AVON LAKE, Ohio — "A boss lady is somebody who boldly chooses her own direction. She gets stuff done, she often strays from the conventional path and blazes her own trail. She often works towards a higher purpose outside of her own personal success." - Maggie Sullivan, author of Boss Ladies of CLE.
When it comes to baking, it takes patience and precision to yield the best results. Kelsey Elizabeth Shepard has been putting in the work for nearly a decade to build Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes into a booming bakery business.
But it wasn't an overnight success, her journey began in 2014. Shepard was just 24-years-old when she began her baking empire from inside her parents' Northeast Ohio home.
"There was pretty much cupcakes or cakes on every surface of our home and my parents' home and my dad's like, so Kelsey, I think it's time. We might want to find a location for this," she explained.
And she didn't stop at just one. Fast forward to 2023, she’s out of her parents’ home and at the helm of an ever-growing business with four locations across Northeast Ohio. Each location offers her signature treats from custom wedding and special occasion cakes to macarons, cookies and cupcakes.
"I wanted someone to walk in and say, wow, you got a Kelsey Elizabeth Cake. I almost wanted it to be a fashion brand, like a handbag where you are showing off, people recognize it right away," she said explaining the branding.
The Kelsey Elizabeth brand is the culmination of a lifetime of baking experience. Starting with early lessons from her mom, Shepard elevated her craft by taking classes around the world.
"So I went to Chicago and studied a little bit at the Wilton School of Decorating, and then also went to the Peggy Portion Cake Academy out in London, which was amazing," said Shepard. " And then also just took a lot of master classes around the country, you know, some traveling around to try to learn a lot of different styles."
However, it was the power of social media and a few influential customers that helped Shepard's once home-based business take on new heights.
One of those pinch-me moments came during the 2017 NBA Finals, when basketball legend gave her work a shoutout on National TV.
"I was getting tagged in all these Facebook pictures and on Instagram and all these text messages saying Shaq, the basketball player held up, not like there's another Shaq, but he held up our cookies on TNT, " she explained. "So there he is holding it up and I'm sitting looking at all these tags and I'm like, oh my gosh, I hope somebody recorded it because I wasn't even there watching it. I'm sitting at work."
Shepard now has a following of over 100,000 on Instagram, a platform that directly connects her to her customers—its’ something she says, she doesn’t take for granted.
"I feel like I'm actually talking to people who want to know about our specials versus just throwing out it into the world and hoping that people see it or read it or whatever it is. So yeah, social media's been huge for us," said Shepard.
And as her business has grown, so has the woman behind the brand. Shepard is now a wife and a new mom to a baby girl named Posey; who she’s hoping will share her love of baking.
"I have this little girl who I just want to make her proud now. So now I feel like I'm come back with a new vigor," she said. "I can't wait to share it with her and have my mom there and my sister there and make it even more of a family tradition.
As for work-life balance, Shepard acknowledges there's no perfect recipe.
"I know that some weeks I'm going to be at the shop non-stop," she explained. "Now this week and next week we have that menu launched. Now I can take a little bit more time, I can spend more time with my daughter, I can spend more time with my husband."
Shepard is still hands-on in all aspects of the business, managing a team of as many as 75 people
"So I still do a lot, but it might not be in here baking every day. I haven't baked in a little while, which I think is actually a good thing. I get to work on the business a little bit more than having to work in the business when I first started," she said.
But no matter what hat she’s wearing, Shepard will always appreciate being able to enjoy the sweets of her labor in her hometown.
"This is where I was born and raised. This is where I'm excited to raise my family now, and being able to bring this little slice of Paris to Cleveland has been really awesome," she said.
You can find more from Kierra Cotton below:
*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous, unrelated report that aired January 22, 2019.