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Conversations with the Inspiring Jenean Carlton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenean Carlton.

Jenean, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I own a luxury cake business in Atlanta. I began baking in my teenage years and always found the chemistry of baking to be interesting. I had an art degree from Georgia State University and worked as a technical writer, manager, and consultant for the vision industry for 30 years. I love science, and I love art! I know it’s an odd combination, but it’s the perfect combination for making beautiful wedding cakes!

My grandmother was an exceptional cook and baker, as was my brother, so my love of baking came early in my life. I always made birthday cakes for everyone I knew- even when I was young.

My professional baking career started to take shape in 2009. We were planning a birthday party for our then two-year-old daughter, and I wanted her to have a doll cake. When I was very young, my mother bought a doll cake for my birthday, and I have such fond memories of that cake.

I searched Atlanta for someone who could make doll cakes but couldn’t find even one supplier. I thought to try to make it myself since I understood the science of baking and since I had experience with sculpting because I studied pottery for several years. (Like sugar artistry, pottery is dependent on science and artistic skills.)

So, I did it! I made a sculpted doll cake for our daughter’s birthday and found the entire process to be very fun and interesting.

After making the doll cake, I started working with edible sculpting mediums like fondant and gum paste every day and became obsessed with understanding all of the mediums available to professional cake artists. During this time I also began to develop from-scratch recipes and worked the recipes over and over again for years to perfect each one. For ten years I worked constantly to perfect my baking and sugar artistry skills. All of our friends received free cakes during those years. I also made free weddings cakes and donated cakes for large events to gain experience with sculpting and stacking large cakes as well as safely transporting them to venues. Those years were crucial to gaining the skills that I use each day now.

I took professional classes from many of the well-known pastry chefs and sugar artists in the US including Nicholas Lodge, Sydney Galpern, Shannon Bond and more.

Has it been a smooth road?
Starting a new business is a big challenge so I can’t say that it’s been a smooth road at all times. It’s my journey, and I knew I would choose this path many years ago, even while working in another industry. I knew it was time to take my learned business skills, as well as my passion for baking and sugar artistry, and strike out on my own. I was ready to take the skills I learned while managing businesses for others and start my own business. It’s hard, very hard, to start your own business. There have been more 15 hour days than I can count and the past two years are sort of a blur due to the amount of work involved in setting up the business and getting it up and running.

My advice to other women who want to start their own business is to first gain experience in managing businesses for another company. For 17 years I managed highly successful large businesses in the vision industry. The experience I gained during these years has proven to be invaluable in managing my own company. I understand the importance of marketing, identifying and establishing a brand and how to negotiate with vendors as well as hiring employees and finding talent. I know how to make beautiful wedding cakes, but I also need to understand business management and business strategy for my new business to survive.

There are so many decisions to be made when starting a new business that it can be overwhelming. It helped me to know that I wanted to work on luxury cake designs, so I needed to develop a brand for myself and stay true to the brand with images, cake projects, social media, and all printed materials.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Carlton’s Cakes story. Tell us more about the business.
My business specializes in luxury wedding cakes. We love Atlanta brides, and it’s so fulfilling to meet with a client, hear their dreams about their wedding cake, and create their once-in-a-lifetime cake. Everything we make is from scratch, and we only use the finest ingredients available to the industry. Our cakes are edible sculptures that are delicious and beautiful. I’m very proud of the products we offer, and of the success, we have achieved so far. It’s encouraging to have achieved awards within two years of starting a business!

What sets us apart from others are:

  • We only bake from scratch
  • Our designs are unique and customized for each client
  • Custom cake prices are based on each individual order.
  • We offer gluten-free and vegan options
  • We take food allergies seriously. I have food allergies and know what a problem this can be.

We are known for our delicious cakes that are beautiful and taste fantastic! We are also known for the excellent service we provide to our clients.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
As a woman, I feel particularly well positioned for my current role as owner and head chef of Carlton’s Cakes. My business isn’t just about making luxury weddings cakes though. I also teach baking and sugar artistry courses to individuals in my community. Baking can be very therapeutic and offering the courses is a way for me to bring women together to learn new skills while making new friends. The classes have been very successful, and I intend to continue this program. I offer a class each month and have a closed Facebook page for students to communicate with me as well as each other about baking and sugar artistry. Having classes like this has been a dream of mine for years; I wanted to create a community for people interested in baking and sugar artistry. I have also reached out to a local college about supporting their culinary program by teaching courses for their students. I’m also interested in creating internship positions for students. I think it’s important to share our time and skills with others and to develop new talent. It’s important to invest in other people and help them achieve something they may not have thought possible!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jenean Carlton, Carlisle Kellam

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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