Rosanna Crame joined an accounting firm when she was 19. She started as a receptionist and gradually worked her way up to the Global Employment department, where she helped expats with their placement and taxes.
It was an impressive ascent, but Crame was not happy. “Every day was the same. There was not a lot of opportunity to be creative. In the 8, 10 hours that I spent there, the world wasn’t any better. I wasn’t making anything or really helping anybody. I didn’t feel inspired or excited about going to work.”
Crame thought back to what she had enjoyed doing most when she was younger, and she kept landing on cooking, baking and entertaining. “My Grandmother was an excellent cook and my Mum liked baking.” As the eldest of four children, Crame was expected to help out with dinners. “It never seemed like work. I loved cooking, setting the table, getting ready for guests. I was that dorky kid who, instead of playing outside with the other kids, was inside thinking about the best way to fold a particular napkin.”
In search of a more fulfilling career, Crame decided to take a Cake Decorating course at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. She thought she might even make her own wedding cake, but “we didn’t have one. We ended up getting married in Vegas.”
Pretty quickly, Rosanna was fielding orders from family and friends. “I did lots of freebies. I did an apple for a teacher; I did a boot. I said ‘yes’ to every cake opportunity that came up.” She worked at a nightclub to supplement her early cake income.
Over the last six years, Love Sugar Cakes has evolved, and Crame no longer has to work in coat check. “I do custom cakes and sugar cookies. I work out of a commercial kitchen downtown.” Rosanna enjoys the quiet of the custom order business. “When you are working in a retail store, you are constantly being interrupted. I love to be alone with a creative project.”
“I can be a bit of a loner,” says Crame. “I like to get lost in the details. I do like being social, but I also need that time alone to problem-solve. How am I going to get the ears to stand up? It’s a lot of in your head problem-solving.”
When the orders flow in – which they do – Crame brings in skilled workers to help her make dough and bake cookies. “But the shaping, the hand-piping, the wrapping, that is me.”
Crame is appreciative of the interest that Vancouverites show in shopping local and buying handmade. “It’s not always about getting the best deal. People want to know who made it, the story behind it.” She is also grateful to have repeat clients who trust her to run with a preliminary idea. “They will tell me the venue and give me a general idea of things that they like, but then they leave it to me.” Her celebrity clients are particularly interested in her naughty cakes!
Over the years, Crame has developed trusted partners with whom she collaborates. “Hilary Miles does amazing flowers. I love to go visit the girls and the dogs at her store.” The picture below is a Crame-Miles project.
Other frequent Love Sugar partners include Gloria at Flower Factory and the Serendipity and Fleur de Lis Event Planners. “We know we can trust each other.” Rosanna will go to Etsy for custom details. “Alia Waterfall from Lampshade Bash does all my cake toppers. She does an amazing job.”
Crame is also active in the world of food styling. She creates photogenic food for TV, Film, restaurant menus, sandwich boards and commercials. “It takes hours and hours to get it perfectly right. I made a four and a half foot toilet cake for Huggies.”
Crame is delighted with her decision to move out of accounting and into cakes. “I don’t have to ask for days off or if I can leave early. My entire goal was to do something that was creative, interesting and where I could have the freedom to call the shots in my own life.”
Crame’s ultimate satisfaction comes when she delivers a cake safely – “delivery is the most stressful thing!” – and the client is thrilled. “That feeling is so good.”
What insights would she offer to others who are building artisanal businesses?
1. Learn to say ‘no’
“When you stretch yourself too thin or take on too much, you might not be as happy with the work.”
2. Don’t charge too little for your work
“It will be too hard. You also set up unrealistic expectations and make it difficult for others working in the field.”
3. Be patient
“It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time to decide what you want your business to be or how you want it to feel or look. My business is still evolving.”
4. Try not to get too stressed
“I realize now that in the end things will work out. As stressful as it is at the moment, you get through it.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* Photos courtesy of Love Sugar Cakes