to business-focus can be a difficult one. I said no to many event invitations, vacations, new clothes and anything else that was on my immediate want list. My thinking became more about the big picture than immediate desires. Knowing I am setting myself up for something better in the future that feeds me in a much richer way has made all the difference.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

I’ve learned the power of relationships. Taking the time to build them before you need them is the most powerful lesson of all. You must be able to help your contacts as well. It’s all about give and take.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

I don’t think I’ve had one unique failure that I learned most from. It has been a combination of several so-called failures, rejections and outright “no’s” that has pushed me the hardest. They have also helped me to change my perspective. A “no” isn’t always a reflection of my work. Acceptance and success is very subjective. If anything, the dark moments have motivated me to be the absolute best version of myself and it has pushed me to put forth work that best reflects my personal vision. If I do those two things and I still don’t succeed, it never truly feels like failure.

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Image above: Jocelyn’s trusted baking tools and supplies.

If you were magically given 3 more hours per day, what would you do with them?

Ninety minutes would be for more sleep and the rest would be for a massage. A daily massage would be necessary.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

I sacrificed financial stability in the beginning. I took a risk and quit my job to focus on Grandbaby Cakes full-time, and I didn’t have a massive savings account like most experts would suggest. I just followed the advice of one of my favorite quotes: “Jump and the net will appear!”. Sometimes you just have to take a risk without thinking through every potential scenario of what “could” go wrong. I think that if you begin letting that inner voice take over with every possible doubt, you will never take the leap.

Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences?

Writing my first cookbook is seriously my biggest success (so far). The process completely took over my entire life last year. From the recipe development and photography to the writing, family photo gathering and communication with testers, I seriously almost lost my mind. Finally seeing it in print and especially in people’s hands has been the most fulfilling victory for me. I can’t think of a greater sense of pride I have felt.

What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

One I am loving right now is Marketing: A Love Story: How To Matter To Your Customers by Bernadette Jiwa which a friend recommended to me. So many times we entrepreneurs put so much effort into the creation of our products that our personal connection with customers goes by the wayside. My business is very much about building relationships. In fact, Grandbaby Cakes doesn’t exist without community. My brand is centered around bringing families together and passing forward traditions. It requires human connection in a way that many businesses do not. This book really resonated with me because of that factor.

Has failing at something or quitting ever lead to success for you? Walk us through that.

I mentioned earlier that I went out on a limb and quit my previous job to focus on Grandbaby Cakes full-time. Before I took the plunge, I found myself really going back and forth on whether I was making a sound decision. I am a risk taker by nature so I always leaned towards quitting but it can be hard to turn off the societal noise that constantly tells us that we shouldn’t make rash or impractical decisions as adults. Stepping into the unknown without a roadmap and leaving behind a steady paycheck and benefits was a very difficult decision but it was the right one. A very tough and long year later, I have almost doubled my previous gross income, and my business is just starting to take off. By next year, I will truly have my feet planted on much firmer ground, and I will be able to see my sacrifices paying off.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

I think one should consider the following:
○ Am I self motivated? Most people need another voice or person constantly pushing them to get things done. If you can’t come up with the inner push to get it done yourself, being an entrepreneur isn’t for you.
○ Can you take the heat? This means how thick skinned and tough are you really. Times get hard, money gets low, doubt takes over. Can you stick it out when things aren’t falling the way you imagined?
○ Are you obsessed with your vision? This needs a resounding yes as an answer. My obsession with Grandbaby Cakes drives me. That drive is rare but essential when you own a business.

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

My email is the first thing I open every morning without fail. I like to tackle any boomeranged items from the previous day that I didn’t get to first. Then I begin responding to new emails. I wish I could say I have a perfectly zeroed out inbox but that is certainly not the case. Instagram is a close second.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

The pressure. Momentum is a very tough thing to keep going, and everyone has expectations for you once you begin to succeed. People are watching your every move, and they can’t wait to see what you will do next. The expectations begin to weigh on you, and no one puts more pressure on me than me. Dealing with that pressure and rising above it is definitely the most difficult thing I deal with on a daily basis.

*You can pick up Jocelyn’s new cookbook online right here or here at IndieBound.

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Comments

  • I rarely read these articles in Design*Sponge as I am a writer not a baker and not “in business.” I feel lucky that the great photos drew me into reading about JOCELYN DELK ADAMS today. I will share some of her wisdom with my 28 year old son who often considers going into business for himself as an art/craft welder. She spoke with great wisdom and insight and honesty. Hurrah for her and her accomplishment with the cookbook, and for you, Grace, and Design*Sponge and your continued evolution and good work.

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