We had the good fortune of connecting with Chantelle Kirstie (CK) Leon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chantelle Kirstie (CK), maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Cake jars are really unique, however I am not the first one or only one to do this idea. One day I was scrolling on Pinterest looking for things to bake because I was bored. I saw someone post their cake, but in a plastic cup. I thought that was a really cute idea, but instead I wanted to make the presentation of it better. I had a mason jar around and so I layered my cake, frosting, and toppings in it. I tried it and it tasted sooo much better than a cupcake!
My family was raving to me how good my cake jars were. So then I decided to make it something I specialize in. Freshman year of college in 2018 is when I started selling cake jars to friends and family. I would literally bring my cake jars in bags to school to deliver to friends in between classes. From there, my business spread by word of mouth and I became known as “the cake jar girl”.
Starting a small business from my home kitchen was tough at first. I knew how to bake and I knew my products tasted good, but I didn’t know how to get people to buy them. I would see on Instagram that other people selling baked goods are always booked and selling like crazy. I wanted that to be me. Owning Jar’d Up has taught me to only focus on my business, and not others. I used to focus so much on other businesses and comparing how fast of a rate they book up compared to me. Once I stopped comparing myself, I invested time and dedication to branding my business and putting it out there. No matter how many views or likes I got on my post, I still posted.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I started selling cake jars during my college freshman year in 2018. I did not establish my official business name of Jar’d Up by CK until February of 2020. I have been baking my entire life and I knew I always wanted to have some type of business. Baking is my biggest passion. My favorite thing is seeing the smiles on people’s faces after they eat one of my products.
What sets me apart from others is the unique style of cake and flavors I offer. Cupcakes are tasty and pretty but if I’m being honest, they tend to taste more dry. I love specializing in cake jars because I can offer unique flavors like Cookie Monster or Strawberry Crumble, and they stay really moist. Plus, it is such a fun way to eat cake on the go! All you have to do is grab a spoon, open the jar, and dig in.
Getting to where I am today was not easy. Starting out in 2018, I used to only sell to a few friends at CSUF. They saw my post on my Instagram and decided to try. My friends would also post my cake jars on their Instagram for their followers to see. From there, I would earn more followers that happened to also go to my school. As more days and months go by, I was getting more cake jar orders weekly. I would bring my cake jars in bags to school and hand deliver each one on campus in between classes. Once the pandemic hit, it was hard because majority of my customers came from school. Not being on campus made me transition to focusing on finding customers strictly online. It was difficult, but I really pushed myself to branding my company more so I could get more exposure. Thankfully, the pandemic has helped my small business grow tremendously and it’s all because of word of mouth from our amazing Orange County community!
One lesson that I’ve learned along the way is to keep going, even if I may not get any orders or any likes on my posts. I used to get really upset when I never got orders or no likes on a really good photo that I edited and posted on Instagram. Now, if I don’t get orders I focus on the content I am posting and ways to promote my business to make people want to purchase cake jars.
I want the world to know that starting and running a small business is not easy. There will be days where you want to give up and days that you feel super motivated. That’s all apart of the journey and what matters is to make sure you’re doing what you love every day.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Disneyland for sure. Who doesn’t love Disney? We would visit the park and make sure we can eat all things Mickey shaped. From ice cream to beignets and pretzels, we’ll have it all because I am the biggest foodie! Other than Disneyland, one of my favorite places to eat is Harbor House in Sunset Beach. Not only is it right on the beach but it is the cutest, old styled cafe/diner that I grew up eating at. The food is amazing and they give huge portions!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to give a huge shoutout to my family. My mom, dad, step dad, sister, step brother, boyfriend, and extended family are the ones who encourage me to keep on baking to make this business grow. I would really like to give a special shout out to my step dad, Gino, who is now in heaven. Losing him from COVID-19 in August was the toughest thing my family has experienced. He was such a huge supporter of my baking and small business. In fact, days before he passed we were actually texting about our business plan of opening up a family store front bakery. Every day when I bake, I keep that in mind because I really want to keep pushing so I can make that dream come true.