“A Cake Influencer’s Recipe for Success” transcript
Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. You're listening to radio Cherry Bombe, and I'm your host Kerry Diamond. Each week we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food.
Kerry Diamond: First, let's thank our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm pasture-raised organic eggs. Handsome Brook's secret to making rich, flavorful eggs is simple: The most possible space, the best possible feed, and lots of love. It's a healthy and humane recipe that makes your omelets, cakes, custards and everything in between taste better. To learn more and to find their eggs, visit HandsomeBrookFarm.com.
Kerry Diamond: Today's show is all about cake and accounting. Don't think the two go together? Think again. Today's guest is Chelsey White, better know as Chelsweets, the incredible self-taught baker who went from accounting to social media darling. Chelsey actually quit her day job six weeks ago, but it was a very planned and deliberate decision. She talks to us about the goals she set for herself and shares lots of advice in the process. No matter what career you're in, you'll find some nuggets of wisdom in our conversation.
Kerry Diamond: Before we get started, let's hear a word from our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm pasture-raised organic eggs. Handsome Brook Farm believes that organic and pastured is the way to go when it comes to eggs. Pasture-raised means better lives for hens, better lives for small farmers, and better eggs for you. It's also better for the chefs that depend on rich, flavorful eggs. Handsome Brook Farms' own flock of amazing chefs, their Mother Hens, count on it.
Kerry Diamond: Janine Booth is a Mother Hen. She's the Australian chef behind the Southern-inspired Root & Bone restaurants in New York City and Miami. Want to learn how Chef Janine makes her sweet corn spoon bread? The ingredients include Handsome Brook Farm eggs, some scallions, sharp cheddar cheese, and a touch of heavy cream. Or if you're like me and you're obsessed with deviled eggs, you can recreate her drunken deviled eggs. Chef Janine combines homemade pickled beets with Handsome Brook Farms' flavorful yolks to put a fresh, tangy spin on a classic party favorite. You can find Chef Janine's delicious egg-centric recipes and videos on HandsomeBrookFarm.com.
Kerry Diamond: Where can you find Handsome Brook Farm organic pasture-raised eggs? At Publix, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, FreshDirect, and many natural food stores across the country.
Kerry Diamond: Here's my conversation with Chelsey White.
Kerry Diamond: Let's start at the beginning. Where are you from?
Chelsey White: I was raised and grew up in Seattle, Washington.
Kerry Diamond: I don't know many Seattle natives.
Chelsey White: It's a fun place. It's gotten really trendy I feel like in the last few years, so I don't get annoyed, but whenever I say that, people are like, "Oh, the Pacific Northwest, it seems so beautiful out there." I'm like, "Yeah, it's nice. It's good."
Kerry Diamond: Did Amazon change Seattle? Could you feel it when you were there?
Chelsey White: Yes. 100%. My parents live in Queen Anne now, which is right next to what we call Amazonland, and it is so drastically different than it was even five years ago. The whole city is different. And it's fine; it's brought a ton of money into the city and a ton of new people and different perspectives, but it's definitely a different vibe. It kind of feels more like Manhattan now, though, so I'm mostly okay with it, but it definitely feels different.
Kerry Diamond: It's a very cool scene for women in food.
Chelsey White: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: We were there last year and did one of our Future of Food tours. I mean, there were so many places. We could not even go to all of them. Like Frankie and Jo's vegan ice cream, Linda Derschang has so many restaurants and bars out there like Oddfellows, and she just opened a place called Queen City. I think it's like the oldest bar or tavern or something in the city. It was great.
Chelsey White: Gonna have to check that out next time I'm home.
Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. Renee Erickson. Do you know her?
Chelsey White: Mm-mm (negative).
Kerry Diamond: She's a big chef in the city. We'll give you a list next time-
Chelsey White: I was going to say, yeah, I need to get that from you.
Kerry Diamond: ... next time you go home.
Kerry Diamond: So, I read that as a child, you were the kind of kid who would count all your money in your piggy bank.
Chelsey White: I was. I loved money. I think that's probably why I became a CPA. It's not even that I love money so much. I think I'm just a little bit neurotic and I like numbers, and I think that money kind of plays into that. So, yeah, I was definitely a type A child.
Kerry Diamond: How did that manifest itself?
Chelsey White: Well, number one, I also was really shy, so I think I am a little bit analytical, I think things through a lot, sometimes I overthink things, and I think I would be that kid in the corner ... Like there's literally videos of me staring at a clock, and I was like, "What am I doing in that video, Mom?" And she's like, "You're thinking about all the gears, and you can tell you're watching everything and trying to figure out how it works." But normal kids play with toys on the ground or talk to their friends, and I'm just sitting alone in the corner. I've become more social as I grew up, but I definitely was incredibly quiet when I was younger.
Kerry Diamond: So, I also read that it wasn't just that you liked money, you liked the security that came with money. So, you were even thinking about that as a little kid?
Chelsey White: Definitely. So, my parents grew up, they were both one of three, and they definitely grew up with limited means, so they're super frugal. My mom is a coupon queen. No matter how much money I think they ever have, she will always be the type of person that wants a deal on something, and I think that really shaped who I was, and it's not that I'm so worried about how much money I have in the bank; it's really just this mindset of feeling, yeah, secure. If you are saving properly and you're planning out your life, I think that gives you a lot of freedom and peace of mind, and that's always been really important to me.
Kerry Diamond: And you seem like you're a planner.
Chelsey White: 100%. I am such a planner. That's one of my favorite things about New York though is I used to try to plan ... I had this vision for myself where I thought I knew what my life was going to be like. I moved here, and if you had told me when I was 22 I was going to be doing what I'm doing now, would've literally laughed out loud and said, "Never." So, New York has not only opened so many doors but forced me to stop trying to plan my life and just living it day by day.
Kerry Diamond: So your dad is an accountant.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: How about your mom?
