Starting a Business By Accident

Starting a Business By Accident

Images of Christi and Christine with text: Starting a Business by Accident against blue background

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Christine’s Story Started with Family

Christine: I’ve been baking since I was a little kid. I’m Filipino American, and we used to have parties like every couple of weeks when I was a kid. My mom had me help with the regular food too. But then she would hand me some random handwritten note card and say, “Hey, can you make this too?” So I would kind of read the recipe and figure it out, whether I knew what it was or not. And it usually turned out fine, which was great. So I’ve been baking since I was a little kid. It sounds a little crazy, but she just didn’t love baking sweets. And so I kind of took that role.

How Christine’s Community Launched Her Business

Christine: Fast forward to 2015. And I was teaching, I’m still teaching very part-time right now, but I was teaching full-time and all throughout my life. I’ve always baked for the people around me. When I was teaching, I would share treats with my students and my friends and faculty and staff and things like that. And I used to have my students pick what they wanted me to make for their birthday. Not all my students, just certain students that were in my, it was called a household program. And and I would make whatever it was. It didn’t matter if I knew how to make it or didn’t know how to make it. I would figure it out and make it.

Well, at some point I started making macarons because one of my teacher friends loved them. And I was like, “I’ll do a little research” for the first time in my baking life, if I can call it that. I was actually challenged and I must have pinned recipes for a year before deciding, all right, I’m just gonna try it. I tried it two or three times and sometimes they were pretty and sometimes they were not, but they always tasted fine. According to my friend, she loved them. They don’t always look great, but they taste great.

The Fundraiser That Launched Her Business

Well, eventually I got better at it and I started posting pictures on social media. Long story short, I didn’t plan to start a business, but my friend Carl is a soccer coach and he had three teams that did not have sponsorship. And he just reached out one day and he was like, Christine, can we talk about doing a fundraiser with your macarons? And I was like, sure. So he got together & number crunched planned the whole fundraiser. And I was like, how are people gonna find me if they want more? He goes, why don’t you launch a website? So I did and that’s how Baking Sweet Scents was born. Of course with lots of help from other people who were good at those kinds of things.

I launched a website in September of 2015 did the fundraisers that fall, and started doing all kinds of holiday treats and really anything people wanted later. Somebody asked if I would do a wedding and I said, well, I can make cupcakes. They were like, yeah, that’s all we want is cupcakes. We’ll get a cake from brick street. And if you could just make, you know, a whole bunch of cupcakes and I was like, sure! So that was 2016. Some of my former students found me and they were like, well, can you do like a little cake and a bunch of cupcakes for my wedding? And I was like, sure. So I did like 12 weddings in 2017 and then it kept going and going and going. And I started doing like 27 to 30 weddings a year.

Christine’s Business Today

Christie: So that website that started with a macro fundraiser became a launch pad, I guess, for weddings and birthday things and wedding shower, or bridal shower, baby showers, all the things. And now I actually focus a lot on wholesale as well. So I have macarons available at the Mad Batter Bakery Cafe, which is on Pelham & 14. I have some Filipino treats available at Asian Aisles, which is in Simpsonville. And then I have breakfast pastries: cinnamon rolls and scones and gluten-free scones at Crossroads. So it’s kind of morphed into like this bigger business that I never anticipated, never even planned to own, if I’m being honest, so it just kind of became a thing.

Filling the Gap

Christi: I love that and I love how your friends and your community kind of challenged you and pushed you to do more and more, and that you kind of rose up to that challenge. And you went from one wedding in 2016 to 12 in 2017, and then more. That’s just amazing.

I wanna talk a little bit more about community and how you said your friend Carl kind of pushed you to do the soccer fundraiser. I think that is so relatable to a lot of people in business where they may be starting out with something that they’re good at. And then someone comes along and kind of pushes them and says, hey, you know, you can do this. Why don’t you put a website up. It’s just crazy to see how you can find growth from there.

