Finding what you were meant to do in life is no easy task. Building a business around it is even more challenging. So many people want to be their own boss, or at least learn how to improve and become the best they can at what they do. Chicago Planner Magazine prides itself on featuring incredible examples of industry leaders. In this interview, guest writer Theresa Kendall sat down with Courtney Hopkins, owner of C’est La Vie Cakes, to talk about how she went from an insurance agent to a Wedding Wire’s Choice Award Winner 4 years in a row.
Courtney Hopkins is instantly likable. From the moment my husband and I walked in, we felt totally at ease. It may seem like a contradiction in terms but when you’re planning a wedding, a lot of activities do not make you feel all that warm and fuzzy. Dealing with pushy and angry relatives, financial strain and the need to make a million decisions about how to plan an event that won’t piss off your grandma sometimes makes you feel more like you’ve signed up for active duty rather preparing for the happiest day of your life. This is why vendors like Courtney are so special, and why in 2012 and 2013 she won Wedding Wire’s Bride’s Choice Award and in 2014 and 2015 the award for Couple’s Choice. She makes her clients feel welcome with no question or detail being unimportant or too small. And best of all? She delivers a delicious and beautiful product that meets all of her clients’ needs, both aesthetically and from a dietary stand point. (Really, her gluten-free cake is astonishing!)
Even more than all of this, what is really special about Courtney is her entrepreneurial spirit and how she has been able to successfully grow an award-winning small business in the densely saturated wedding market.
Theresa Kendall (TK): Let’s start at the beginning: What is your background, and what were you doing before you started C’est La Vie Cakes?
Courtney Hopkins (CH): I actually have no background in baking. Before I started my business I was an insurance agent. I had an idealistic job where I worked from home and had great benefits but I just hated it. I couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. When my husband and I started looking for a baker to make our Wedding Cake, I noticed there weren’t a lot of people around our area that did “different stuff”. When we finally found the woman who made our cake, I loved how she had her business set up and on a whim I just thought I would try it out.
TK: When you started C’est La Vie Cakes why did you choose to focus on weddings?
CH: So I wanted to do wedding cakes because I loved the whole process of meeting with the bride, having them sample cakes, discuss designs etc. It’s such a fun, happy time in someone’s life and I love being able to be part of it.
TK: What was the most challenging aspect of starting your business, and what is the best thing about owning and running it today?
CH: The most challenging aspect was getting a business running while also working full time. For the first two years I kept my insurance job while I did my cakes on the side. My goal was always to have this become full time but it was a very hard, long two years trying to do both. It was very scary though going from a set paycheck, paid vacation, health insurance etc. to being a business owner with no guaranteed pay or benefits.
TK: What is the best advice you received while going through the process of building your business?
CH: The best advice I got was to “Not Give Up.” With anything new you are doing there will be trials and tribulations. There are times when things don’t work out quite the way you want them to but you can’t let it get to you. It’s easier said than done but you have to learn from your mistakes and move on.
TK: What advice would you offer to others, specifically young women, who might be interested in starting their own company some day?
CH: My advice would be if you have a dream or an idea, go for it! I meet with so many people who tell me that they would love to start their own business but they are scared or it just won’t work for one reason or another. I completely get being cautious but you only live once. If you have a dream you have to at least give it a try or one day you will wake up and realized life has passed you by.
If you’re in the South Bend/Michiana area and are interested in working with Courtney:
Visit her website: www.southbendweddingcakes.com
Like the Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SouthBendWeddingCakes/
Call directly to set up an appointment: (574) 220-6438.