Chelsey White: My mom is a teacher, and she for years taught a fourth, fifth gifted class, but she just became a STEM teacher actually. She's in her second year. She's heading up the program for her school district, so it's almost like a change of career for her. She's doing a whole new curriculum, she's heading it up with lots of other teachers. Just like I'm so proud of her, but she is a really great example of hard work and loving what you do. She's shaping the next generation, and it's cool to see.
Kerry Diamond: So, when did you know you wanted to be an accountant?
Chelsey White: So, I grew up around that, and I knew I wanted to see what it was all about. I liked it enough, and then in college, I took it my freshman year, I think, and I really enjoyed it. It's not that I'm so passionate about accounting, but it makes sense. Like things go in their place. It works with the way my brain works.
Kerry Diamond: I really wish that when I was in school they taught practical math because I took geometry, trigonometry, and I really do think you need to learn the basics for everything, but you never learn about balancing a checkbook or what does it mean to have a mortgage or what is the stock market all about or what does interest mean.
Chelsey White: I couldn't agree with you more, and I think that that's one thing that is nice if you major in business. You can get some of that practical experience. I think now they're trying to introduce more of that into curriculum just because it's important, but I still think that so many people don't get those fundamental teachings, and then when they enter the real world, it's scary. When you don't know how to deal with something and you maybe didn't have the best example set for you growing up or you didn't get to see someone do it, it's hard to do it yourself for the first time, so I 100% agree with that.
Kerry Diamond: What would you even call it, like household math? Basic math skills for life and home ec. That's what I want to see in high school.
Chelsey White: I could've used home ec. Even though I bake, I really can't cook. It's not that I can't; I just don't, but I feel like it's because I'm a little bit scared of it, and I think if I had taken home ec and been forced to cook chicken at age 16, I'd probably cook more now.
Kerry Diamond: What was your first job out of college?
Chelsey White: My first job out of college was working at Ernst & Young as an auditor in their banking and capital markets. Basically in a financial statement, there's different accounts, and you're going through all the details that make up that number, so you're going to dig through everything, all the transactions, you're testing the controls on certain things to make sure that their systems are functioning correctly.
Kerry Diamond: So you audit.
Chelsey White: Yeah. You're just deep diving. Some of it is almost interesting, but a lot of it's not.
Kerry Diamond: Almost interesting. That's the last thing you want to be described as. She was almost interesting. What was your next job?
Chelsey White: My next job was at L'Oreal. I worked in their consumer products division, and I worked on Maybelline, Garnier, and Essie. It was a financial planning and analysis role, and I managed their social budgets, and so not only was it amazing to transition from public accounting to more of a ... I mean, L'Oreal is a fun company. They have fun products, they have really passionate people that work there, and they're really great people. So, it's an incredibly unique work environment, and it really taught me so much, but I also got to talk with all these people that manage the social budget. But it was so fun talking to digital marketers, hearing about different platforms, different strategies. It really got my mind thinking in that kind of a way, and it was really my first time looking at social media differently, and it's kind of funny because that's when Chelsweets was really starting and beginning to grow, and I can't help but think those things go hand in hand.
Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. So, tell me what you did after L'Oreal.
Chelsey White: So, after L'Oreal I found a job as a digital client finance manager, and I realized that digital and finance was really what I was passionate about, so I jumped on that opportunity, interviewed, loved Edelman, and Edelman is a global communications marketing firm, so a lot of people think of them as a PR firm, but they do a lot more than that, and so that's kind of exactly where I was. I was in their digital department, so we worked on a lot of projects like website builds, app builds, UX experience.
Kerry Diamond: So this whole time, almost the whole time, you are baking on the side.
Chelsey White: I am.
Kerry Diamond: When did you start baking?
Chelsey White: I started baking pretty much when I moved to New York for the long haul, so I think I was 22, I made a batch of cookies, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is so fun," and I'd always loved Pinterest, but I never really ... I think a lot of us go on Pinterest, we scroll, we look at pretty things, but we don't do anything with it, but I was like, "No, I'm going to bake these cookies," and everyone liked them. And then it was a coworker's birthday, and I was like, "I'm going to make you a cake," and I got off work that night at like 10:00 PM or something, and I went home, and I was like, "I don't care how late I'm staying up, I'm making this cake."
Kerry Diamond: Why were you so-
Chelsey White: I just wanted to.
Kerry Diamond: ... set on making this cake?
Chelsey White: I just was really excited about it. I think it was like a Snickers cake or something, but I had been thinking about it for like a week, I was ready, I'd been planning, and when you're staring at Excel literally all day, it's just like you need something. You need that. So, I went home, I made the cake, and it was like if you really scroll on my Instagram far enough you can still see it. It's lopsided, I don't know what's going on with the frosting. I think I tried to do a drip, and it's all over the place, but it tasted so good, and everyone loved it, and then they were like, "Well, so-and-so's birthday is in a month. Are you going to make them a cake?" And I was like, "Maybe," and then it kind of evolved into this thing where I made everyone's birthday cakes.
Chelsey White: And then it was like we'd have rotating members, and then people on other teams wanted cakes, and then before I knew it, friends of friends were trying to order cakes, and I was like, "I don't do that," and then I was like, "Well, I could try to do that," and then it kind of evolved into me selling cakes, which then of course quickly got super out of hand. Luckily I transitioned to L'Oreal during this time.
Kerry Diamond: Wait, why did it get out of hand.
Chelsey White: I was doing like eight cakes a week. Like you can't ... I wasn't sleeping. Also, I had-
Kerry Diamond: What were you charging for these cakes?
Chelsey White: Nothing.
Kerry Diamond: Probably nothing, right?
Chelsey White: Literally, I think like-
Kerry Diamond: People are shocked how much a custom cake really costs.
Chelsey White: I know. The fact that no one ever challenged my prices. The biggest mistake people make is they think if you're a home baker, you should charge people what they would pay to buy cake from a grocery store, but absolutely not because the time you're putting into it. You don't get to buy in bulk like a grocery store. You're also not making 100 cakes a day and you have a huge facility where you can do it.
Kerry Diamond: So did you not grow up baking?
Chelsey White: No. So, I-
Kerry Diamond: Did your mom bake?