Tell me a little bit more about how community has kind of helped you to grow grow your business. Maybe through meeting other business owners. It must have been a lot to try to figure out how to do the business side of things when you weren’t really planning to have a business at all. How did you figure out some of those things?

Learning About Business from Others

Christine: So for the business side of things, I had a friend who was really great in word of mouth advertising. He actually created my logo and then I had another friend who was really good at like web website design and photography. And she helped with that part. Once I got that foundation built, it was a matter of really word of mouth and social media and using the communities that I was and am a part of to get the word out. So it’s kind of interesting because I didn’t know where the business was going to go because obviously it wasn’t my plan. I just felt like God led me there, handed it to me and said, this is for you. This is what I want from you. And I said, “okay, Lord, I guess this is what we’re doing.”

It was interesting because I was still teaching full time for the first year and a half in business. Then different things led me out of teaching and into the business full-time for a few years. And there was this time where I felt like I had to figure things out and I had to ask the people around me how to do that. And I actually found [Rising Tide] during that time before I went full time in business and I don’t remember what year it was, but I met several people and connected. It was a lot smaller then. And I just, I thought it was so beautiful because I felt so alone in trying to figure everything out.

Finding People That Understand What You’re Going Through

Christine: And then I discovered this group and met other people who, even though they were not bakers, they were other kinds of business owners. They understood where I was coming from. That it was something new that I was trying to figure it out that that maybe I was isolated at times in figuring it out because I didn’t know what I was doing and I felt a little lost.

But at the same time I had these people that I could say “Hey, have you ever thought about this or have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re trying to figure out all the things like, what did you do then?” I reached out to other people who’ve done it before. And I asked them questions.

So I actually connected to other bakers during that time mainly online. I’m still connected to one of the other macaron bakers that I asked for advice back then. And we still bounce things off of each other now. But there’s something really great about connecting with other business owners and knowing that I’m really not alone. Even though I’m an entrepreneur, a solo entrepreneur, I’m in business for myself, there are these other business owners that relate to that.

The Greenville Business Community & Rising Tide

Christine: And in Greenville I find it so wonderful that there’s such a supportive community. People love small business here and that’s so, so great because how else are we supposed to not only survive but thrive. So I’m just so thankful that first Greenville is such a great community, that we have a beautiful small business community where people are supportive of each other and nobody has to feel alone. So I’m just really thankful for [Rising Tide]. Because in those beginning years it was so nice to connect with other business owners who could relate.

Christi: Yeah. I feel the same way. I remember walking in my first time and thinking, oh wow. There’s people like me. I was like, oh, these are my people. These are the people I’ve been looking for. Because I felt so alone and didn’t know what I was doing. And I love that [Rising Tide] is an entry point for a lot of people into business community.

One Relationship Leads To Another

And one relationship that you make there can lead to another one which can lead to another one. Even if you come and you’re a baker and there aren’t other bakers in the group, it can still provide that community. Just that network of other branches of community. Each person has other people that they know and you never know kind of what relationship could lead to the next one.

And I think that is what’s so cool about it. And that’s why I love [Rising Tide] as well is because it’s very supportive in just welcoming to anyone at any stage of business. When you’re first starting out, it’s helpful to say, oh wow, there’s people here that, that, that relate to me and I’m not alone. But even as a seasoned business owner, I still find myself coming back to [Rising Tide] for that community and those relationships. And the ability to make connections and realize that I’m not alone. it’s so important.

Timing is Everything

I wanna circle back to something that you said in how you said that business wasn’t really your plan for your life. And I it made me think about a time when I was teaching. I was actually coaching swimming, and I had played the piano my whole life. And I never really imagined that I would go into teaching piano because I just didn’t think I would want to be a teacher.

