Boss Talk with the “Beyonce” of Baking: Jordyn Gaines

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I had the luxury of sitting down with one of Chicago’s biggest tastemakers (both literally and figuratively) this past week. Jordyn Gaines is the owner of JordyCakes, a booming Chicago land area cake (and cupcake) boutique.

Besides being the ultimate #girlboss of the century starting her own business at the tender age of 16, I learned Jordyn is wicked cool, super artistic, and downright hilarious.

unnamed-2HerStyle Media: Who are some of your favorite people to bake cakes for?

Jordyn: “I love baking cakes for new mothers or for baby showers. I have this theory that their babies will automatically be cute.”

HerStyle Media: What are some of the biggest names you’ve baked cakes for?

Jordyn: “I’ve made cakes for Dwayne Wade, Common, Steve Harvey, OJ Mayo, Chaka Khan, T.I., and New Edition.”

HerStyle Media: I know you said you taught yourself in high school to bake starting at age 16, but how did you learn more intricate design and more detailing of cakes, or did you teach yourself on your own?

Jordyn: “Yeah. I did that all on my own. I used to be able to just look at a cake and be able to make it. You know the internet teaches you everything. You have makeup artists that learn stuff from just using Youtube; it’s the same thing.”

HerStyle Media: What did your parents think when you started creating cakes?

Jordyn: “My parents were both supportive. The issues came when I said I wanted to leave school to do it. I was in my freshman year of college, had come home and written a five page paper for why I wanted to stay home. My entire family was there. (Whenever something goes on, it’s a family affair).

My mom had written a rebuttal to my paper, which she presented in power point. My family basically said ‘We don’t want you to leave school for a hobby’. So I told them just give me a year; if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to school. And I haven’t gone back since, so I guess it’s working.”

HerStyle Media: When did this go from, ‘okay this is a hobby; I like baking’ to ‘okay this is a business I can make some money’?

Jordyn: “I would say before I went away to college. I started baking cakes at 16 and at first just my family was buying them, but then other people started wanting to buy them as well. When I was away at school I remember thinking, ‘Why am I a broke college student? I have like 20 cake orders waiting for me back at home right now.’ So my second semester I knew I was going to be returning home, and staying home. With that in mind, I pretty much failed (and by “failed”, she means got C’s and D’s because they weren’t allowed to bring home F’s) every class I took. I mean I had to make them take me seriously!”

HerStyle Media: I can’t imagine seeing what it has grown into, that this is just something you do on your own. Since starting your business have you hired workers, or does your family help with different steps of the cake making process?

Jordyn: “Yeah, my mom works for me, and she gets paid by me. We meet every Monday with the “board of JordyCakes,” but it’s my family so it’s lame. Outside of my family I’ve hired four employees, and two are in high school. They call themselves ‘jaristas’ (check out Jordy Jars); it’s so cute!”

unnamed-4HerStyle Media: Have there ever been any times when you have doubted yourself and your vision?

Jordyn: When JordyCakes left my mom’s kitchen I was scared. You know my mom’s living room alone was like a bakery. At the time, another baker had reported to the Village of Homewood that I was baking and selling goods from my house, and you aren’t allowed to do that. So the Village of Homewood said if you don’t stop selling cakes from your house, we can shut down your business for up to five years.  I was only 20 years old; I had only $3000 saved up. We found a place that following week but I only had enough for the first and last month’s rent; I didn’t have any money for equipment. So I created a Kickstarter and my goal was to make $10,000, but I ended up making $16,000 in twenty days. I had a lot of people supporting me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. If this didn’t work out, it wasn’t just on me.

I’m also really sensitive so if someone doesn’t like their cake, I cry; but those are few and far between.”

HerStyle Media: How does a women at such a young age decide ‘Okay, I am going to create a business’; what was your mindset at the time?

Jordyn: My mom always taught us to be our own boss. My brother started selling shirts and had his own website when he was just 13 years old. She instilled it in us to be entrepreneurs. I had been working at a bakery for two months, but when I decided I wanted to do my own thing I left. Their cakes were never the same after I was gone.”

HerStyle Media: You said at 16 you officially started your own business. What were your friends doing? What did they make of you?

