I was still in law school and I decided I had to start making some money for myself.
This was at the cusp of the cupcake revolution (in Singapore at least) and they were the new in thing.
At the time I had just returned from Australia, fresh and full of creative ideas and this was the perfect outlet for it. I had lived off-campus while studying there and had gotten really good at hosting parties. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinners. I planned the menus, did the shopping, cooked up a storm and always ensured everything was appropriately presented and decorated.
The food had to be
yummy delicious and satisfying. The decor had to be perfect. And everything was held together by warmth and heart. There was no half-past six nonsense presented at any of these gatherings.
Though it would get quite stressful mainly because I’m a stickler for every little detail, I enjoyed every moment of it.
It was through all that planning and dreaming up these events at my house that I found my love for beautiful things/creating beautiful things. I learned to trust my creative instincts and my gut.
To start my business off, I conjured up a short menu of desserts I was good at making to sell. Cupcakes with buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting, chocolate frosting, chocolate cupcakes, THE bestselling Ebony Cake, carrot cake, tiramisu, and velvety dark chocolate truffles.
The next thing was the name. NAME. What to call my business?
I had been to Göteborg, Sweden when I was about 20 and my stepfather and mother brought me to Liseberg Amusement Park. (I hit all the amusement parks that trip. Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, Denmark’s Tivoli and Norway’s Tusenfryd. Nuts!). Anyway when we got to Liseberg, my stepdad told me that “Lise” is a variant of my name.
I didn’t really think much about it until I had to think about what to call my business and I thought it would be cute to include “Ebony” in my business.
Well who’s Ebony?
Ebony, was my trusty old black Honda Civic. I included her in the business name because she was the one who got me to places when I needed to make deliveries or set up at weddings. And yes, the Ebony cake is named after her.
So I brainstormed for names for awhile – Red & Ebony, Ebony’s Sweets blah blah… until I decided to use “Lise”. No hiding behind any other brand or even Ebony. This business was an expression of who I was at the time, and so I thought this was the best name.
I still needed a short description of what the business did but didn’t know how to phrase it. Bakery? Cake Artist? Cupcakes? Desserter?? (!!) Nothing quite fit. I decided to just let the question sit in my head while I got on with other preparations.
I was so excited to start this business and what made it even better was that I was gonna go to New York to visit my sister who was studying at NYU then. I would be visiting the famed Magnolia bakery (amazing energy and omg the banana pudding!), Serendipity cafe and all these other places New York has to offer that would be the sources of my inspiration.
And then it happened when we were standing outside one of the many froyo shops (I think it was Pinkberry).
I saw the word “artisan” on another shop and for some reason I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of using that word before. Dessert Artisan.
With that, everything fell into p l a c e.
I had a little launch party and invited all my relatives and friends and I must say it was pretty successful. I meant for this to be a small homemaking business where I would bake/make chocolates to supplement my income and it worked out well. I made enough to cover my law books, buy new clothes and shoes and travel.
I didn’t know it yet but this experience would be a defining one. I learned so many practical business lessons that I would continue to use to this day.
The biggest lesson was learning to trust myself, my creativity and my instincts. After that, hard work brought whatever I dreamed up into existence. And finally, the absolute belief in my products and the correct presentation brought it home for me.
Years later, I’ve come full circle.
And I don’t know why but I’m thinking about Lee Kuan Yew and how he had decided that neither the Japanese nor the British had the right to push us around and that fuelled him to make Singapore into what it is today: Independent, prosperous and successful.
I am standing at the edge, looking at all my options, deciding.
I feel a certain rhythm in me and I’m waiting for
(Originally posted on lisechew.com on 9 June 2015)