Sweet Things: Creating Custom Gifts

I met Laurel Bledsoe, owner of Florida-based interior design company Laurel Bledsoe Design, at a food blogger photography workshop this past summer. We immediately hit it off discussing our businesses and future plans. It’s always wonderful to meet fellow small business owners—bouncing ideas off each other and brainstorming. Her company also has a blog Little Black Domicile that features free design tips every week and has proven to be a great tool for clients. After the workshop, we stayed in touch and Laurel reached out to have me create some custom gift boxes to send out to her clients. What a fun project! Check out her blog post on our collaboration here.

Sometimes gift-giving can be tricky—but I believe crowd-pleasing edibles are sure to go over well with everyone. I knew my handcrafted caramels in their kraft box packaging would make the perfect little gift. Keeping with LBD’s business identity, I added a sleek black satin ribbon to match her business card tucked inside.

Crowd-pleasing edible gifts are always sure to be a hit with everyone.

I also designed a larger custom gift box option I plan to launch soon. It all started with the container. I appreciate attention to detail and one-of-a-kind touches. After wanting something that felt special and could be reused, I decided to build my own custom wood box. It’s sturdy but not too heavy. Kraft paper crinkles make a nice nesting place for all the goodies inside.

Along with a packaged box of my buttery, soft caramels, I included an individual banana bread in a jar with mini wooden spoon. Banana bread brings memories of comfort and love—I grew up watching my Memaw make her signature recipe often. Each time I bake it, I’m reminded of all those happy times and I truly believe you can taste all the love that’s gone into it.

I started my business with the desire to spread happiness with sweet treats.

I also called upon my good friend and talented calligrapher Nicki at Tandem Calligraphy to create a custom decor piece. She hand-lettered a beautiful round of raw wood with the phrase “life is sweet”, a mantra I like to think of everyday.

A satin ribbon, hand-written note of thanks, and caramel info sheet are the finishing touches before packing up to ship. I hope that each recipient enjoys each gift that’s been put together with thought and care. I started my business with the desire to spread happiness with sweet treats—I think these custom Sweet Melissa gift boxes are a great way to start!

Naked Cake, Florals, & Cocktails Workshop

I’m still on cloud nine after hosting my recent Naked Cake, Florals, & Cocktails Workshop at Journeyman Distillery on September 10th. For over a year I had this specific workshop in mind, and to see it all come together and with such positive response, my heart is so full! There was a great team of vendors involved—rockstar florals from Leah Bayes, gorgeous images captured by Laura Duggleby Photography, custom signage from the talented Tandem Calligraphy, and beautiful vintage furniture pieces from Celery City Trading. Not to mention Journeyman Distillery…providing their amazing upstairs event space The Grainery, complimentary cocktails, and bottles of their new lemon vodka for all participants.

Florist Leah Bayes chose a late summer/fall color pallete with foolproof neutrals that could be combined with more vivid colors for a little added personality and flair. She combined locally grown burgundy dahlias, coral amaranthus, purple basil, and pink zinnias. Additional florals were sourced from all of the U.S. and South America, including lavender, peach, and ivory roses, navy thistle, a beautiful taupe “Caramel” carnation and a selection of greenery, including eucalyptus and ruscus.

I was simply blown away by the custom signage created by Tandem Calligraphy—a beautiful hand-lettered welcome sign and smaller Instagram tag sign were the perfect addition to the rustic space.

Participants were encouraged to snap photos and tag them on Instagram with the hashtag #floralcakejourney to win a beautiful floral arrangement at the end of the workshop. Upon arrival, everyone enjoyed complimentary cocktails and mingled before diving into the hands-on naked-cake frosting.

“My hope is to bring people together and create lasting memories of a delicious experience.”

Our gorgeous lounge area furniture was provided by Celery City Trading. Vintage green upholstered high back chairs, a love seat, and distressed white side table made an ideal place to sip cocktails and pose for photos. They also supplied the large decorative easel for our welcome sign. The pieces looked fantastic in the space!

I was lucky to have my dear Mama on hand to help with the cake demo portion of the workshop. She’s my baking partner in crime and was simply the biggest help to me preparing all the cakes and frosting for the 24 total participants!

I loved seeing everyone try their hand at naked-style cake frosting! For many people this was their first time, and I was blown away by their natural talent. Each participant had their own individual station set up with rotating cake turntable, offset spatula, 6-inch cake layers, and my Italian buttercream frosting.