Chelsey White: No. I mean, my mom makes this plum cake that's German. In the summer we have a prune, plum tree in the backyard, but that is one thing she makes once a year, and she makes her own jam, but I didn't grow up in the kitchen baking. We did a lot of sports when we were little, and we were just out and about doing things and not in the kitchen very much.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, so you didn't bake, so you just got in your head that-
Chelsey White: Yep.
Kerry Diamond: Do you think it was from Pinterest?
Chelsey White: Probably. I think it also was just like I was kind of crafty when I was a kid. I loved arts and crafts and painting, and my friend, actually, who now is a fashion designer, we would fake cut up clothes and sew them. So, I always liked doing that kind of thing, and I think that when I became an adult and was working, I really missed having that kind of an outlet, and I think I needed something at that point in my life, and it just so happened that baking turned into that.
Kerry Diamond: So, it's out of control at some point, and how did it evolve? How did it evolve from you making cakes for the colleagues, selling some cakes, realizing this isn't just a hobby anymore?
Chelsey White: So, I made all these cakes, I'm selling them, and then eventually I started making content, right? And it's like how did that happen? That's the question I get asked all the time, and the answer is one day, Food Network ... I didn't even know about it. They wrote an article on Snapchat about me, and they called me the crazy cookie queen or something, which actually was not that relevant to the cakes I was making, but back then I made more things. But I was so excited.
Kerry Diamond: So you weren't a cookie queen.
Chelsey White: Well, no. No. I appreciate that though, but no. So, I was like, "Oh my gosh," and then they emailed me a month or two later and were like, "Do you want to come in and do a shoot with us?" And I was like, "okay, yeah," and-
Kerry Diamond: Did you have a lot of followers on Instagram at that point?
Chelsey White: I think I had like maybe 30,000 or something.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. Well, wait, that's a lot of followers.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: So, were you getting all those people because you were posting all your cakes?
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Chelsey White: So, I was baking a lot, and I was taking photos of it. You know, you make something pretty in this day and age, you want to take a picture of it and share it, and so I had a lot of cakes going on, and I was doing that.
Kerry Diamond: Were you being really strategic about your Instagram account or you were just posting these pictures?
Chelsey White: No. I mean, I wasn't even picking what cakes I was making because they were orders. But I was posting frequently enough, and then so I did the shoot with Food Network, and then I also started making my own cake videos about that time because I was seeing all these videos online. It was summer of 2016, and I was like, "I'm making cakes all the time. Why can't I record them? It's such a fun process, let me share it." So, I started, and my first cake video was horrendous, but-
Kerry Diamond: How did you figure out how to videotape yourself baking cakes?
Chelsey White: I literally, I bought a tripod, and I bought two lights, and I just set it up, and the first video was out of focus, and then I watched it, and I was like, "Oh," and then the next video, I got it focused, but it was off centered, and the third video is focused and centered, and then I realized my ... It really evolved over time, and it's a learned skill. It's not like ... I learn by doing, and I think a lot of people do, too, and there's nothing like having to edit a video on ... I literally use iMovie by the way. It's nothing fancy. But there's nothing like watching a video and having to edit it when you notice a soap bottle in the background or you notice that the cake is slightly not centered on the cake board or that ... You pick out things over time, and I'm so neurotic that I hated seeing what I would consider errors in my videos. So, it's just a process that evolved over time.
Kerry Diamond: And I scrolled back quite a bit on your Instagram. I did not see that Snickers cake, but I did-
Chelsey White: You really gotta go back for that.
Kerry Diamond: But I did scroll back, and I did notice that your Instagram account has certainly evolved over time.
Chelsey White: Definitely.
Kerry Diamond: That I'm guessing was strategic.
Chelsey White: I think I've just gotten better at what I'm doing, but I think that's just because like anything, the more you do something, hopefully the better you get at it, and I think-
Kerry Diamond: But like less personal photos, more cake photos.
Chelsey White: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kerry Diamond: The cake photos, the cakes are all radically different, but the cake is the center of the photo.
Chelsey White: Yeah, totally. Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah.
Chelsey White: I mean, I definitely think, number one I created a personal Instagram, so now if I have personal photos, I put them on that, and number two, yeah, I think people my follow my account because they want to see cakes. They like cakes, they like the process, and so I want to create as entertaining a video as I can to brighten their feed. So, that's my main focus, and that's what I try to kind of send out into the social media world when I post.
Kerry Diamond: And you also blew up. I mean, if you only had 30,000 followers back in 2016, you're gunning toward a million now.
Chelsey White: Honestly, video just makes you grow. Videos are so discoverable, and I also just think it's so compelling. It's so fun to see the full story of a cake from start to finish, to see how it's made. If there's a weird technique, you're like, "Oh, that's how they do it." I love watching cake videos. I know I'm a baker so I'm biased, but people message me all the time, and they'll be like, "I don't even bake, but I just find your videos so soothing," and I think it's just fun to watch, so I think beauty and baking are two of the most discoverable categories, and I just happened to be lucky to have fallen into that category on Instagram and made videos when they really were becoming a priority on Instagram.
Kerry Diamond: So, two things. I noticed you use the word luck. We talk about the word luck a lot, and some women do not like using the word luck, but I don't know. I think a lot of us are very lucky, and I don't have a problem with the word, but I think you use the word luck because none of this was planned.
Chelsey White: No. Yeah, totally fell into it, and I don't have any problem with the word luck. I think that when you work really hard, you can kind of make your own luck. I totally believe that. I'm also obsessed with four leaf clovers, and I frequently look for them, but I really do believe in hard work, but I also think that sometimes it feels like the stars aligned, and you just can't believe things are going the way they are and-
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, why you were born where you were born, at what time, to what parents, to so many things that you don't control.
Chelsey White: Exactly, and I think it's kind of almost like being fortunate versus lucky, but I have no problem with saying that I think I've been lucky through the whole process but have also worked incredibly hard to get where I am.
