Why I Left My Well-Paying Job To Start My Own Business
WORDS: Satya Nelms
For Q Cakes’ founder Queneesha Meyers, happiness and family stability meant following her true passion and opening a bakery.
Queneesha “Q” Meyers has a very clear memory of when she fell in love with baking.
When Meyers was 11 years old, she noticed a recipe for chocolate chip cookies on the side of a bag of flour at her grandmother’s house. Using money from her allowance to buy all of the ingredients, she baked up a fresh batch and toted them around the neighborhood to share with all of her friends. It was then that Meyers became a mini pastry chef for her friends and family, whipping up cakes and cookies for them on the side.
At 16, Meyers graduated from high school early and entered college as a pre-med major (t was also her childhood dream to become a neurosurgeon). After her first year of college, she decided to join the Airforce and was stationed in South Carolina. It was there that she met her future husband, fell in love, got married, and eventually had three daughters.
Meyers and her husband received orders to move to New Mexico. It was there that Meyers, now a member of the National Guard, an accountant, and still working toward her biology degree at the University of New Mexico, had to make a decision.
“I just realized, I have three daughters, my husband has already been deployed once, how am I going to do this?” Meyers says now. “I knew medical school was going to be challenging and I just decided to delay it and focus on my family.”
Despite taking a break from school and settling into her corporate job at Sara Lee, Meyers never stopped baking. After years of selling her baked goods to friends and family and working a 9 to 5, Meyers decided to focus solely on baking and opened up her own bakery called Q Cakes. The bakery has already been listed in Albuquerque Magazine as one of the town’s top five bakeries for three consecutive years, and has received several accolades and been featured in numerous magazines. Meyers tells mater mea how she went from future neurosurgeon to well-known baker.
How did you go from baking for loved ones to opening your own bakery?
The whole time I [was] selling cakes to friends and family [while I was working], people kept telling me I should do it [as] a business but I wasn’t ready.
One day I got an email from the City of Albuquerque about [my] “illegal cupcake operation.” I called the woman who sent the email, and she told me she’d received a complaint. She went on to tell me that in Albuquerque you can’t sell food out of your home—you have to have a licensed, commercial kitchen—and that I should think about going into business. She gave me the information I would need to start. I went to this class, but I was just overwhelmed; every place where you could rent a commercial kitchen just wanted a crazy amount of money.
A few months later I was at an event for my kids’ school, and there was a lady there who I knew from the class. She gave me the number for these guys who had a chocolate business and rented [out] their kitchen. Their rates were really reasonable, so I started doing some custom orders.
I didn’t want to look back 10-15 years from now and wonder “What if?”
In 2013 friends of mine came in contact with someone from Albuquerque Magazine who needed someone to make cupcakes for their birthday, and they directed her to me. In the midst of her ordering, she let me know that the magazine was having a Mother’s Day guide and wanted to feature my cupcake bouquet. The cupcake bouquet was really cute, but I wanted to do something different. So I made a red velvet cheesecake, and I asked the woman to put it in the magazine as well.
The cupcake bouquet and the red velvet cheesecake were in the Mother’s Day edition of Albuquerque Magazine in 2013. After that the cakes started selling like crazy. Business just exploded.
Later that year, Albuquerque Magazine had a “Best of the City” [contest] for every category you could possibly imagine. I was voted as a top five bakery, but I didn’t even have a bakery yet. So I started looking for a location and found a place in January 2014. It took a few months to get it open—just from going through all the red tape—so we officially opened on July 21, 2014.
What does a typical day look like for you?
[When the girls were] home for the summer, [it was] a little easier. When it’s a school day, I wake up early to do some prepping, then I come back home and take my kids to the bus stop. Then I go back to the store to bake and figure out what we need for the day. Tuesday through Thursday, I have quick stuff: lots of chocolate covered Oreos, lots of brownies. Then toward the weekend, we do a lot of custom orders—our really fancy cakes for weddings and things like that. I also make sure we have cakes available for sale in the store. We also do gluten free and vegan items; we cater to pretty much everybody.
What is your favorite part of the work you do?
