Sometimes our dreams and goals sprout from seemingly insignificant beginnings and are later understood to be significant through retrospection. While many driven people know what they'll do with their lives from an early age, other enthusiastic, hard-working folks need time to unravel their purpose. Sometimes it takes a happy accident or fulfilling a simple favor to begin writing one's tale.
Ashley Rapp's story is the embodiment of this sentiment. She's the owner & operator of the successful (and growing) bakery Oliver's Desserts, but she wasn't always a baker. In fact, she's an OSU graduate with a major in Psychology.
And, funnily enough, the first chapter of attaining her dream all started with a sheet cake that looked like a football field.
DISCOVERING HER PASSION
In early 2012, Ashley found an office job right out of college working closely with others in her field. While navigating office life, her co-worker made a simple request that ended up dramatically altering her career's trajectory.
"[My co-worker] couldn't find anyone to make her son's birthday cake," Ashley recalled, "and asked if I could make one for him."
Ashley took her up on the offer, and it was a resounding success. Further commissions from others began floating her way.
"I never said no to anyone. And when I started taking these orders from people, I wanted to be committed to making it from scratch."
Ashley began baking on the weekends to practice, tweaking her recipes along the way to create the results she wanted. Her little sheet cake for a co-worker had ballooned into a part-time job within a year's time.
By 2013, she'd developed an LLC and created a three-year plan, which ultimately saw her leaving her desk job to bake cakes full time. To become truly great at baking, she reasoned, she knew she couldn't split her energy between two professions.
"It got to a point where I was really unhappy with my job, and cakes made me happy," she laughed.
True to her word, Ashley made the scary decision to leave her office job after three years and committed herself to baking full time. Supplementing her commissions with a pop-up shop inside the PNC Center downtown, Ashley made connections with property owners and took her pop-up shop to Kenwood and Loveland as well.
"I got really lucky that way," she admits. "The pop-ups connected me to so many other people for catering jobs."
THE BAKERY BUSINESS BEGINS BOOMING
Ashley was blowing up. Baking for 16 hours a day at least four days a week out of her home kitchen, she realized her business was outgrowing its operation.
After moving into an incubator kitchen in Covington, she was able to use industrial equipment to significantly reduce the amount of time it took to bake while maintaining capacity.
From there, she joined Aviatra, an eight-week business accelerator program, to learn how to properly market and plan her entrepreneurial endeavor. During those eight weeks, she realized something important about her career.
"I'd always assumed opening a bakery was impossible. But if I'm not going to have a bakery, what am I even doing?"
Ashley won the launch program, giving her confidence in her idea. With her newfound confidence and goal in mind, Ashley hired two employees and found a storefront to turn into Oliver's Desserts' first brick-and-mortar bakery. It's scheduled to open on June 2 of this year.
And she's currently still fulfilling orders while baking at the incubator kitchen in Covington.
While she may not have known six years ago that simple football field sheet cake would change her professional life, her career going forward is clear to her now.
And the icing on the cake? Her hard work and dedication paid off, allowing her to make a living while doing what she loves.
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Oliver's Desserts' new brick-and-mortar shop will be located at 834 Ohio Pike (45245) in Withamsville. Head to the gallery above for photos of cakes, cookies, and other things she and her team bakes.