In a storefront that smells of vanilla and is brimming with decadent desserts, Gunilla Kroshus strives to make life delicious. Born in Stockholm, Sweden and fascinated by American style cake design, Gunilla picked up a book and taught herself how to decorate cakes. When she and her husband moved to Jacksonville in 1999, she decided to live her personal American dream and start her own bakery business, American Dream Cakes. From a modest start as a cake decorating business that she ran out of her house to a storefront and a satellite store in Cedar Point, there’s no question that Gunilla is truly embracing the American dream and succeeding in business. American Dream Cakes continues to expand, one delicious cake at a time.
Q: How did you get into baking?
A: It’s a God given talent that runs in our family. I have no schooling; I am self taught. My great-grandfather and his brother had a bakery in Sweden, something I didn’t learn about until after I got into the field. My son is a baker and my daughter is taking culinary arts in high school.
Q: Why did you decide to open your own bakery?
A: When we moved to Jacksonville in 1999, there were no bakeries other than the grocery stores. So I saw a need for fresh baked, made to order, uniquely designed cakes.
Q: What struggles, if any, did you find when trying to open your first store?
A: I don’t remember having any struggles. I did a lot of homework before I started my business, so I knew what to do and expect. I took the R.E.A.L. program at Coastal Carolina Community College, and created the business plan that showed me I needed to start out as a home-based business. I grew my clientele, stayed debt-free and invested all profits into bigger and better equipment so that I would be ready for the next step.
Q: Why did you decide to open a satellite location, and what was that decision process like?
A: Supply and demand. We were, and have, a lot of clients that live in or are coming to the Carteret County area for destination weddings and to visit, and it made sense for us to team up with another local business, Crystal Coast Tent & Event Rentals, to serve that community so they wouldn’t have to drive all the way to Jacksonville to meet with us or buy our products. It’s turned out to be such a successful move that we had to expand into bigger storefronts three times in less than two years, to our current location in Cedar Point where we’ve been selling our baked goods for over one year now.
Q: What drives and inspires you to keep going in your business?
A: It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love, and I do believe in making life delicious. Owning a business is hard work but it’s the American dream. It’s very rewarding to have clients come in and tell me, “You’ve done my sweet 16 cake, graduation cakes, wedding cake and now I need a baby shower cake.” I also take my team members to bakery conventions, cake competitions, we even went on a bakery exchange tour to Sweden last year to get some inspiration and learn about cultural differences in the bakery industry.
Q: Do you have plans to continue expanding?
Q: Do you have any advice for other women who may want to get into the field and open their own store?
A: Do your homework. Make sure you have a good business plane. Operate debt-free if at all possible. And in the bakery field, please educate yourself about copyright and trademark law infringements. The last thing you want after putting in time, money and a lot of effort into building your business is ending up losing because you made a cake in the shape of Mickey Mouse without written permission from Disney, Co. The laws are clear on what you can and cannot do as a business with and without permission or license, and I don’t recommend you gamble your business or personal freedom just to make a few dollars.
Q: How do you like working for yourself?
A: I love being able to use my God-given talent to create delicious and beautiful cakes, but more so I love the fact that being an entrepreneur has given me the opportunity to mold and create a company that I’m proud of, that has resulted in having team members that enjoy working here and help grow the company too. It’s not just a “9-5” attitude. We’re all in it together. Being an entrepreneur has also given me the opportunity to connect with so many other business owners, entrepreneurs, community leaders and together we love giving back to the community that has helped us grow and become who we are today. It’s all about service above self.
Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
A: For business owners, as you grow, learn to outsource. You can’t do everything yourself. You must learn to delegate, continue to educate yourself and your staff and make sure your team has some fun time together outside of work hours. I’ve been working with a business coach for years and I attend two of her weekend workshops each year to learn the latest in social media, work on marketing and mastermind group sessions. It’s very important to understand the difference of working on your business versus in your business if you want to grow.