Kerry Diamond: And I also noticed you use the word baker, and you've written about struggling with what to call yourself.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: So you're finally comfortable with calling yourself a baker.
Chelsey White: Literally, I made my media kit yesterday, and I was trying to write out my mission statement and what I am, and I've done that for different purposes, but every time I have to sit down and really think about that, it's so hard.
Chelsey White: My order of things I call myself, as of yesterday: baker, content creator, blogger. But it's hard, yeah. But I think I do consider myself a baker because saying a caker doesn't sound as good, and I also don't want to limit myself.
Kerry Diamond: I didn't even know that's a word. Caker?
Chelsey White: I think it's kind of a fake word. Yeah. But what if I want to make brownies tomorrow? I don't want to limit myself. But yeah, so I think baker is the best.
Kerry Diamond: And finally claim that mantle as cookie queen.
Chelsey White: Exactly. Exactly.
Kerry Diamond: So the thing that's going to surprise our listeners is that you only quit your day job six weeks ago.
Chelsey White: Yes. It still doesn't really feel ... It's kind of funny because I don't even know where the last six weeks have gone, but every day when I look back on the day, I'm like, "How did I used to do all this and work at the same time?" And part of it's that I had this laundry list of giant goals I wanted to accomplish that I began tackling when I quit I never would've been able to while I was working, but I just ... Yeah, I literally don't know how I did it.
Kerry Diamond: So you had said to yourself, I don't know, a few years ago, a year ago, that you would quit when you achieved X.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: Tell us what those things were.
Chelsey White: They weren't even supposed to be real goals. They were kind of like fake goals. They were goals that were meant to be excuses for not quitting my job because I liked ... That's the other thing. I really liked my job. I didn't want to quit. I enjoyed my team. I learned a lot there. Every day was interesting. So, I was like, "Okay, well, if I'm going to quit, Chelsweets has to make two times my corporate salary," because there's vacation and health insurance, and there's a lot of other things and also security. I was like, "I need to make a lot more money if I'm going to do Chelsweets full time."
Chelsey White: And then I also, in a long side story, bought a condo in Seattle several years ago because I thought I was going to move home, and I just couldn't imagine quitting my job and not having a confirmed, steady income, and having a mortgage, I was like, "That's so scary." I'm so risk averse I can't even tell you. I was like, "I've got to pay off my mortgage before I quit. I can't quit and have that over my head."
Chelsey White: And then the third thing was having a steady monthly income, and for me it's ... Being a blogger and content creator, you're going to get these big partnerships, but you never know when they're going to happen, you don't really have control over them because a brand is just going to do an activation and decide to reach out to you. You have no influence over it. So, I wanted to just have some kind of like, "Okay, I know I'm going to make x dollars a month, and I can pay my rent and I'll be fine."
Chelsey White: And so for me, those things didn't really fall into place until ... Speaking of luck, the stars just aligned. I got a bunch of huge partnerships Q4 of last year, and-
Kerry Diamond: You still talk like an accountant.
Chelsey White: I know. I said Q4 and I was like, "Last fall." Last fall, and I was able to pay off my mortgage, it made my income for the year for Chelsweets greats, and I also got to a point where I was monetizing my videos on Facebook, and my blog was doing well, and I just had a steady income every month where even if I don't have a partnership, I felt like the type A side of me wasn't going to crawl under a rock and die from stress. I felt like I could live my life the way I want to and not worry so much about money.
Chelsey White: And so I was like, "This is it. I'm here," and it just kinda of came to me one day. I was actually talking to a friend of mine who made a similar leap this year, and she was just like, "What are you waiting for? You are doing great. Just do it." And then I was thinking about it, and I took a step back and was like, "I think I am ready," and then once I got that through my head, I was just counting down the days until I left my job, not because I didn't like it, but just because I realized I was really ready to make this transition.
Kerry Diamond: And you also wanted a blessing from your parents.
Chelsey White: Yeah. What's so funny is my parents, I wasn't actually worried about what they would ... My mom and my sister didn't really believe I was going to quit. They're like, "We'll believe you when we see you quit." But I wasn't actually worried about them not approving, but I talked to them a lot because I really value their opinion, and they shared their advice and what they thought, but they were 100% supportive, and I just think I'm really lucky to have had ... But it also never occurred to me that they would not be supportive. But I think it's just once I set my mind on something I'm going to do it, and I think my parents respect my drive.
Kerry Diamond: So you've put some really useful content out into the world. It's not just your videos, which I love, and no one loves buttercream more than me. I'm like, "I should I have a t-shirt that says like Team Buttercream," because-
Chelsey White: I'll take one, too.
Kerry Diamond: American buttercream.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: I don't like those fancy butter creams. Whenever I go to a party and there's a cake that looks like it's buttercream and it turns out it's like whipped cream or something, I'm like a kid who found out, I don't know, Santa Claus doesn't exist or something.
Chelsey White: That's like exactly how I feel, too. I very much respect that opinion. I like that.
Kerry Diamond: So, anyway, I was saying you've put some really great content out there for people who want to be freelancers, content creators, et cetera, and I really hadn't read much about this, so I have to A, commend you for putting this out there, but B, I want to talk through some of those things. You talk about the importance of financial planning, like you said having income, insurance; do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Chelsey White: Insurance is so important, and I think a lot of people think if you don't have a job you're just like, "What are you going to do?" Well, at least that's what I thought. I was like, "What am I going to do. I've always had a ... " I've never thought of being a free ... And I technically am a freelancer, but I've never thought that would be what I'd be doing. And so there's a few ways around it, but honestly with the Affordable Care Act, you can get insurance, and the answer is it's going to be-
Kerry Diamond: In New York State.
Chelsey White: Yeah. Yeah, it varies based on where you live, but it's going to be twice as expensive as if you had stayed at your corporate job, but you can do it. You can find it, you can be covered, you can have good insurance and be happy. It's also easier if you're married, which I am not, but if you-
Kerry Diamond: If you have one working partner.
