Home Baker on Balancing Her Career and Side-Hustle
Uriah Liwanag is an avid home baker and the founder of Joy’s Cakes and Sweets, where she whips up one-of-a-kind cakes that taste like a slice of heaven. From fan favorites like red velvet to the exotic “ube” purple yam, Uriah is bold and creative when it comes to baking. Uriah shares her story and reveals exactly how she juggles between working full-time as an IT analyst and running a full-fledged home bakery.
Location: Toronto, Canada
How did you get started with your home bakery?
I have always dreamt about becoming a pastry chef. Unfortunately, my family couldn’t afford pastry school expenses. Instead, my parents encouraged me to go for the second thing that I wanted to do and once my career was established, I could study pastry making.
Even though I didn’t pursue pastry school, I still baked cakes and other treats now and then. Fast forward to Thanksgiving of 2016, my mom and I were planning our Thanksgiving celebration. She asked me to make a Fall-themed cake. Almost instantly, everyone fell in love with the cake and it was gone in minutes! They all loved the taste and said it would be a good cake recipe to sell. They were incredibly encouraging of my baking and wanted me to make more treats. That’s when it hit me – I could start making cakes to sell. That same day, I registered my business name, bought my domain, registered for a website host, and contacted my cousin to make me a logo. It was a spur of the moment decision for me, but it was something I wanted to do for so long.
You work full-time and run a home bakery on the side. Tell us your secret to juggling it all.
The secret is PASSION. Baking something that I’ve always dreamed of doing and now that I have the chance to do it, I enjoy every minute of it. I’m so inspired that I will even get a recipe or cake decorating ideas when I’m in the office. Baking doesn’t feel like work to me. To be honest, I find it more of a stress reliever after a long day at work. Also, good scheduling is key. I ask my clients to provide a 3-week notice so that I can plan around my busy schedule. This gives me an overview of my orders and prevents over-booking.
How did you build your professional credibility as a home baker? How did you build your client base?
I started making cakes for my family and friends. I’m so grateful for them because they’re the ones who have supported me from the very beginning. They’ve constantly ordered from me and refer me to their friends and co-workers.
I also took every chance I got to volunteer to make desserts for church events. This allowed me to practice my craft more and share it with others. As a home baker, the best advertisement for me is through word of mouth.
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What lessons did you have to learn in the early days of your business? How did you learn them?
The first one I can think of is social media management. If you look at my personal Instagram account, I’m not consistent in posting photos. I post whatever I want, and I don’t care who sees my posts (or not).
Starting a business in today’s digital age, I think it’s important to learn how to promote your business on social media. I wouldn’t consider myself a pro; in fact, I’m still learning every day. I listen to podcasts, attend webinars, and try putting a new spin on my posts.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start their own business?
Pray and think about it. These are some of the questions that I asked myself before starting my business.
- Is this something that you see yourself doing for a long time?
- Are you willing to sacrifice your time, energy, and money on this?
- Does this business align with my skills, passion, and experience?
It’s good to discuss all these things with someone who you trust and has business experience. I’m blessed enough to have parents who have their own business and could share their expertise with me.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Make more friends. Real friends, not just acquaintances. It’s funny but it’s true.
Friends help and support each other. The more friends you have, the bigger your support group is. This applies to both business and life. It took me some time to appreciate the importance of having REAL friends. They will also be the ones who are honest with you, which can be extremely helpful when it comes to building a brand.
What’s next for you and your bakery?
I love being a home baker, but I am hoping to take this business to the next level. I would love to have my brick and mortar store soon. A business that can provide enough financial stability so that I can devote my full attention to it.
Rapid Fire Questions
“Your passion is waiting for your courage to catch up.” – Isabelle Lafleche
What’s your must-have kitchen gadget?
Definitely the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer! I don’t know what I’d do without it.
Worst baking failure?
My matcha macarons turned into flat chewy matcha disks, and my brother brought it to a church dinner event. Whoops!
Do you have a favorite cookbook?
What happens to all your leftover cake scraps?
Nothing goes to waste! My family and friends eat them.