But I remember I was talking to my piano teacher on the phone and she told me her story about how she got into piano teaching. And she said, “When it’s the right time, God is going to let you know.” She said that there was a time in her life where she wasn’t getting any students at all because it wasn’t the right time. And then when it was the right time, she said the phone started ringing and then it never stopped. She really encouraged me to just kind of take every opportunity as it came.

Word of Mouth Growth

There were a couple of students on the swim team who were like, “Hey, I heard you play the piano”. Can I take piano lessons? Can my kids take piano lessons from you? And it just started with those two kids. And then from there, I had more and more and I still find myself kind of coming back to that where it’s a part of me that I feel like God has put there. It’s not my gift. It’s something that he’s given me to share with others. And now that I’ve moved back to South Carolina after living in California for a little bit, I find myself taking on a few new piano students. It’s like, that’s part of me. I think that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Faith & Business Ownership

Christi: I know that you post a lot about your faith on Instagram and I love that. So I would love to hear a little bit more about what it means to you when you said that this wasn’t your plan, but you really realized that God is in this. I would love to hear a little bit more about that and how you have seen God kind of carve out this path for you.

Christine: So can I just say God is so funny. Just so, so funny, you know, like you think you’re gonna live this life and just take this straight path, you know? And at least in my case, I feel like my path that he has given me has been like crazy, curving all over the place and going in circles and loops and jumps and all these things. But I’m just so thankful because he really has guided me every step of the way. Like when things got hard teaching.

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

So I taught full time for 19 years. And even with the beginning of that, I never thought I would teach longer than five years. I started out in engineering at Clemson. I thought I was going to go work in business. And as an engineer, doing the science side of things or whatever I changed my major to math. I said I was going to teach and give back because I had a teacher who made such a great difference in my life.

And I was like, you know what? I need to give back; let me do that for five years. I won’t get a degree in teaching, but I’ll get certified to teach in that way. I can do that. And then I can go back to big business and engineering. Well, at that point I was thinking math, but anyway, those five years came and went and then I kept teaching. And then this business fell into my laugh and I was like, okay, God, this is pretty cool, but funny.

Closing Doors

I did both for a while and the door started to close on teaching. Things just got harder and harder. And one of my friends literally said to me, “Christine, don’t you think this is God’s way of showing you that it’s okay to leave the classroom?” And I had never thought of that before, because I just thought, you know, I can work through anything. I can make anything happen. You know, I can push through. And she was like, “Don’t you think this is his way of just showing you it’s okay to move on?” And I said, that makes sense. You know, I had already started the business. The plans were already in place. So basically I finished out that school year.

A Leap of Faith & Giving Up Control

I finished out that school year. Josh and I talked about making the leap and could we do it if I stopped teaching and just had the business. And, and we said, you know what, we’ll just go on faith. We’ll just take a leap of faith. And I left the classroom. At that point, I had lots of weddings booked. In prayer, I just took that leap and said, “Lord, if this is what you want from me, please provide, please show me. And if it’s not, please slam the door shut because otherwise I won’t see it.”

So he sort of slammed the door shut on teaching for that time. And I was like, all right, here we go. So at that point I changed my business license, went into a commercial kitchen and was ready to make steps to grow as a business. And all along, literally Christi, even today I ask him at least every week, “is this what you still want from me?”

“Is this what you still want from me?”

“How should I focus? What are we doing here?” Because I honestly don’t have a business plan and haven’t from the start. It’s a little crazy. I know people are probably like, “oh, that’s the lazy way out. You’re just saying that God’s leading you, whatever, whatever”. But honestly, I feel like he gave it to me. So why should I try to be in control? I’m not in control of my life, let alone my business. So it’s really just faith. I don’t know how else to explain that. I do ask him all the time, “is this what you want from me? And I feel like the answer is yes, because of the way he’s providing.

My prayer in the last year or so as I’ve like, kind of found my way or found his way is, “how can I focus? Where do you want me to focus?” So in the beginning it was like, is this really what you want me to do? How do you want me to focus this business? And how do you want me to use it to glorify you? Because all along it’s “okay, let me use your gifts to glorify you. Let me use the gifts. You’ve given me to turn people to you.”

