Before I was a mom of any kind, let alone a SpitfireMom, I was a bride-to-be planning a Chicago wedding. We were committed to working with small business owners in the city we loved. One afternoon we went to meet with Amy, owner and tiered-confection mastermind behind Amy Beck Cake Design. As we talked and tasted, we knew we wanted to work with Amy. Not only were her cakes the best we tasted (and I made sure we were aggressive in our testing) but I loved that her daughter was there playing in the shop. As I went out on my own, married & as a mama, Amy has been a model of the SpitfireMom approach to me. Authentic, warm, creative, and family friendly.
And our cake? Perfection. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting and beautiful teal and blue flowers on branches dusted in gold (check it out on the bottom right of the collage!). We’re not alone in our assessment. Amy’s work has received Best of The Knot and WeddingWire‘s Bride’s Choice Awards year after year after year.
Amy opened Amy Beck Cake Design in downtown Chicago in 2006, and part of the logic of opening her own shop was the flexibility of bringing her kids to work with her. All the things that needed to be done with newborns and kids (doctors appointments, kids being sick, nursing…) made more sense if she was working on her own.
Amy’s in studio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and she’s had a baby with her at the shop (or been pregnant) since about July of 2007. Her son (their third child) just started daycare in October. When the kids are at the shop, they basically play with everything, which can lead to some mischief. A Beck family tale is that, while in the middle of a tasting, Amy noticed her daughter Matilda was being way too quiet. When Amy went to go check on her, Matilda was covered in blue food coloring. Her son Andrew loved to stack everything and then play with his cars and trucks on all the fondant buckets. Amy has a play yard and toys set up for them, but the toys of choice are always cake tools.
Here’s what Amy had to say about being a SpitfireMom.
How does being a mom influence your work?
I am never chronically late. But having three kids and a shop makes for a very busy lady! I never want to blame my children for being late so I am constantly in a hurry and telling them to “hurry up” so that we are not too late.
At the same time, they also slow me down in a good way. Having children is a great thing for me because otherwise I would work day and night. I will be honest, I love my job. And if I had nothing better to do, I would do it all the time! But having kids makes me want to be at home and spend time with them. I try to be as efficient as possible when I am at work, so that I take less home with me. I am working right now on hiring a Manager. I do not want to pull myself off the business, but I need to reduce the number of hours that I wind up working at home.
And, the best part about kids and cakes? Having kids helps me with my cakes. We do a significant number of birthday cakes and I always ask my kids what they would like in their cake. That helps me to design great birthday cakes for clients. I also test plenty of new flavors on them. They loved it when the cake pop craze came. I was trying out all different flavors and they were my little taste testers.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
My clients definitely know there are kids at our house, and at my shop! For six years, I had a play yard filled with age-appropriate toys, a high chair, and other toys lying around my shop. Most of my clients love to see my little ones, especially when a Mother of the Bride itching for a grandbaby would come in. Most of the time, they would let me work with the bride and they would hold and entertain the baby (not that I asked them to!). Andrew, my youngest, was not shy at all. If there was a tasting going on, he would just jump up and sit on the tasting table and grunt until he got a piece of cake.
I honestly do not think I have ever had someone visually upset because my baby was there. At the same time, I do think that I have great well-behaved kids, so usually they were not a problem. Since they are gone now at school, I will probably put more pictures of them up!
We know a SpitfireMom like Amy has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:
I have mastered the art of multitasking, like every Mom for sure. I have always tried to combine ordinary tasks with fun tasks. Even eating breakfast, the kids will eat their breakfast while I make lunches right across the island. That way I can really talk with them, but still get their lunches packed.
I always work at my dining room table and there is a nice little “desk” underneath the table. Ever since my first was big enough to move around, that is what they gravitate towards. So I can actually work but also play with them.
I try to make the mundane things that need to get done a little more fun. We spend a considerable amount of time in the car. I spend that time talking with them about school, what they are learning, any issues they have. We also have a lot of singing time! Even things like changing diapers…it has to be done, but I do not really rush through it. A lot of times this turns into tackle time or reading a book time.
The best thing we did was to move our laundry room from the mudroom and put it in a little room off our bedroom. I used to have to get all my laundry done in one day. Now, miraculously, I shut the door and the laundry can stay there (and out of the way) for a few more days.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
One day-to-day thing I’ve been thinking about is that I need to figure out a way to get my kids to more playdates. We do not have tons of kids in our neighborhood; I have to make time for that.
On a bigger scale, I have not figured out how to not be constantly overwhelmed. I always feel stressed out. I can say I am finally getting to the point where I can let stuff go.
What I have figured out is that I cannot do it all. I will never be the Mom who brings in favor bags for Halloween. I will never be the Mom to take their kids to every single birthday party that they get invited to. I have definitely learned to say no, when appropriate.
But, my kids have good meals, they dress really nice, we have lots of fun, we go to cool places, we have Mommy and kids time. And, I will bring in awesome cupcakes for the Christmas party!
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Amy says:
Well, one part of me would tell her to not do it all at once and there are definitely days I’d say don’t do it at all (the shop, not the baby!).
But the other part would tell her to absolutely do it, but to be smart about it. Set limitations for herself. Don’t go too big too fast. And, try to enjoy the baby phase, as it goes way too fast.
Amy, thank you for being a role model before I knew I was looking for one! You’re a trailblazin’, cake-makin’ Spitfire and we’re glad to have you in the Society.
Julie & Heidi
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