#GirlBoss: Chyna N. Chester

#GirlBoss: The Celebration of Creative, Expressive, & Inspirational Women

So, this is different, but I feel like any opportunity for women to be recognized and celebrated is a good opportunity. I’ve decided to feature women (whom I may or may not know) who are doing great things in their lives. Women with spunk, great work ethic, creative minds, and passions. Specifically women who can offer insight and advice to other women who may find themselves in their shoes, or who are just curious about life and what it has to offer. I want to bring these women to the attention of anyone who happens to stumble across my blog, and shed some light on the greatness that they provide all around us.

Today I’m kicking it off with the self-made/self-taught cake boss, Chyna N. Chester of CAKE by Chyna.

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Chyna is a wife, a mother of two gorgeous girls, and woman of numerous talents. She’s an artist in all forms, from dabbling in drawing, to creating and selling her own t-shirts and jewelry after college as a side hobby. Chyna studied fashion design at F.I.T. and became a pattern maker for the brand Jones New York. Life took an unexpected turn, and today it is safe to say she has mastered the art of creating custom cakes… and I’m not talking birthday sheet cakes. The intricate work and major attention to detail is what sets Chyna apart from other cake designers. You give her your vision and she easily makes it come to life and exceeds your expectations. The flavor, texture, and overall deliciousness of her cakes do not suffer in spite of her focus on shaping and molding her vision so that her cakes can come to life. She can pretty much whip up any flavor you throw at her and knock it out of the park. It is truly unbelievable that she never went to school for this. This talent just flows naturally from her mind to her hands, and the rest is history. You would think that juggling the jobs of stay at home mom, wife, and owning your own business while being the sole employee would take a toll on someone, but Chyna handles it with grace and ease. Her customer service is prompt & reliable, and she really makes you feel like you can leave everything up to her. I sat down with Chyna to ask her about jump starting her business, her journey of coming into her own as a  young adult, and advice she would give to her younger self.

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When and how did you start your venture into creating custom cakes?

I started out wanting to try my hand at event planning and designing, focusing on dessert table styling. This was back in 2010 when elaborate dessert tables were starting to become popular. About two months after I decided, okay this is something I want to do, I received a call from a family friend and she wanted a dessert table. She knew I had recently just threw my daughter a party and made everything on her dessert table so was under the impression that that’s actually what I was offering as part of the business, desserts, which it wasn’t. Yes I made my daughter’s desserts, but I wasn’t a legit baker or trying to become one. Let me preface that by saying I really had no choice, she has various food allergies so over the years I learned how to adjust recipes and make her treats that she could enjoy…so naturally I made her desserts. That’s actually how I started baking in the first place, wanting to make sure she had a 1st. birthday cake that she could eat. Now this person ordered cupcakes, cakes pops, and Rice Krispie treats for her dessert table and instead of saying no, I said okay. I just wanted to see if I could do it on top of the fact of not wanting to say no. I saw an opportunity and jumped on it. Shortly after that, I started receiving requests for cupcakes and cake pops then eventually cake, and it kind of just grew from there. I always say it was serendipity.

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Women in their late teens and early twenties usually struggle with coming into their own, and worry about finding their purpose. Did you feel this way when you were at that spot in your life? Also, did you ever see yourself creating custom cakes for a living when you were in your early twenties?

I most definitely did not see myself making cake for a living. If you had told me anytime before 2010,  that I would be doing this I would’ve said no way, I don’t even eat cake! I mean I had three career goals as early as 10 years old and they were to one, own my own art gallery, two, become a writer, and three, have a dance studio. Not either or, but all three! LOL! Neither one of those things came to fruition, however they all had a common denominator, which was to be my own boss in a creative industry. I had a clear understanding at a very early age that I wanted to work for myself doing whatever my heart desired. That’s exactly what I do now as a cake artist.

 

As far as coming into my own and worrying about my purpose in life, it wasn’t something I questioned in my late teens/early twenties. Like I mentioned earlier, I always knew from a young age, I wanted to work for myself in the arts whatever the arts were for me. Though I started college as a psychology major, by my sophomore year, I was sure that I wanted to become a fashion designer so I changed my major, even transferred schools, went back home to New York to attend F.I.T. and that’s what I worked towards. The struggle for me wasn’t knowing what I wanted to do but not knowing how to get there and where to start. Also, wanting to do too much and not focusing on one thing was an issue. I didn’t know that was a hinderance until years later.  Working in the city and becoming friends with other artists, in their own right, gave me access to industry parties, perfect for networking but not so much for someone like me who didn’t care much for talking about herself or really sparking the conversation eluding to the fact that I was in the market for the perfect opportunity. That darn pride might have had something to do with it. Asking for help wasn’t and still isn’t my strong point. Sure I was a great conversationalist but I was too shy to start the conversation.  I played the cut, observed, researched and gained a wealth of knowledge. I wasn’t afraid to try new things. I also wasn’t a wife and mom yet, so I had time and took advantage of that time dibbling and dabbling in other creative ventures. I knew people who knew people that worked for both an up and coming hip hop magazine and Urban Latina magazine which I interviewed for, submitted articles that I’ve written leisurely about the irony of my life with great sarcasm. Needless to say I didn’t have the experience they were looking for. Again, not focusing on one thing which wasn’t beneficial at all. I guess I wanted to get somewhere fast, somewhere I would enjoy being a free spirit while getting paid being so. Designing, writing, painting, whatever… I just didn’t want to be behind the computer anymore doing customer service for a company I had zero interest in. Fortunately, by the time I was 25 I was working in my field, fashion, with the help of some contacts. I didn’t yet work in my ideal position but my foot was in the door. Within a year I landed a better position with their competitor and I was happy there. Now of course I no longer work in the fashion industry but I had the experience and I’m grateful for that. I now work for myself for many reasons, but one main reason is because I found one of my many purposes in life which is to be mommy to my two daughters. I love having a family, it’s my greatest accomplishment. Another one of my purposes in life is to make people happy and creating custom cakes for their special milestones and events, seeing how happy they are is my reward. It’s a great feeling, it makes all the stuff that goes wrong and all the hard work, because caking ain’t easy, worth it.
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What is one major piece of advice you would give to young women who are thinking about starting their own businesses?

Only one?!? Hmmmmmm, be intentionally and determinedly persistent!

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Knowing all that you know now about life, what is one piece of advice you would give to twenty year old Chyna?

See, I don’t have any regrets in life, even the horrible things I’ve gone through have been the stepping stones that made up my “yellow brick road”. I unequivocally believe everything happens for a reason and you learn, and that’s experiencing life and adventures, and it just makes for an interesting journey.

Oh! one thing I wish I had done then was to speak up more and not be so shy, especially about what I can offer as far as my talents or “gifts”. I never wanted to come across as boastful, even now, but I do realize if you don’t let people know what you do how will they know. Not brag, but you sometimes have to big yourself up in the most humble way you can I guess, and if I’m being honest I still have an issue with this. I’m never good at promoting myself still, it’s sad, you can kind of tell from my Instagram. I can promote the heck out of someone else though. But yeah, that’s something I would have told 20 year old Chyna as well as 38 year old Chyna!

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Chyna can be found at @by_chyna on Instagram, and at cakebychyna.com (where all of her work can be viewed & all of your inquiries can be met).

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