Ashley E. Rodriguez: Artisan Sweets is approaching one year of business and with that comes a lot of reflection and analysis as to how things will change in the year to come and even… will there be another year to come?

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Well… let’s be serious…there will be more to come. I am excited for all the wonderful summer clients I have already booked and I look forward to all the cakes and desserts I have planned for them.

If you know me at all you would know that I spend a lot of time (probably too much) thinking. Currently I have been spending a lot of time analyzing my first year in business…. what went well, what needs to change, how can I get more business, how can I be less busy, and how can I make money doing this?

Let me really stress here that I love what I do. I love being in the kitchen. I walk away from an afternoon of swirling around the kitchen dancing from stove to oven to mixer and sink with more energy than I had before I began. I love being an artist with food as my medium. I live for food, good food. Pure, natural, God-created food that I mix, stir, whip, combine and bake to create simple and elegant sweets to entertain the taste buds of my clients and friends.

I love reading the shelves and shelves of baking books I have looking for inspiration and ideas. I roam the internet for new information and pastry experts whom I admire mightily asking them questions and picking their talented brains for tips, techniques, encouragement and inspiration.

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I originally began this business for one reason… I couldn’t imagine not doing it. After having trained at Spago moving back to Bellingham was a big adjustment. I anticipated this and thought the only way I could continue being happy doing pastry was to go at it alone because no other restaurant in Bellingham was ready for the caliber of desserts I knew I had to make. Not trying to sound egotistical – it’s just that I had tasted and used the finest and I wasn’t (and am not) willing to use anything else than the best even though I am not creating desserts in an area where those ideals are always appreciated – let alone having the customer base who is willing to pay the price for such high quality.

So as I reflect I am dealing with a couple of issues. First of all how the hell am I suppose to ever make any money doing this? – Which isn’t the reason for why I began my business… but now as my husband is planning on quitting his job in April to pursue photography full time we feel a bit more pressure to be making money (that’s a bit understated).

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This past December I felt as if I was in the kitchen everyday. Party for 300 here… 9 gallons of Chocolat Chaud there… tarts, cakes, cookies, pies, etc. And as I settle up my books I wonder… Where did all the money go? Well, I know this, and everyone tells me, that I don’t charge enough. But I can’t imagine if I really set my product to have a 30%+ food cost that anyone would be willing to pay that much (again, because I use the finest and am not willing to sacrifice that).

So … where is the money going to come from? – That’s the first question. The second is about my priorities… I am a wife and a new mother. In both of those areas of my life I feel that I am slacking. Currently there are dust bunnies on the shelves, dishes in the sink, beds un-made, clothes dirty and clothes clean to be folded. I have been stressed which is then taken out on my husband. I have been exhausted: mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I have not been the friend I want to be… the wife I want/need to be and the mother I should be. Often I have used the analogy that I feel as if I am juggling numerous balls .. they are all in the air (barely) and at any moment they could all come crashing down. I am in a constant state of trying to keep up – and not keeping up with any of it. So even with my business I have created this attitude of doing it just to get it done so that I may be able to get on the the next task that I have yet to complete.

Are these “normal” feelings for a business owner or am I feeling a bit of a nudge that it is the time in my life to bow out gracefully and say good-bye to a dream that was so close so that I may focus on the things that I have said are my number one priorities? As I write this tears come to my eyes at the thought of saying good-bye to a passion… to a love.. to a dream.

I came so close… nothing was as hard or as easy to say good-bye to than the offer of pastry chef at Spago. I knew that I could not be the mother I wanted to be if I accepted that offer… I also knew that I would always wonder what that would have been like to have such a desired and respected position. But it wasn’t even a question. I knew the answer was no.. so I guess I thought maybe having this little pastry business would be the best of both worlds… I could continue to bake while also being a more present mother.

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I apologize for the wordiness confusion and ups and downs but it is a mirror image of the battle within me. An ever present quest to seek the best path for my life and now for the life of my family as well.

My desire is to do what is best for my family without having a sense of resentment towards them because of the sacrifices that I have had to make… but maybe that is something I have to deal with myself. I hope for peace about whichever way this pans out and for clarity.

I appreciate those who have taken the time to read this. My intention for writing this is not to seek out encouraging words that tell me to “hang in there”. But I hope to receive genuine thoughts as to how others in similar situations have dealt with these feelings. Mothers who have struggled with working while raising children. Wives who feel spread to thin and people who have the same analytical tendencies that I have… at least then we can analyze together – whatever good that would do us?! 🙂

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