Chelsey White: Yes, but if you have lived with someone ... It varies state by state, again, but if you can claim yourself as a domestic partner, which means you're in an exclusive relationship and you've lived together for a certain period of time, you can sign an affidavit and go on their insurance.
Kerry Diamond: Right. Some people don't even know companies offer that.
Chelsey White: Yep. And it's still more expensive than if you were to pay for your own insurance through your own company, but there's a lot of ways around it, and it's really important to have insurance of all kinds, and you just really have to think those things through because you never know when something's going to happen, and you don't want when you just quit your job and you're trying to figure out your money situation and everything, the last thing you need is a huge medical bill.
Kerry Diamond: You also talked about incorporating your company.
Chelsey White: Yes. So, I became an LLC right before I left Edelman. I used to be sole proprietorship, and it kind of just depends on where you see yourself going with your business, and for tax benefits, I think I'm going to become an S Corp this year. Thank you, Dad, for talking me through that. But it just depends on where you want to go down the road and what makes the most sense with where you live and what you're doing.
Chelsey White: But that's important, too, to have business licenses, and it is hard because especially when you're starting out, you might not know exactly what you want to do in the long run, but the answer is just do your research, look it up, figure it out, see if it makes sense for you, if it's the right thing for you, and it feels empowering, also, to know that you're covered or you're making the right decisions.
Kerry Diamond: And talk to other people.
Chelsey White: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: I feel like people are more generous these days with advice than when I was your age because there were just ... I don't know. People were more protective of what they knew whereas I think now a lot of people just want people to be happy and successful.
Chelsey White: Yeah, definitely. And I think in this day and age, a lot of people are venturing out on their own. Maybe that's the biased side of me living in New York and knowing a lot of people that are in my field, but I think, yeah, just talking to people, asking if you know someone else that's done something similar recently, they've gone through everything, just grab coffee with them and chat through.
Chelsey White: I literally did that with my friend yesterday. We were talking about taxes and S Corps and everything, and it's not what you would think would be the most exciting conversation, but it's important to have those.
Jess Zeidman: Hi everybody. It's Jess. Time for a little housekeeping. Have you listened to our Future of Food miniseries yet? All 10 episodes are out now. I had so much fun producing this series and learning what members of the Bombesquad across the country want to see in our future. If you're looking to get inspired, I definitely recommend you give it a listen. It's available wherever you get your podcasts.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Jess. Let's get back to my conversation with Chelsey.
Kerry Diamond: You also talk about something that was interesting. It was having a diversified revenue stream.
Chelsey White: Being diversified in life is good for your retirement, for savings or however you're investing. It's important because you don't know what's going to happen in the world or in your life, or this sounds stupid, but monetizing across different platforms on social media is important because you don't know if maybe one of your accounts is going to stop doing so well or one's going to do really well and there's a big opportunity there, so just being able to plan ahead and not have all your eggs in one basket, it just makes life better. You're less stressed, and I am such a stresser, I need every way that I can to not worry about things, and that's I think one of the best ways.
Kerry Diamond: You mentioned monetizing your different platforms. I think so many people are curious about that because social media, YouTube, everything still seems very mysterious and how to turn those things into opportunities for monetization. So, can you walk us through your different platforms?
Chelsey White: Totally. So, YouTube is the most basic and I think straightforward one that people get. You put ads on your videos. There's literally a button that you click, and it pops up when you go to watch a video-
Kerry Diamond: Can you control what ads you put up there?
Chelsey White: No. No. But I think that you could say if you don't want certain types of ads on there based on categories.
Kerry Diamond: Did you have to reach a certain amount of viewers before you had that option to add ads.
Chelsey White: I honestly don't remember. I'm sure there is, but-
Kerry Diamond: What are you up to on YouTube? I didn't check.
Chelsey White: Like 104,000 I think. Nothing too crazy.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. 104,000 more than I have on YouTube.
Chelsey White: YouTube is like the-
Kerry Diamond: No, I'm kidding. I'm not on YouTube.
Chelsey White: YouTube is the platform I struggled most with just because long form videos are not ... I don't always love being on camera. I don't not like it, it's just a lot more work.
Kerry Diamond: So how did you start your YouTube channel?
Chelsey White: I literally started it the same time that I started making videos for Instagram. If you go back to my earliest one, it's literally a terrible, out of focus just video.
Kerry Diamond: And dumb question, but are you putting the same videos on both channels or both platforms?
Chelsey White: So in the beginning I did just because I didn't know any better, but it's a best practice to have long form videos on YouTube that are going to be slower, aren't sped up, that you're walking through steps. People on YouTube are there generally because they want to learn how to do something, so while they do want to be entertained and compilation videos that are sped up are great, a lot of people go because they want to learn some kind of skill or learn how to do something, so you want to take your time with it, you don't want it to be fast, and you want to talk through it. So, it's a much different format than like the sped up, no talking, 30 second Instagram video that I share. So, now I make different videos for all my platforms.
Kerry Diamond: How long are your YouTube videos.
Chelsey White: They vary a lot. They could be three minutes to like 12 minutes.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. How have you learned all of this about YouTube? Do you have a relationship with YouTube?
Chelsey White: No.
Kerry Diamond: You've just learned it all on your own?
Chelsey White: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Because they do have relationships with some of their creators.
Chelsey White: No. I'm not that cool, and in New York there's just a lot of big creators, so I don't think I'm quite at the top of their list.
Kerry Diamond: But you're totally self-taught on this.
Chelsey White: Yeah. They have their own guides for best practices, and you can also just watch other people. You can see what other people are doing that's working well and kind of figure out what type of videos you should be doing, how you should be filming and all of that.
Kerry Diamond: No, I think this is good for everybody to know because again, like I said, the process can seem so mysterious.
Chelsey White: Just figure it out as you go. Just start doing stuff, you figure out what works, figure out what doesn't, and you just try to go from there. I definitely have not fully figured out YouTube. It's still something ... That's one of the things when I quit I was like, "I need to try harder on YouTube."
Kerry Diamond: But you have figured out how to monetize it.
