CakeIstry: For the love of cake
Once the kids are in bed and the papers are graded, 28-year-old high school chemistry teacher Kristin Corrigan puts on her apron and gets to work, transforming her kitchen into a cake decorating business called CakeIstry.
It all started when Corrigan and her now-business partner and best friend, Jody Chamberlain, made a cake for Corrigan’s son’s first birthday.
“It was a fun cake,” Corrigan said. “And then we didn’t do another cake until his second birthday, when we did something really cool. It became his birthday tradition for a couple years.”
The two UVM graduates started baking cakes together for family and close friends after graduation, and finally turned their passion into a business a few years later in 2012.
Today, CakeIstry operates out of two kitchens-- Corrigan’s in St. Albans, and Chamberlain’s in Rutland.
“Our top selling items are custom cakes,” Chamberlain said. “People really like to be able to have a cake with homemade decorations that are tailored to their desires.”
Their goods range in price depending on the request. Cupcakes and cake pops start at $2 each, and specialty cakes start at $20 for a plain four-inch "smash" cake and increase in price from there.
Not only does CakeIstry customize the decorations on the cake, but the bakery is also able to work with the customer to create specialty flavors, as well as create cakes to accommodate food allergies, Chamberlain said.
CakeIstry serves customers throughout the state of Vermont, and is always gaining new customers, Chamberlain said. The business has gained recognition throughout the state, appearing on WCAX TV and in various newspapers.
In addition to the bakery, both women have full-time jobs. Corrigan is a high school chemistry teacher, wife and mother, while Chamberlain, who was recently married, is a senior instrument technician at Middlebury College.
With all of these commitments, Corrigan said that time management is their biggest challenge.
“Whenever I have anything to do, I make lists,” Corrigan said. “So now I have lists within lists-- I have to have day-by-day worked out.”
The two UVM grads met in the university’s chemistry program, where they were both chemistry majors.
Their love for chemistry and baking inspired the name “CakeIstry”, a combination of the words “chemistry” and “cake”.
“We’ve always had this chemistry connection, and we knew that when we were came up with a name, we wanted it to have something to do with chemistry,” Corrigan said.
This baking duo has more than just degrees in common, however.
“I believe that baking is something that is in both of our blood,” Chamberlain said.
Corrigan, whose grandfather owned a bakery, said she used to spend almost every Saturday with him, baking cakes.
“One day my mom said ‘It’s so cool that you got this from your grandpa!’” Corrigan said. “I had almost forgotten that I had had such a big upbringing in baking, and never even intentionally revisited it. But there it was.”
Chamberlain’s grandmother also used to work at a local bakery.
“Although she wasn’t known for cakes, she made unbelievable pies,” she said. “Some of my best memories are going to the bakery and visiting her.”
Both Corrigan and Chamberlain are from Vermont, although Corrigan’s family moved often because her father was in the army.
“My dad and mom’s family are from Vermont, so I wanted to go somewhere far away, but still, if I needed anything or anyone, they were close by,” Corrigan said.
Chamberlain said she decided to stay in Vermont after college because she wanted not only to continue her education and obtain a master’s degree while working, but also stay in close proximity to her family and friends.
“Even though I have an hour commute now, I am very thankful I was able to find another job that would allow me to stay in Vermont,” Chamberlain said.
For both Corrigan and Chamberlain, the customer’s reaction is the most important part of the process.
“I like people’s reactions. That’s really why I put the last finishing touch on the cakes,” Corrigan said. “I just can’t wait to see it.”
“For me one of the most stressful moments is unveiling the cake to the customer,” Chamberlain said. “I have a great amount of pride in what we do and always want the customer to love their cake.”
Corrigan said she would love to grow enough to have her own kitchen.
“I don’t want a storefront where I have to keep shelves stocked, but I would love to get to the point where we can have our own space to work, and have consultations and meetings, as opposed to just my home kitchen,” she said.
For the moment, however, CakeIstry has no plans for expansion.
“At this point in time I think we are both very happy with where our business is,” Chamberlain said. “It is very nice for both of us to decide what projects fit in our schedule. We don’t over-book ourselves.”
As for advice for young people wishing to start their own business, Chamberlain recommends creating a plan and setting some guidelines and limits for yourself.
“Understand what you are getting into with a business,” she said. “Always remember that you are the one who is in control of your business.”
She also said that Vermont is a great place to start a new business.
“The state of Vermont has some really amazing resources for people trying to start their own businesses,” she said. “There are so many residents here that are very supportive of local people starting their dreams here. Don’t feel like you have to move to a different state to be successful.”