Entrepreneur Feature: Nichole Starkman of Americana Cakes and Sweets

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Today I’m excited to share the courageous story of one of my best friends and entrepreneurs. If there’s one thing that all of us entrepreneurs share, it’s the feeling of fear when we come across a new challenge or risk.

That’s why I’m so excited to share Nichole Starkman of Americana Cakes and Sweets and her journey to entrepreneurship. Not only is she an inspiration in terms of being brave enough to bet on herself in an uncomfortable location, but she also shows that sometimes the journey to entrepreneurship isn’t immediate, or linear, or intuitive. It’s about betting on yourself and jumping even in the face of fear.

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Confession: I’m a business owner and I started a business with no idea what I was doing.

I mean, I had SOME idea. After all, I have a degree in Marketing, so I’ve studied business. I know basic accounting, managerial processes, supply chain, market research. And while that was all well and good in theory, the truth is, putting it all into practice scared me. A lot. 

I’ve always loved to bake, and if I am to believe the compliments of my friends and family, it’s one of my greatest skills. For years, people have said, “you’re so great at this! You need to open your own bakery!”

(To which I always responded with a sheepish smile and a “maybe someday.” )

It was a fun pipe dream, but wasn’t a practical career goal. I’d spent seven years (yes, seven) trying to get through college, hopping from major to major— everything from journalism to history to nursing— before finally settling on marketing as the most practical option.

And I mean settling in every sense of the word.

Not only did I finally decide on marketing, but I settled for a major that I wasn’t passionate about, just to finally be able to graduate with SOME degree after all those years I’d put in and all the student debt I’d racked up. I worked in marketing for a few different companies after graduating, but I knew office life just wasn’t for me. But what now? How could I change my career path AGAIN after finally just landing on one? 

During my seven year stint in college, I met my partner — a hockey player who’d come to the US from Finland to study and play college hockey. Things got serious quickly and we knew this was it. He was upfront with me from the beginning of our relationship that he planned to move back to Finland after he graduated, and that if things were going to get serious, I should know that and be on board. I happily agreed. I was going to move to Finland! 

Flash forward to 6 years later: I’ve been living in Finland with Antti for 4 and a half years now.

While many people here, especially the younger generations, speak good English, it’s still quite hard to get a decent job if you’re not an advanced-level Finnish speaker. I was lucky enough to land a job working as the social media director for a small company here, which, to my benefit, allows me to work in English. It also allows me a lot of freedom and flexibility in terms of my schedule and office hours.

I started to think to myself, “if there was ever a time to take a leap and start my own cake business, I can’t think of a better time.” I have a safety net income. I have a job that allows me to work around the schedule of starting my own business. I don’t yet have the responsibility of children to care for. I knew I had to go for it. 

I realize not everyone has this ideal type of situation to try to jump into their own business. But starting a new business or following your passion doesn’t necessarily have to mean risking it all. Dip your toes in the water and see if it’s something you can truly see yourself doing as a career. Spend your evenings and weekends cultivating your ideas and make a plan to put it in to motion.

For me, that meant taking custom cake orders and baking on evenings and weekends when I wasn’t working my “day job.” The process doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. And I think once you get a taste of where your passion can lead you, the jump won’t seem as scary. 

I recently had a friend tell me she is taking night classes in graphic design. She currently works as a teacher, but loves to draw and wants to put that passion to use. I asked her if she’s planning to change careers. She said, “I would like to, but I don’t know if I can do it.” I said, “what?! Why not? You definitely can! I believe in you 100%!” I truly meant that. I do believe in her. The same way my friends and family believe in me with my cakes. It’s so easy for us to believe in and encourage our friends, and we should have the same encouragement and faith in ourselves.

Share your story with us in the comments below, or join the party on my Instagram and share there: https://www.instagram.com/katrina.widener/

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ABOUT OUR GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Nichole Starkman is a Minnesota native living with her partner Antti in his homeland of Turku, Finland. With her business Americana Cakes and Sweets she brings delicious, custom-made, American-style cakes and desserts to Turku. She can be found at Insta // Facebook

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