Leah walked the participants through the process of preparing the fresh florals to decorate their finished naked cakes. With her artistic eye and guidance, everyone created their own unique style. I was amazed at how different all the cakes were in spite of everyone having the same flowers to choose from. It was a gorgeous sea of floral-topped naked cakes!

The finished cakes were breathtaking—literally stunning! Everyone had a fun time taking photos of their cakes. I know it was hard for them later to cut into something so gorgeous…but, it IS cake and must be eaten!

Everyone went home with some serious swag—a full size bottle of Journeyman Distillery Lemon Vodka, adorable mini soaps from local Three Oaks Aylamethyst Soaps, recipe cards, and handcrafted caramels from yours truly.

This workshop was the result of an incredible amount of planning, organizing, and hard work. Thank you so much to everyone involved! I couldn’t have imagined a better experience—meeting and connecting with all the participants was the highlight for me. Stay tuned for my upcoming workshops—this is just the beginning.

One Year in Business: Things I’ve Learned

Time to pop the champagne! This month marks my one year business anniversary. Last August is when I became legit, got my food permit, and signed a contract with a commercial kitchen. Oh, the things I’ve learned! I’d love to share some of the details of my journey and what I’m planning moving forward. It’s been quite a learning experience and I’ve definitely grown as a business owner along the way. Working in the food industry has been a challenge for a self-taught baker like myself—but my passion for food and bringing people together is what keeps me pushing ahead.

Listen to your heart and your gut.

It’s SO important to listen to what your insides are telling you. Let your heart guide you. Let your gut tell you when something doesn’t feel right. Being true to yourself is crucial when starting your own business or brand. If you do things that feel off, it’s going to steer you away from the right direction. It’s one thing to have butterflies as an entrepreneur, but when you feel a pit in the bottom of your stomach, that’s not a good thing!


It’s okay to change your direction.

My gosh, in the beginning I had no idea what was involved in some of my business plans. What I had envisioned in my head was completely different than actually executing them. My Mama tried to warn me, but of course I wouldn’t listen—I had to experience it myself firsthand. That’s okay! Every time you find out what NOT to do, you move towards what you are meant to do.


Community is everything.

I never expected to become part of such a strong group of local entrepreneurs. I randomly joined my local Rising Tide Society Tuesdays Together group for a meeting last summer—and that was one of the best decisions I ever made. These people have become not only my support system in business, but have become such dear friends. I never feel alone or hopeless—I know I can always reach out to someone to chat or brainstorm. And it makes me feel good when I can help others as well—we all want each other to succeed. It’s #ComminityOverCompetition at its finest.


Don’t be so hard on yourself.

We’re all our own worst critics. I’m no exception. But sometimes our perfectionism can really put a burden on us. For every successful business or perfectly-curated Instagram account you see, there’s another story, a struggle, and tons of hard work. Some people find their groove relatively fast, others may take years. Either way it’s okay to go at your own pace—everyone starts somewhere!

Moving forward…

This has been my year of learning—seeing what works in my business, what’s profitable, and what I enjoy the most. At this point in time, I can’t afford to have my own commercial kitchen space, so I will continue to rent. The cost and logistics of renting by the hour don’t allow me to profit from doing event or wedding orders. I’m cutting out those services so I can focus on what makes the most sense and where my passions lie. Otherwise, I’m just going to be running a very expensive hobby (in addition to my full-time art director job)!

Handcrafted Caramels

Soon I’ll be carrying my caramels in some select local stores and also hope to create an online shop. This is an exciting endeavor for me and requires some more work on my end to make it happen. Wish me luck!

Workshops

The true heart of my business has always been the desire to bring people together with food and create memories. The response I’ve gotten so far from my workshops has been absolutely incredible. I’m thrilled to be planning more in the upcoming months and partnering with local businesses. Stay tuned!

Dessert Favors

I’m no longer doing wedding or event desserts, but I WILL be continuing to do custom dessert favor orders whenever possible. I love designing special packaging and getting to be creative with my treats.

Pop-ups & Markets

I have a TON of fun pop-ups and local markets I’ll be attending in the next few months. I truly love connecting one-on-one with people in the community and sharing my  creations.

A very special thank you to my dear friend and photographer Erika Mattingly. She’s been working with me since the beginning and has been instrumental in creating the feel of my brand. Also, I must give thanks to my incredible Mama who is my partner in business, life, and the kitchen. I couldn’t do any of it without her by my side. Thank you to everyone who has supported me this past year—I hope to continue spreading love the way I know how…through the kitchen.