Chelsey White: Yeah, yeah. Well, that part's not that hard.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. Right, you said it's pressing a button. I could probably figure that out.
Chelsey White: And you can actually click to not monetize certain videos if you want.
Kerry Diamond: And does this represent a nice income stream for you?
Chelsey White: It's like moderate. And then another, I guess, revenue stream for lack of better word, I need to talk less like an accountant, is Facebook. So Facebook actually now is letting you monetize videos that are long, which means three minutes or longer. So, basically they want you to put your YouTube videos on Facebook, and I actually got to be a part of their Launchpad program, which is a special thing they did. It was invite only, and they basically incentivized you to post one long form video a week. And I actually got to go into the Facebook offices for a creators' day, which was the coolest thing ever. I thought I was going to die I was so excited. But I learned a lot there, and so I've started monetizing on Facebook, which has been really great too because it doesn't take a ton more work. You still have to schedule all your videos, and you try to interact with people, so it's still ... It's not like it's no time involved, but it's been a great way to have another source of income, so that's been nice.
Kerry Diamond: Are you repurposing your YouTube videos?
Chelsey White: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kerry Diamond: Okay, so you're not creating fresh content.
Chelsey White: So, I shared a lot of old ones in the beginning, and now I'm sharing all new content across my platforms, so like I'll make a new cake, I'll share it lined up across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. And did you figure out a lot of that on your own?
Chelsey White: Yeah. As part of the program, they have ... I think most platforms have videos that'll be like, "Best practices. You should tag this video like this. You should include a thumbnail. You should ... " Which are all very basic things I think most people can figure out, but they definitely walk you through it to try to help your videos have the most reach.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. How about Instagram?
Chelsey White: So, that's the funny ... Sometimes people will literally be like, "Do you make money off of Instagram videos?" And I'm like, "Well, not quite like that," but by posting regular content and growing in my following, brands are going to come to you and be like, "Do you want to do a partnership? Will you represent this product? We're doing this campaign; will you be a part of it?" And so you can make a lot of money on Instagram, but you have no control over it. So, it's great because you can make a lot of money, but-
Kerry Diamond: No control meaning you're not out there pitching brands to work with you.
Chelsey White: No.
Kerry Diamond: You're waiting for them to come to you.
Chelsey White: I've reached out to some brands, but in general it's not always worth your time, and I don't mean that because it's worthless. It's more so that if a brand wants to do something with you, it's because their company decided they're doing a campaign, they know they want you and you're a fit, and it's just great. But if you pitch a brand, even if you are a good fit for them, if they don't have money set aside for some kind of activation, you're not going to be able to do anything with them. So, it's kind of just timing, and to me it just makes more sense to have a brand approach you.
Kerry Diamond: What do you do to make yourself more discoverable?
Chelsey White: I think that ... It's a lot of different things. So, number one, I think it's creating high quality content, and that could mean a lot of different things, but just doing your best job with whatever you're doing. The other thing I think that helps a lot is making a lot of videos. You go on the explore page and you see them, so you're reaching a lot of people and people that don't necessarily follow you.
Chelsey White: Half the time it's like somebody from an agency follows me or saw a video, they have a client because you're never working with a brand directly. You're almost always working with an agency. Or their friend loves you and somehow saw your videos, and so just by being out there and having people see what you're doing, that's what it is.
Kerry Diamond: So explain to people what you just said. You're not working with the brands necessarily, you're working with an agency.
Chelsey White: Yes. So, I think I worked directly with a brand like once, literally, of all my partnerships. What a lot of brands do ... It varies because I think a lot of companies are waffling back and forth with whether they have social in house or they outsource it, but a lot of brands work with agencies who manage their campaigns, and so they'll give a budget to an agency, the agency will then come up with a campaign, a strategy, figure out who they want to work with, reach out to the influencers, figure out what kind of content they're going to create, get everything approved, and then create this beautiful work of art that is a campaign to support some kind of cause or new product launch or something like that.
Kerry Diamond: So, we haven't talked anything about cake or cake trends, so I'm dying to ask you questions because we're working on our bakers issues. It's our 13th issue. The theme is Baker's Dozen, but I'm so curious about how trends happen in the baking world, and I was looking at your cakes, and I don't even know the name for it. What is it when you-
Chelsey White: The drips?
Kerry Diamond: The drips.
Chelsey White: The drip cakes.
Kerry Diamond: Right. How did drip cakes ... They're just the thing now.
Chelsey White: Like literally, Katherine Sabbath. She is an Australian baker who-
Kerry Diamond: I love that you had an answer at the ready, Katherine Sabbath. So, naked cakes.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: That wasn't a thing when I was a kid, but now it's all about the naked cake.
Chelsey White: Yes. So, there is the actual naked cake, which is where you are stacking layers with frosting, and then there's like the Christina Tosi naked cake, which is usually you use an acetate sheet and you stack up, but that is totally a different look and so fun. I think she gave a new approach to naked cakes that people recreate all the time now.
Kerry Diamond: Because I've heard her say that you put so much thought into what's inside the cake, and then you never see it, so she wanted people to see what they were eating.
Chelsey White: No, I totally agree, and that's like when I decorate cakes, I love to incorporate whatever flavor is on the inside on the outside so you can see, but I 100% agree with her. It's silly when you can't even tell what you're about to eat.
Kerry Diamond: And you put so much work into your cake layers. You've got rainbow cake layers, checkerboard, marbled, everything.
Chelsey White: I try. I try.
Kerry Diamond: What else is big in the cake world right now? What do you notice that everybody's loving and doing?
Chelsey White: Oh, what a question.
Kerry Diamond: A few fun trends.
Chelsey White: One big one is the letters or the number cakes where it's like an A or a 13.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, I see those everywhere, and they're like macarons on them.
Chelsey White: Yep, and like all kinds of meringues and edible flowers. I'm actually thinking about making my fiancé one for this 30th birthday as a joke.
Kerry Diamond: And congratulations.
Chelsey White: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: You got engaged recently.
Chelsey White: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: So much happening in your life.
