(Twin sisters, Ashley Nicole and Jenna Rae, tell us about business ownership,
friendship and the gift of sisterhood.)
If you haven't already heard of Jenna Rae Cakes, you might be living under a rock. (Not that we could blame you!) The luxurious, boutique style bakery was launched in 2010 by self-taught baker Jenna Rae, and very quickly became the sweet obsession of top event planners, celebs and 130k+ Instagram followers alike.
In March 2014, Jenna Rae was joined by her twin sister, Ashley Nicole, a skilled graphic designer, and together they successfully manage one of Canada's most delicious brands. The secret? Well, clearly this pair has talent and business savvy galore... but they've also mastered another crucial aspect of teamwork, which is why we think these beauties are the embodiment of one of our most popular friendship gifts: sweet AFFINITY.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with the powerhouse duo to find out how they've mastered the art of sisterhood, in business and in life.
Little Box of Rocks: Your cakes feel more like art than food. What inspires your beautiful creations?
Ashley: Jenna makes every cake that leaves our shop – this is a question for her!
Jenna: I get inspired by everything! From beautiful clothes, textures, art.. Everything beautiful I see, I wonder how I can make that into a cake. I am also very inspired by the work of some of my favorite cake designers - Maggie Austin being my favorite!
LBOR: Based on your gorgeous Instagram page, we're guessing your days are filled with inspiration. Take us behind the scenes of your average workday...
Ashley: Well, we have two locations – a commercial kitchen where a majority of our baking is done, and our storefront at 580 Academy Road, so my time is split between both places. I set my alarm for 5 a.m. and I’m at the kitchen by 6am to help with macarons. We make 5000-6000 per week so we spend hours every morning preparing, piping and filling. It’s quite the process! Once piping is finished, I pack up the day’s baking and head over to the storefront for 9 a.m. and get everything organized for the front staff. Once everything is set up, I begin taking Instagram photos for the day’s social media posts to showcase the different flavours we’ll be selling that day. Once that’s done, I say goodbye to my husband (our Storefront Manager!) and head either back to the office or to a coffee shop with my laptop to work on my never ending to-do list. Every week is a long week, but I really love what I do!
Jenna: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I'm at work at 7:30 a.m. or earlier depending on orders that are due. I make the cupcakes for the day, make the cakes that are due and help set up the storefront. I'm also working on sugar flowers and any other details needed for the cakes going out that week. Wednesdays are the same with tastings in the evenings, and then Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays I am at our other location working on cakes! Sometimes these shifts can last all day and night, but I still love what I do!
LBOR: It's so awesome that you're able to work with your twin sis! What made you decide to join the business a couple of years ago?
Ashley: It happened a lot faster than we had anticipated! We had always talked about going into business together once the shop was open for a few years and there was enough business to sustain both of us. After 2 weeks of the shop being open and busy, I joined the company as co-owner and first real “employee." That first year was incredibly hectic and stressful, but we loved every minute of it. Well, almost! There were some really long days and a ton of obstacles, but you learn so much by just rolling with the punches.
Jenna: She is the best business partner I could ask for!
LBOR: Clearly you make a pretty powerful team. What’s the best part of working together and how has it made your business stronger?
Ashley: She’s my best friend! We always know when to give each other a break, and when to push each other. Jenna’s never really liked the “business” side of business, she’s always wanted to focus on making beautiful cakes. I’m not a passionate baker, but I’ve always loved design and business. Together, we’ve created a system that’s been working really well where I handle most of the business-related tasks (branding, social media, design, scheduling, etc.) and she manages the orders and cake-side of the business (answers emails, writes order slips, designs every cake, etc.) We both make all of the major decisions together, but luckily we’re usually on the same page... and we also completely understand each other. So even on our worst days, our arguments last a total of two minutes and then we’re right back to normal.
Jenna: We know each other so well. We are very similar, but then differ in areas where we balance each other out. She is definitely the brains behind the whole operation - without her I truly have no idea where JRC would be. We can argue from time to time but five minutes later we are asking each other to hang out after work.
LBOR: We love it... you are true BFFs! What's the key to maintaining your friendship outside of work?
Ashley: Our relationship is pretty effortless, actually. We enjoy each others company at work and outside of work. We just went on vacation over the Christmas break – just the two of us and my husband! It was a lot of fun.
Jenna: We don't really have to work on it! We work together every day and then hang out outside of work all the time. It's not really something we have to put any thought to, we just love spending time with each other.
LBOR: That's so great! How does your sister inspire you?
Ashley: Her drive and determination, especially right before she opened up the bakery. She had to overcome so many obstacles on her own without any help, and she managed to get everything in order. Also – her beautiful cakes are a constant inspiration! I still love watching her decorate cakes - it’s mesmerizing.
Jenna: Ashley is so inspiring! Her work ethic and creativity is just so amazing. She's really built up this business to be something I couldn't even have dreamed of. Her branding and photo styling are the best I've ever seen, she really has a great eye. I've always said I just want to make cakes, and she's allowed me to do that by managing everything else. She's so great!
LBOR: What would people be surprised to know about your twin sister?
Ashley: She doesn’t like cake or chocolate! She’s more of a salty person – chips, beef jerky, cheese. We always joke that if we owned a cheese shop we’d be in trouble.
Jenna: Hmm.. Probably that she plays hockey with me :)
LBOR: What's the key to being a good friend and sister?
Ashley: Be supportive! There are so many people who will point out the negatives in any situation, so you have to be the one to point out the positives. You’ll also need to give tough love, but always remember where the other person is coming from.
Jenna: I think just listening to each other and letting each other vent when we need to. We always have each others' backs even when we may not see eye-to-eye on things and that's so important. It's best to remember that family comes first, and our friendship is such an important thing to both of us.
Now let’s do a little rapid fire. What’s the first thing that comes to mind with the following:
LBOR: Happiest shared memory?
Ashley: Visiting Harry Potter World, or our recent bakery tour trip to L.A.
Jenna: Yes, probably our bakery tour to L.A this past fall.
LBOR: Number one wish for your sister?
Ashley: That she lives longer than I do!
Jenna: For her to have the happiest life and get all she's ever dreamed of because she deserves it!
LBOR: So sweet! Stand-out girl-power songs?
Ashley: Spice Up Your Life, Any Man of Mine, Dog Days are Over…
Jenna: Wannabe by Spice Girls
LBOR: We agree. Spice Girls forever... All-time favorite flavor?
Ashley: Salted Caramel
Jenna: Cotton candy
LBOR: Favorite crystal?
LBOR: Best part about being a twin?
Ashley: Having a built-in best friend.
LBOR: Best advice ever given to you by your sister?
Ashley: She’s given me tons! Probably to not care so much about what other people think, and to trust your gut.
Jenna: Follow my gut and do what makes me happy.
LBOR: Introvert or extrovert?
Jenna: A mix
LBOR: Who’s the evil twin?
Ashley: Haha, Jenna gets up to more mischief than I do.
Jenna: Probably me...
Ooh, now we're curious! If you are too, visit www.jennaraecakes.com.
Love, sweeeeet love...