• Idea stirred in a kitchen launches unique small niche business
By Naomi Klouda
Darcy Guillory’s cakes look like what she intends: a flower pot whose shiny exterior matches an orange clay pot detail-for-detail, daisies you can go ahead and eat, and rich potting soil that’s crumbled indulgent chocolate.
For a baby shower, the owner of Darcy’s Decadent Designs created a woman’s pregnant belly with the imprint of a baby’s foot showing through. Equal part engineer and part artist, the talented Guillory’s work is showing up from Soldotna to Homer and every road stop along the way.
“Either someone requests a certain cake, or I randomly come up with an idea, and I sketch it out,” she said. “I’ve always loved art, any kind of art – painting, sketching.”
Combined with a love of baking, Guillory found the perfect career for herself in her own kitchen. At age 21, the lifelong area resident has been at it for three years now, venturing into the market two years ago. It helped that the Department of Environmental Conservation changed its regulations in June. The Alaska Food Code now allows producers to make low hazard foods in their home for sale directly to consumers if certain requirements are met.
Among her creations is a cake resembling a set of teeth for a local dentist’s event, framed in big pink gums. She frosted a Lego cake for a little boy’s birthday that looks like it was made of the blocks. Someone else wanted a giant Tabasco bottle-shaped cake for her husband’s favored condiment. Another time, Barbie came in a pink Volkswagen bug for a little girl. For Christmas, someone ordered individualized cupcakes for each member of a fairly large family.
Income from the enterprise supplements husband Travis’ seasonal work in construction hanging drywall and framing. But for the first two years, she worked at the Bidarka Inn in housekeeping while developing the business on the side. Now she works only on her baked goods, often until the wee hours of the morning.
“It helps us out a lot. In winter we constantly struggle, so it pays a bill or two,” she said. “The first year I started doing this, I experimented with box cakes because it would be easier that way, not as expensive. After that first year, I decided to do everything from scratch.”
Her culinary schooling also was supplied at home, through cable food channels such as Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes. Web research rounded out her education and long-practice sketching images came in handy.
“Every cake I do, I learn something new,” she said.
Flowers, for example, and edible glitter. Every part of the realistic daisy and pansy is edible, made from sugars and colors, shaped in careful detail. Each is made separately, attached to a green stem, then inserted in the cake.
Quickbooks, an accounting program, has a feature that allows a business to input the ingredients or materials of a project to help calculate what should be charged. At first, to gain customers, Guillory was shy at pricing, but now with Quickbooks she will have an easier time of figuring out materials and labor costs. She advertises by word of mouth, by handing out business cards, and by keeping a Facebook page, dedicated to Darcy’s Decadent Designs (of the same name) stocked with fresh photos of her creations. So far, she has registered more than 400 “likes.”
There’s a big need for wedding cakes, a speciality for Guillory. Last year, she was invited to the Wedding Expo at Land’s End. The Sugar Plum Holiday Fare provided another venue. Either way, word is getting out for this entrepreneur who followed her vision to find a niche on the south end of the Kenai Peninsula where winter unemployment numbers remain higher than other parts of the road system. Her customers come from the Russian Old Believer communities, from Soldotna, Anchor Point and Homer.
“My husband and I are always in the kitchen. When I stay up late at night to get an order finished, he provides the dinner,” she said. Her dream is to open a Homer shop where she can sell baked goods and espresso. For now, she is looking to supply coffee shops.
“Basically, I can make a cake they will never forget. There won’t be none other like it in the world.”
Of course, the ultimate test of a clever cake grades it for taste. The flower pot cake proved an unmitigated hit to the Homer Tribune staff. To reach Darcy, give her a call at 299-6320 or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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