Chelsey White: Yeah, it's a lot. Lot of good stuff. But that's a really fun cake trend. They do it with cake and cookies, and I actually haven't tried it yet, which is why I want to do it I think next month, but I don't know if I've missed the boat on it, but that's definitely a fun one because people can really customize it. It's the same concept, but you can do a lot of different things to kind of make it your own. It's fun to see people's creations.
Kerry Diamond: Do you need a mold of the letter?
Chelsey White: Most people cut it. So, they'll make a sheet cake, and they'll make a template and trace it.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. So, what is a signature Chelsweets cake?
Chelsey White: I think if anything my signature is just that I make great-tasting, colorful buttercream cakes. I always want cakes to taste good. Maybe that's one thing because a lot of the specialty cakes out there are beautiful, but sometimes there's so much fondant or so much in it that you almost don't want to eat it, and I think that I really pride myself on the fact that my cakes, I always say my cakes taste as good as they look. But I just want to make fun cakes that make people smile, that make me smile, that I feel good about, trying new techniques, and again, anything colorful I love.
Kerry Diamond: And I would imagine you've encouraged a lot of people to start baking.
Chelsey White: Yeah. I feel kind of conceited saying like, "Oh, I inspire people to bake," because I don't really think about it that way, but people do message me a lot and are like, "Oh, you inspired me to make my first cake from scratch," or, "I made frosting for the first time and I feel so happy that I ... " And that is one of my goals is ... I found so much joy. No matter what I was doing in work, I'd come home, I'd be in my kitchen, and I would just be happy, and I have always hoped that other people can experience the same thing, and maybe they didn't know they could find so much happiness baking, but I want to bring that joy into people's lives, and so if that's what people are finding as they're starting their own baking journey, then I'm 100% happy, and that's my goal being accomplished.
Kerry Diamond: Fantastic. So, who eats all of these cakes?
Chelsey White: What a good question, and literally the number question I get asked.
Kerry Diamond: Really?
Chelsey White: Like, "Where do all your cakes ... " Okay, things that infuriate me: "What do you do with all your cakes?"
Kerry Diamond: That was kind of a selfish question because I was like, "We're happy to take them off your hands."
Chelsey White: No, people are like, "Do you just throw away your cakes when you're done with them?" And I'm so offended by that because my mom is German, and I did not waste food growing up. That's not a part of my being, so I get really angry when people say that, but I never respond angrily. I'm like, "No."
Chelsey White: I used to bring them in to my coworkers, right? I'd shove them in Tupperware, bring them in for my coworkers, yay.
Kerry Diamond: You'd shove them in Tupperware.
Chelsey White: I would. It was like-
Kerry Diamond: You did not shove them in Tupperware.
Chelsey White: I did.
Kerry Diamond: These are beautiful cakes.
Chelsey White: They were sliced up, and they were crammed in there, but it was Tupperware cake, and I would walk through the office to the kitchen, and people would be like, "Oh my ... It's time!" I'd get a line after it. It was great. So then I quit my job, and I was like, "What am I going to do with all the cakes?" And I've been giving them with friends who have offices that are close by, sharing them with their coworkers. My fire station and my police station are right next to each other, so I've given some to them, and then I've also had some friends stop by and pick them up. But it's hard because-
Kerry Diamond: Well we're friends now, right?
Chelsey White: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Okay.
Chelsey White: No, we just got to figure out how to get cake out here. But it's hard to be like, "So, I cut this cake open, so a quarter of it is missing, but it's a really good cake, and you should eat it. Here you go." It's creepy, so I can't really just give cakes to random people.
Kerry Diamond: Only you would say that's creepy.
Chelsey White: People are like, "What happened to the quarter of the cake?" And then you got to go into this thing like, "Well, I make videos and like to cut the cakes open." When I went to the police station for the first time, I had to be like ... That was the most embarrassing thing. I was like, "So, I'm like this cake maker, and I cut this cake, but you guys should eat it anyways," and they were like, "All right." It was weird. That's my life.
Kerry Diamond: Do you still enjoy making cakes?
Chelsey White: I do, and that's one of the reasons why I realized I needed to quit my job was I got to this point where I wasn't really enjoying anything. I didn't really feel like I was doing a good job at anything, and that's me being really hard on myself, but I just wasn't getting that satisfaction that I used to from it, and now that I'm putting all of my energy on one thing instead of a bunch of different things, I've definitely re-found my joy in the process.
Kerry Diamond: You said you felt so rundown, you were operating at 70% all of the time, and you're the type of person who wants to give her all.
Chelsey White: Yes. I felt like that for like two years. It was just like ... You just don't feel great about yourself, and it's not a good feeling.
Kerry Diamond: I think a lot of us can relate to that. You know, you're doing so many things. So much is uncertain today. You never know, like you said, you don't have control over when someone decides that they want to partner with you, so that's a scary part about the freelance thing or being self-employed or being a small business person is really not having a lot of control over your business.
Chelsey White: Yeah. Totally. I know.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Do you have an agent?
Chelsey White: Fun fact: no, but I'm in the process of working on that.
Kerry Diamond: You are?
Chelsey White: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Do you feel like you need one?
Chelsey White: Kind of.
Kerry Diamond: Well, I'm surprised you got to this level without one.
Chelsey White: It's a long story. When I worked at Edelman, I literally reviewed influencer contracts; that was part of my job from a financial perspective. So, I'm super comfortable negotiating my own rates, knowing what I should look for, pushing when I think that I'm worth more, saying no to things if it's not the right fit. I have always felt fine doing that, but I think there is just a point where an agent can still do more for you than you can do for yourself, and so I'm-
Kerry Diamond: Such as?
Chelsey White: Not to sound crass, but to get you more money.
Kerry Diamond: No, we need to talk about this.
