Wednesday, June 10

11 Questions with Sarah Magid

I have been doing the excited dance ever since Sarah Magid wrote me back to tell me she would participate in my interview series. She is, like, a goddess in my eyes and I can only hope and pray that I will ever be half as good a baker as she is. Feast your eyes on this:

1. What was the turning point in your life that made you decide to work for yourself? What were you doing before this?
i was working in the fashion industry designing jewelry for big fashion companies for a number of years. Although there were downs like working all night on projects and traveling a lot, after a while it would feel like a disapointment for an amazing design or idea get sold under someone else's name, even though I had thought it up. I helped launch a few great jewelry lines, and wanted to feel the full responsibility for making something beautiful-not just the design part, but the response from people. I also was pregnant with my second child, and felt like working in fashion meant that I would not be with my family as much as I would like, since my son was 3 at the time and I had been working full time since he was 3 months old. As a family we decided that it would be a risk but in the sake of our happiness and creative dreams to go for it.

2. What was your first concrete step after making that decision?
drinking a glass of wine! (ok--1/2 a glass with food since I was pregnant)

3. What did you find to be the most difficult thing when you decided to make your business your full time job? What one thing do you wish you had known before starting your venture?
The hardest part was adjusting to the sporadic nature of income. In warmer months I am busier, and in the cold weather less people tend to have weddings. There has been so much to learn throughout the growth of my business, such as fun projects like my cookbook, or challenges like delivering cakes on the pothole-ridden streets of NYC.

4. Who did you go to for advice? What resources were most helpful for you?
I found lots of great resources through internet research and reading local food blogs. I also read cookbooks and baking books all the time to learn how different chefs cook.

5. Being compensated fairly for a service seems to be a difficult thing for a lot of people starting out. How did you decide on pricing? Do you think you were fair to yourself in the beginning?
In the beginning I undercharged because I felt insecure that I had not gone to a proper pastry school, but then after many projects were I would say at the end, "I can't believe how much work that was and how much I charged!". I also realized that I was charging less than competitors who weren't even using organic ingredients. Its hard to charge for your creativity sometimes, because its not like a punch-in, punch-out timecard.

6. How did you get your name out there in the beginning? What was the most helpful marketing tool? What didn’t work at all?
I just baked my brains out for friends in fashion, people, and had a call from Domino magagzine for one of my cakes to be used as a prop in their shoot. Another editor saw it and called me to include it in their gift page for Valentines Day. That day I received 500 emails!

7. Describe your first “sale” or “event”? Did it go well? What did you learn from your first few endeavors?
I started selling at Henri Bendel as a trunk show, it went well although many women swore they didn't eat chocolate but then would have their husband buy one instead. Then I am pretty sure they ate it when they got home.

8. There are so many wedding-related businesses out there now. How do you separate yourself from the rest of the pack?
I am pretty much in my own niche, and the kind of brides that contact me know exactly what kind of vibe I am--they are creative, engaged in food, and love beautiful things just like myself. I have had a great experience with every couple.

9. How do you keep things fresh? Where do you go for inspiration?
I love looking at people in interesting outfits, visiting MOMA or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reading old photography/art/design books. I also try to get out of NYC to get inspired, upstate to the Catskills or on our bi-annual vacations to family in Chicago and Los Angeles. Walking around old buildings, old shops always gives me ideas for detailing.

10. What is the most challenging thing about being your own boss? What is the most rewarding (besides, of course, being your own boss)?
Its hard to motivate sometimes, or to hustle when need be. Also sometimes I have to balance childcare/cakes/and a freelance design project all at once.

11. What advice do you have for people who are thinking about starting their own small business who may not necessarily have a lot of prior business experience?
Life is too short to not try!

{book cover via sarah magid, others images via oh joy!}


  1. Gorgeous Designer! Very Inspirational interview :-)

  2. those are such lovely cakes. I feel like baking something pretty now.

  3. i love the one with scattered pink and poppy colored flowers. :)

    and also, hottt shoes via:

    ah, the magic of ebay.

  4. Wow, she is unbelievably talented! I love the unpretentious look of her work.

  5. Wondeful interview! i adore her cakes!

  6. oh ma goodness.. WHAT a great interview!!! I was so excited to read this all week.. I've read it over and over and over!! And I finally got my Sarah Magid book on Tuesday, yeah!!

    What a perfect interview!