Greater Impact

So social media became kind of my platform for him and for that. But then I’m realizing more and more, the whole business is that too. So in the last year or so, I’ve started doing more wholesale. And what I’m finding is that my reach is greater without having to see or deal with as many people like in the direct interaction, but I’m still reaching a lot more people on social media because of reaching them like through those other businesses. And I’m finding that Greenville is big enough for that. That I don’t have to feel like I have to do all the things. There are lots of bakers and I’m forming sort of a small community, even amongst bakers lately because I’m finding people who I can refer out to when I can’t say yes to everybody.

I’m honestly just trusting the Lord and praying all the time. Sometimes that means I’m like crying it out, trying to hear what he’s telling me. And I’m just thankful that he makes it clear, you know, soon enough for me to understand what he wants.

Create Your Own Path?

Christi: Yeah. I think that so often in the business world, we see these messages that tell us to create our own path and to create, you know, the business that we want to have. Like Donald Miller. I love Donald Miller. I love his books. They’re so great. And super helpful. Something he says is to reverse engineer your life and to kind of think about that. I know what he’s getting at. And I think what he’s getting at is really important. So he has you go through this exercise where you write your own obituary and you basically say, what do you want people to be saying about you at your own funeral? What is it that’s actually important? And a lot of times it won’t really have anything to do with how much money you made or those kind of vanity metrics.

Are vanity metrics important?

It will, most of the time, have to do with how well did you love people? And how well did you fulfill the task that was put before you? How did people feel when they were around you? And how did you use your gifts to serve others? I think it’s a great exercise to do to make sure that you’re not losing sight of what’s important in your life. But I think in business, we can also have a tendency to take that reverse engineering a little bit too far to where we plan out every single step. And we say, I’m gonna do this and then I’m gonna do this, and then I’m gonna do this. And you’re gonna try all this stuff and kind of try to become a self-made person.

When really, I believe that everything that we are given is a gift. And everything that we are given is so far out of our hands. A lot of times we try to control and we try to control. And I found that the more I try to control the less control I actually have. I think having a little bit of humility in business can go such a long way. And I love your attitude. That you’re asking God every single day, “is this what you want from me?” And I love that and how you are approaching that. I think that I wanna learn from that and not try to control my path so much.

The search for fulfillment

So often I try to think, what am I passionate about? And what is actually going to fulfill me? What is it that I can do to make myself just feel fulfilled in business? But sometimes I wonder if I’m asking the wrong questions. If instead of that, maybe I should say, “what has God gifted me in and how can I use that to serve others?” And I love that. It seems like you are using a gift that has been with you since you were a kid baking with your mom in the kitchen and you’re using it to share yummy treats with other people.

Christine: I’m just thankful and I hope people see him when they see me. Because I don’t think I’m trying to be anything else but who he’s created me to be and [use] the gifts and talents that he’s given me to serve with. Honestly, I just hope that people see that he is real and that I’m not falling back on something and saying like, “oh, you don’t have a plan”. All you’re saying that he has this plan for you. You’re just being lazy. Like, don’t have a plan. I just hope that people see the truth. And see him when they see the work that I’m doing for him.

Christi: I think that that’s evident from just what you put out on social media. One thing I love is that you do seem to be true to yourself when you’re on social media. I think people definitely see that. I can tell when I see you online, that it’s not an act that you’re putting on, but that you actually are doing that. And I think that they can see that for sure.

Community Over Competition

Christine: Yeah. I’m going back to the community piece, I was just trying to think about, you know, all the different people I’ve met through [Rising Tide]. And how many business relationships I formed through that. Like Kimberly Cabe Photo and Quiet Graces Photography. At some point along the way they decided Christine’s just gonna do our smash cakes and Kim is traveling with her family now but Melissa with Quiet Graces is still doing smash cakes. And she has me do those. In fact, I’ll see her tomorrow. And that was because of [Rising Tide].