Chelsey White: Just because like yes, I can ... That was the thing. I would be at work, and I would see a contract go out, and I would see how much money we were paying someone, and I would be, not to be terrible, but like, "My account is five times bigger than that." And it's not that it's linear where like so-and-so makes this much money on a campaign, you should make five times that. It's not like that, but it was more so it made me think like, "Well, what am I charging, and what's my rate card?" And those kinds of things are hard because it varies from person to person. Everyone's like, "There's a formula, or what should the equation be?" And that's not really how it is. It varies so much from person to person, what industry you're in, what kind of content you're creating, what kind of engagement you have.
Chelsey White: And so a lot of that made me just think about things more, and I just think that my energy is going to be better put into creative thinking and making amazing cakes and not haggling back and forth with brands. And also just if you really go with a big agency, they have so many connections, they can bring you new business, and you have an advocate in your corner, and now that I'm doing so much more with Chelsweets, I could use someone in my corner fighting for me.
Kerry Diamond: Would you like to do a cookbook one day?
Chelsey White: Funny story: I actually almost did a cookbook this fall. This is something I haven't really talked about. I almost did a baking book, a cake book, this fall. I actually worked on it over the summer on the proposal, and we made a beautiful proposal, and we pitched it, and we got an offer, but it just ruined my summer. I was so stressed out. I think I was already spread too thin, and that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I was having anxiety. I was having heart palpitations. I wasn't sleeping well. I literally felt nauseous. At one point in time, I was like, "Am I pregnant?" And then I was like, "No."
Chelsey White: But it was just not good, and then I finally got the offer and thought about everything it was going to entail. What they wanted was more than I had thought would be the case, like the number of cakes and the whole process, and I finally hit this wall where I was like, "I don't want to do this. I can't do this. It's not right. It doesn't feel right," and then I was like, "No," and I walked away from it, which sounds crazy. Everyone thought I was crazy, but it just felt like the right thing, and I really believe in trusting your gut.
Chelsey White: So, it's not that I never want to do a cookbook, but it's just at that time, I was convinced that I did not want to quit my job even though it was September. How things change. But I didn't want to quit my job for that, and it just didn't feel right, and so it's not that I would never want to make a book down the road, but just right now, I really want to focus on getting in a good place, and once I'm there I'll reconsider.
Kerry Diamond: So, we're going to do a speed round-
Chelsey White: Oh no.
Kerry Diamond: ... and then we'll let you out of here so you can go make your cake. What cake are you making today?
Chelsey White: There is a matcha cake in my fridge in my cake right now that is crumb coated. It's matcha chocolate, and it's going to have a chocolate drip, it's going to have some green tea or matcha candies on it. It's going to be pretty cute.
Kerry Diamond: Do you do a soak?
Chelsey White: No, I don't actually. I'm a big fan of butter cakes, so I don't usually do any kind of simple syrup, but that doesn't mean I never do. Sometimes I do.
Kerry Diamond: Okay, let's see what I'm going to start with. Your favorite kitchen implement?
Chelsey White: My cake stand. It's an Ateco 612, and I've had it for years, and my life would literally not be the same without it.
Kerry Diamond: And that's one of those revolving cake stands.
Chelsey White: Yeah, it's metal. It's the best thing ever. I put a four-tiered super heavy wedding cake on it. It spins like a dream. It's amazing.
Kerry Diamond: Love it. Go-to snack?
Chelsey White: Greek yogurt with jam.
Kerry Diamond: Most treasured cookbook?
Chelsey White: My first Sally's Baking Addiction. She came to New York, and I actually got it signed, and that was several years ago when I was just starting to bake, and I hugged her. It was a great day.
Kerry Diamond: Dream vacation destination?
Chelsey White: The Amalfi Coast. Little cliché, but I've always wanted to go there, and it's so pretty, and I think we might go there on our honeymoon. We haven't decided yet, though.
Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile?
Chelsey White: I listen to a lot of emo punk music, so this just takes me a minute. Fun fact: I'm still a 16 year old at heart. Song that makes me smile-
Kerry Diamond: Who's like an emo punk band?
Chelsey White: Like Mayday Parade, some screaming things, My Chemical Romance. I don't know. I don't know.
Kerry Diamond: Okay. Yeah. You don't seem like ... I mean, I'm sitting here stereotyping you. I'm sorry.
Chelsey White: I listen to pop punk playlists, which is like literally just 16 year olds that are mad at the world.
Kerry Diamond: Okay.
Chelsey White: A song that makes me smile. I think Beautiful by Bazzi.
Kerry Diamond: If you had to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?
Chelsey White: Guy Fieri. Guy Fieri is my very favorite food celebrity of all time. I've never met him, but one day I will. Someday it will happen. But I love him. He's so funny, and I just love Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Kerry Diamond: Great. Last week's guest said the same thing.
Chelsey White: Really?
Kerry Diamond: And that was a first. No one has ever said Guy Fieri.
Chelsey White: I always say that and people are like, "Who even likes him?" And I'm like, "All of America likes him." He has like five shows, and people pretend like they don't, but he has so many memes about him. People love him, and they just won't admit it.
Kerry Diamond: Chelsey, thank you for your time.
Chelsey White: Of course.
Kerry Diamond: You're great. I hope it's the first of many times you come on the radio show.
Chelsey White: Yes, I hope so, too. I had a great time.
Kerry Diamond: All right. Happy baking.
Chelsey White: Thank you. You too.
Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Chelsey for sharing her story with me. I'm so excited to see what she does next. If you want to see some of Chelsey's incredible cakes, make sure to follow her at Chelsweets on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
Kerry Diamond: Thank you to Handsome Brook Farm for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe. For more, visit HandsomeBrookFarm.com.
Kerry Diamond: Radio Cherry Bombe's associate producer is the one and only Jess Zeidman, and our theme song is by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening everyone. You're the bombe.
When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.
Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon: Hi. My name is Mahfam. I'm chef and owner at Mingle + Graze in Chandler, Arizona. Do you want to know who I think is the bomb? My mom, Maryam Moeeni. My mom inspires me because she left Iran to come to the US with my dad and sister without knowing anything about the language or culture. She taught me how to be a strong, resilient woman. I learned how to cook by watching her cook Persian food for us every day. Maryam is a professional artist renowned for her unique style and love of nature.