My favorite part is definitely baking and coming up with flavor combinations—I’m always coming up with different and unique combinations. That’s what I’m really known for. I just think about flavors I think would go good together, and it turns out that other people think so too.
I also like putting a new spin on classic cakes that everyone loves. Our top two sellers right now are the red velvet cheesecake and our six-layer coconut cream cake. Everyone loves red velvet cake, but mine is a step above. It’s actually two cakes. There’s a layer of red velvet cake and then also a layer of cheesecake. The coconut cream cake is unlike any other coconut cake you will ever have—it’s not just a white cake that I threw some coconut on. I use coconut milk, coconut oil, [and] coconut cream. If you like coconut, this cake will make you want to slap somebody, and nobody knows the recipe but me and God.
What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
The hardest part is how lonely it is at times. When everyone else leaves and they’re done for the day, I’m still there. Even though I have a wonderful husband who I can bounce stuff off of, it’s still ultimately on me. Employees can get sick and not show up—I still have to show up. I still have to get those orders out.
What advice would you offer someone who wanted to start their own business?
You can plan and pray and prepare, and life with still throw you so many curveballs. You have to adjust; you have to be ready for things not to go the way you planned. That doesn’t mean that you failed, or that you did something wrong—that’s just how life is. Sometimes things have to be delayed because of life. Just recently I got thrown a major curveball. My husband is in the military and they want to send him away for a year. Now I have to figure out how I’m going to manage three teenage daughters and the business.
Also surround yourself with people who are going to push you and people who are going to tell you the truth. When you have a vision sometimes you get tunnel vision and you can’t see the forest for the trees, so it’s good to have people that are going to say, “You know what, I don’t think that’s going to work right now.”
What are the most important skills an entrepreneur should have?
You have to be OK with networking. That is key. You have to be able to get your name out there, and if you can’t do that, it’s just not going to work. There are definitely days where I’m laying in bed and I don’t want to go in, but I literally have to will myself to go and get things done. Also, be able to admit when you’re wrong and learn from your mistakes. Things happen. You’re human. The negative will weigh you down and throw you off, so focus on the positive.
How do you maintain work/life balance?
It’s really just about priorities. I learned a long time ago that there are things that are more valuable than money. Time is our most valuable commodity—you can always make more money, but you can’t get time back. So I’ve stepped back and allowed my employees to do more, which means less money for me, but that allows me the time to be with my family.
I’m very strict with my customers about setting orders and picking them up by a certain time. When I have my days off, I’m spending it with my kids. I’m not checking my messages, I’m not sending emails. I am focused solely on them. My girls are three totally different people, and it’s always been important to me that I spend time with each of them individually. It’s also important that I find time for my husband and I. I just make sure that my family knows, above everything else, they come first.
What do you hope your daughters learn from you starting your own business?
You know, people always asking me why I left my job to start Q Cakes. It was a really well-paying job, but I didn’t leave my job because I hated it. I actually enjoyed it, but I loved baking more. And I didn’t want to look back 10-15 years from now and wonder “What if?” So I’m always talking to my girls and telling them that they can do whatever they want to do in life. I tell them not to ever give up on their dreams. I want them to see me, and see that their mother did it. No matter what happens after this point I can always say I opened my bakery. I did it. At least I tried. I tell my kids, and other people as well, if you don’t try, you’re already telling yourself no. I would rather get a no from somebody else than get a no from myself. Don’t tell yourself no.
What’s next on your horizon? What are you looking forward to?
After getting the news that my husband will be gone for the next year, I am truly in a transition phase. I know that I’m still going to have my bakery, but how it’s going to look, I just don’t know. My vision was to eventually open up another location and franchise the business, but that’s not going to be doable at this time. Right now I’m just focusing on keeping my current customers satisfied, bringing in some more wholesale accounts, and shipping as needed. I just want to get my name out there, so people can actually taste what I do. Once they taste it, that’s it! They’ll be hooked.
Q Cakes is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but also ships nationwide so her sweet treats can be enjoyed all over the country. Visit her website to order yours today.
Satya Nelms is a writer, author, and mother of three living with her family outside of Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @satyanelms