Jordyn: “I didn’t have friends in high school because I was bullied. I quit the cheerleading team; it was bad. My mom was like, ‘They don’t like you because your hair is long.’ I remember I would bring cupcakes to school, because you know everybody likes cupcakes, and people would ask me if they could eat one and I’d just be like, ‘No, you don’t even like me.’”

HerStyle Media: Do you ever feel like because you are so young and already have this business, or had a business at such a young age, that you ever missed out on anything?

Jordyn: “I felt like I missed out more so on college than in high school. I would have liked to have been able to pledge, but other than that I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I knew my second semester of freshman year I wouldn’t be coming back, so I went all out. I got like four tattoos! And I met my husband.”

HerStyle Media: Oh wow. (Laughter) When you started baking at 16, did you ever imagine it would become this?

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Jordyn: “No. I always wanted a little cupcake shop, and now I don’t even like baking cupcakes. I never thought I’d have employees. Every time I reach a goal, it’s like now what? I never imagined my stuff being sold at O’Hare, or on a national level but it is.”

HerStyle Media: Where do you want to see your business go?

Jordyn: I really want to open another location, but before that I want to get a food truck and sell cakes at events like the Chicago Blues Festival. I also want to retire at 30.”

HerStyle Media: Do you have other things/passions that you want to pursue or just baking?

Jordyn: I want to go back to school and get my degree in teaching, and I want to be a cheerleading coach. Eventually, I just want to make cakes for baby showers and weddings and that’s it, and I want to have a shop downtown.”

HerStyle Media: How does it make you feel when you’re up baking a cake for someone for their special day?

Jordyn: “Very stressed. It’s not even that serious, but I get really stressed out. I have to make so many cakes on the weekend; it’s like an adrenaline rush. When I’m done making the cakes, my whole body starts to hurt. I like seeing people’s reactions. I have to like the cake I’m doing to be super excited, and I don’t like making boy cakes.”

HerStyle Media: I know you recently had a baby. How has everything changed since he was born?

Jordyn: “I just want to be with him all the time. I don’t even want to leave him with my mom. But I do have a playpen set up at the bakery. I was lucky to have an easy pregnancy. I gained only 11 pounds and he weighed like 6 so I pretty much lost all the weight a week after I delivered. A lot of people didn’t know I was pregnant; I didn’t start showing until I was 7 months. I wanted to keep it a secret and be like the “Beyoncé” of pregnancies so a lot of people didn’t even know I was pregnant until I had him.”

unnamed-3HerStyle Media: What’s your advice for young people who have a dream but may feel like they can’t achieve it whether it’s “I don’t have enough money” or “I don’t have enough connections” or “I don’t know enough”? What do you say to those people?

Jordyn: “You can be as good as you want to be in anything that you want to do. I don’t know anything about business, but I run a successful business. I made $150,000 my first year, but I broke even, spending about $140,000. Usually businesses lose money in their first year. I knew a bakery that lost $50,000 in its first year. The advantage of being young is that we still have wiggle room. I’m not spending my life savings so if I lose money, I’m not losing my life savings. We’re more resilient.

I would also say use social media to your advantage! We live in a social era so I don’t have to pay for anything; I can get 90% of my advertising from IG for free.”

HerStyle Media: What is your definition of a boss?

Jordyn: They know what they want and they aren’t afraid to sacrifice to get it. So me not going out is I guess what makes me different from the next 21 year old.

I don’t micromanage; I’m in there at the bakery with my people. Your brand is a reflection of you. If something goes wrong you can’t just say ‘That was my employee, not me.’ So I’m in there with them making sure every frosting detail is to perfection.”

 

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JordyCakes Boutique is located at 4015 175th St. Country Club Hills, IL 60478. I’m definitely going to be ordering red velvet Jordy Jar in the near future!

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Akanimoh Ekong studies creative writing at the University of Illinois, with special interests in women's issues as they relate to sexuality and race. She previously has written “Girlfriends” column for Buzz magazine. Akanimoh believes the art of fashion should be the utmost form of self-expression. She dually enjoys blogging on issues pertaining to fashion and pop culture news.

1 Comment

  1. Claudia

    March 2, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    What a lovely, down to earth gal. She’s doing so well for herself and it really gives a meaning to following your heart. xx

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