Local cake maker Elizabeth Cole took a leap of faith when she started her business.
Like many entrepreneurs, she’s driven by a heart to build something special doing what she loves every day. In the process, she’s teaching her family and those around her how to do the same thing.
“My daughter and her best friend came to me and wanted to start a cupcake truck, but I knew I’d prefer to have a storefront,” she said. “It started as a family thing to teach them how to establish a business, and it incorporated a love that I have for baking. I’ve always baked from my house, so this opened up an opportunity for me to do more of what I love.”
Although she’s always enjoyed the baking process, she finally started finding outlets for her creative cake making as a parent, and from there started to expand her horizons.
“I baked a little bit when I was little with my parents, cookies and things like that. When my kids came along I made their birthday cakes, and that’s when I really started getting into baking,” Elizabeth says. “Then I got involved with community theater and making cupcakes for intermission. That’s when I started baking more for other people, and it just kind of grew from there.”
The entrepreneurial spirit seems to run in Elizabeth’s family, too, which helped prepare her for taking her passion to the next level.
“My husband owns and operates a lawn care and landscape install business, so I’ve helped him run that one for years and years,” she says. “So I guess I had a feel for how to do payroll, pay the bills and keep a business going, although it was not on this kind of scale.”
When she opened doors to her bakery for the first time in 2018, she had one thing in mind:
“I wanted people to be able to come in and get a delicious cupcake, and have a place to sit down and enjoy it,” Elizabeth said. “My hopes were to establish a homemade bakery right here in Boone.”
As a fun nod to another thing she shares with her family, she named it Sassy Cat Bakery.
“Naming something is the hardest thing! We went through all kinds of thoughts, and the whole family sat down and thought through ideas. We have four cats in our home, so my oldest son said, ‘Why don’t you call it Sassy Cat Bakery?’ We really love our cats, so we loved the idea. It’s a little sassy, and we like that, too,” she said with a smile.
Since her first day of business, Elizabeth says they’ve been well received by the people in Boone and love being part of the small business community.
Sassy Cat has since become a local go-to for specialty birthday cakes, which has allowed her to explore her creative side even more.
“I really enjoy the creative process, and I have grown a lot since we’ve opened with what I’m able to do,” she said. “I think the constant learning and the artistic part of the baking process is what I enjoy the most. Which is odd, because I never felt artistic before or thought that art could ever enter into what I do.”
The entrepreneurial journey has led to personal and professional growth for her, too.
“I have definitely grown in the socialization aspect, and I’ve come out of my shell a little bit. It requires you to talk to a lot more people and be really open with people, so I’ve definitely grown in that way,” said Elizabeth. “I have also learned a lot about ordering, purchasing and that kind of stuff, which I didn’t know before, so I guess I have grown in the business aspect, as well.”
Most days, you’ll find her in the bakery dreaming up beautiful cake designs and creating fabulous desserts for all of life’s special occasions. She also keeps her storefront cabinets stocked each day with freshly baked cupcakes and other goodies.
“We keep eight flavors in our case every day. Five standard flavors that we have every day — chocolate and vanilla birthday cake, chocolate chip cookie dough, red velvet cream cheese, and fresh strawberry — plus three others that we rotate every week,” she said. “We try to keep a good variety of choices.”
She also has several gluten-free and vegan options available, both in her fresh daily cupcake batches and for special order cakes.
“Today I’m making a regular cake, a gluten-free cake and a vegan cake, and that’s a pretty good representation of how often we make those,” Elizabeth says. “We have a pretty even diversity, and we sell a lot of gluten-free and vegan cakes.”
So, which recipes are her favorite?
“People always come in and say, ‘Oh, you have a lot of cupcakes! Which one is your favorite?’ and I always tell them that it depends on the day,” she says. “I love cinnamon coffee cake. I think that would be one of my favorite things to make ... and chocolate chip cookies.”
As far as cakes go, she said she loves to make a Death by Chocolate cake as it’s her all-time favorite.
“Who doesn’t love chocolate? It’s a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, chocolate frosting, chocolate ganache and chocolate chips all around the outside. It’s very moist and dark, and the mousse has a smoother melt-in-your-mouth consistency. It’s everything you want chocolate to be,” she says.
As a business owner, Elizabeth says her top priority is to make a quality product that people will love. As a parent and an entrepreneur, she’s committed to setting a good example and showing her kids — and her community — what it looks like to build a life doing what you love.
“I am hoping that someday my kids will want to take it over. To build something that your kids want to do is pretty amazing,” she says. “My husband has my two sons working for him right now, and he loves that, too. To build a name and a legacy is a pretty awesome responsibility. It does come with a little pressure of making sure you’re getting it right, though.”
According to Elizabeth, learning and growth come with the territory when starting a business from scratch.
“It’s been harder than I thought it would be. It has been a lot of exploration and learning,” she says. “It’s taught me some stuff about myself that I appreciate. I have learned what I’m good at, and what I’m not good at.”
For those who dream of building a business of their own in the High Country, Elizabeth says go for it!
“My advice would be to do it. Boone is very accepting of small businesses and helping people out,” she said. “It’s a great place to start a business. So if you have a love for something, I say give it a try. You don’t know until you’re doing it what you’re going to get out of it. It has been an amazing process.”
Sassy Cat Bakery is located at 240 Shadowline Drive, Suite A8, at the Shops at Shadowline in Boone. The business is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Visit the bakery on Facebook to learn more.