Monday, September 21, 2009

Gifted Hands Sculpt Unforgettable Cakes

Entrepreneur Gambles on New Orleans

Starting a business is not easy and starting over after losing your home and your business is even tougher. Three days a week, a New Orleans small business owner turns her kitchen into a world-class bakery. If you can think it, chances are, Kimberly Gibson can make flour, eggs, milk, oil and a few secret ingredients look exactly, if not better than the design you had in mind. “My most popular cake is the castle cake for girls and the Spiderman 3-D cake for boys,” says Gibson.

In essence, you can call Gibson, owner of Kute Kreations and Kakes by Kimberly, a cake sculptor and artist. The use of the letter “k” in place of “c” is Gibson’s own salute to the pride she takes in her name. As for her skills, you can take one look at her cakes and see, Gibson’s not an average baker.
“I like seeing the amazement on people’s faces,” says Gibson. From carefully crafting a colorful ring of edible baby bottles to a meticulously designed pink ballerina dress and even a Disney themed castle, Gibson just thinks well outside of the box.

She’s been in the kitchen putting a signature twist on incredible edible sculptures for 18 years. “It began as a way to earn extra money and have fun,” says Gibson. “I remember the first cake I made, it was in the shape of a baby and I thought it was the best cake in the world,” she adds. The cake that stared it all came from a box and was for her daughter’s first birthday party.

Soon after the party, Gibson’s phone began ringing and she wanted to make her cakes stand out from the rest. “When I saw that people were paying $80 to $90 for plain sheet cakes from local bakeries and chain grocery stores, I got busy,” says Gibson. To compete with big businesses, Gibson invested in herself. “I enrolled in cake decorating classes and bought instructional DVDs, watched them and went to work,” says Gibson.

In a matter of months, her client base quickly expanded to include R & B artists like R. Kelly and record companies like Cash Money Records. Around town, local universities and police departments routinely put in orders too. In 2005, all of Gibson’s supplies and her home disappeared, when Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans.

For less than a year, Gibson made a small town in Colorado her home. The entire time there, she says she weighed every risk and reward any entrepreneur would consider, when it comes to launching a small business. Despite New Orleans’ ongoing obvious struggles to rebuild bigger and better, Gibson took a gamble on the Big Easy. “I came back with nothing but I love New Orleans. It’s a great place to have a business because somebody’s going to have a party for anything,” says Gibson.

Four years after Hurricane Katrina, a lot of what makes New Orleans unique, is on some level back. Seasonal music and food festivals, sporting events, conventions and of course, Mardi Gras pull in thousands of tourists. Small-businesses like Gibson’s benefit substantially when there’s a big event in town. However, they have to strategically develop a financial cushion of support, to stay in business during slow periods in the city.

Gibson, who’s a single mother, works full-time as a social worker. Part-time, she advertises at local day care centers, in neighborhood circulars, and reinvests at least 50 percent of her cake business earnings back in the business. The payoff is encouraging. It’s been three years, since Gibson returned home. Getting business back to pre-Katrina levels and higher has been a bit of a challenge, but she’s not discouraged. “People are calling me now, instead of calling chain grocery stores or bakeries,” says Gibson.

Her cakes, carefully crafted from the flavor, to the design, icing and presentation, cost $100 to $600. Gibson’s dream is to take Kute Kreations and Kakes by Kimberly to the next level. “I want to franchise my business.”

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1 comment:

  1. wow, now its time to get into gear on our Cafe...