Relationships in Rising Tide

And then for weddings, it’s been great to look back over the years. I’ve referred so many couples to different people in [Rising Tide] and many of them have also referred couples to me. It’s just so cool. And then when I finally did some weddings with people in the group, it was cool to take a picture together and post it. Like, “Hey, my friends are here!”

Robert and Kayla were there once and like Mallori and Kevin were there once and we just, you know, took this picture together and then even doing weddings with some of the coordinators. Like Michelle Lewis and Christina Alsip and, you know, it’s just so much fun to run into each other, on the street or at a wedding and be like, “Hey, we know each other because we’re in [Rising Tide] and here we are working together. I think even that is God working to bring us all back together. It comes kind of like full circle. That we’re supporting each other as business friends, but then we end up literally serving the same couple. Together. I think that’s pretty neat.

Finding Your People

Christi: It’s so much fun. It’s so crazy the relationships that are put into our lives. That is one of my most fun memories is when I can go to a wedding and I say, oh, I know you from [Rising Tide]. And even when I moved to California and lived there for a couple of years, I was able to just get right involved into a new [Rising Tide] chapter. They just accepted me right into the group. And I felt that, you know, the warm, fuzzy friend feelings of like, these are my people, even in a brain new group.

Supporting Each Other & Referring Each Other

Because that’s just the, the environment that [Rising Tide] has created and fostered. I don’t know how they do that, but they seem to keep getting people who really believe in that mantra of community over competition. We’re not here to compete with each other. We’re here to have community and support each other and cheer each other on and there’s room for all of us. So it’s definitely one of the greatest gifts in my life in business.

Christine: Yeah, it’s been so much fun. Other businesses that even aren’t working with weddings, usually that I remember connecting with before the pandemic. Even like Caitlin who started Clare’s Creamery. I remember hearing from her literally right before the pandemic, and then they opened and I was like, oh my gosh, I met her at [Rising Tide]. And that was really cool.

Marla from Maribet & Company, and then even like your parents with Randall House and like putting people together, like when people ask for a venue, I’m like, well, what about Randall House? And again, the whole [Rising Tide] thing comes into play and I’m like, well, I know this person, I know this person. And a lot of ’em it’s because of that community. So it’s really neat to put it all together.

How to Get In Touch with Christine & Sample Her Sweets

Christi: Well, I have so enjoyed talking to you, Christine. This has been such a fun conversation. We’re out of time, but I hope this has been enjoyable for people to listen to and hopefully they can relate. And I just love sitting down with business owners and feeling like we’re having a cup of coffee and just chatting. Before we go, can you tell everyone where they can order macarons and cookies from you. Tell them about that. And if they wanna work with you, what can they do?

Christine: Sure. So the only thing on my website right now that they can order quickly are macarons and chocolate chip cookies. I pretty much make those every week so they can go to bakingsweetscents.com and order there, or they can reach out to me through the contact on that same site for special orders. Of course they can find my goods at the Mad Batter Baker & Cafe, Crossroads for coffee and tea, as well as Asian Aisles supermarket and and get things there. I’m on Instagram @bakingsweetscents and on Facebook also @bakingsweetscents. And my phone number is there. People can text me anytime. I think if you look up Baking Sweet Scents online you’ll find my contact information pretty quickly.

Rising Tide Society

If you want to learn more about The Rising Tide Society you can visit greenville.therisingtidesociety.com. You can find information about our meetups and also download our educational guides that come out every month on a different business topic. We would love to have you there. If you’re not local to Greenville, you can still head over to that website and just fill out the contact form. We can get you connected to a chapter that is near you. Thanks for listening. And we’ll see you next time.

If you’re ready to dive in and start crusting your goals, I want you to check out the Crush Your Goals with Christi mini course. It’s only $30 and it’s going to give you some big wins, my friend!

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