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How I Discovered The Secret To Success

February 03, 2014

I was relaxing at my friend’s wine bar around closing time on a snowy night in late February. We were sampling some new wines and chatting about business when my phone rang. It was 10pm—an odd time to be receiving a call; so I let it go to voicemail. But that voicemail was about to change my life, forever. I was a year into building my first business, The Cupcake Dreamery. Word was beginning to spread about my fantastic cupcakes; weekends were filled with catering jobs for weddings and birthday parties, and weekdays were jammed with catering jobs for corporate events and office shindigs. Business was booming so much that I hired two bakers and took on an investor as an unofficial partner. It was a stressful time yet an exciting time with boundless opportunities at my feet. I was at the wine bar that night to celebrate a string of recent successes: shipping cupcakes to the Minnesota Vikings for their playoff party, my first successful Valentine’s Day, and an elaborate fundraising brunch at the hottest restaurant in town. But as I sat there tipping back wine and laughing with my fellow entrepreneurial friends, I had no idea that I was about to listen to a voicemail that would not just crush, but obliterate my dreams. I picked up my phone, pressed play, and listened, as the blood drained from my face. “Hi, my name is Kim and you need to call me back RIGHT NOW!!” Her voice shrilled. Panic washed over me. I called her back. There was nothing calm about what transpired next. I felt like I was watching a movie. This couldn’t possibly be my life. Screaming from Kim, sobbing from me, and a frantic attempt at gathering all the sordid details ensued. I found out that day that my investor/partner was in reality, a highly skilled con artist. As the days unfolded, the story unraveled—from him using Kim’s credit card to charge our elaborate $10,000 fundraising brunch, to stealing my checkbook and clearing out my bank account, to pocketing every cash sale and bouncing checks to every last vendor—he was a true con in every sense of the word. And that’s when I learned what it really takes to achieve success. My life came crashing down that evening and I had two options. Option one seemed like a no-brainer—I could quit. My bank account was empty, my relationships were marred, and my business was in need of being legally dissolved. It was over. I should throw in the towel, walk away, and thank my dad for convincing me to obtain my bachelors degree just a few months prior. Option two was to take this failure, this major failure, and to learn from it. To pivot. To start a new business. To decide that I wouldn’t give up. I chose option two. I built a new business and went on to not only compete on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, but to win it. It was hard, brutal even. To this day I’m amazed that I made it through that trying time. But from that day forth I knew I had discovered the secret to success. No matter how hard you fail, nor how often you fail, nor how messily you fail, you will eventually succeed if you just Never. Give. Up. Look. It sucks to fail. When I’m failing I’m flailing. And my flailing looks a hell of a lot like a kid’s tantrum. But I know that the only way to truly fail is to give up. If I had given up when I lost everything to that con artist/convict then I never would have experience the building of a successful cupcake shop, nor the winning of Cupcake Wars, and certainly not the authoring of a frosting cookbook. If you believe in something then you have to keep trying. Take one more step, make one more call, and reach out to one more person. You never know what’s around the next bend. And you’ll never find out unless you’re brave enough to look.

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