If it weren’t for Whitestone Logging Camp Hoonah, you might not be stepping into the Lady Yum shop or ordering up Lady Yum macarons. But the remote Alaskan village has everything to do with it.
See, in that backwoods place, I fell crazy in love with baking.
My dad had tossed normal suburban life to the wind when he whisked my family there, so he could get logging work. My mom, trying to cope with living in a junkyard with 3 small kids, liked to tell us we were having an Alaskan adventure. It helped, I think. Mom was pretty inventive – especially when she homeschooled my brothers and I in our singlewide trailer.
It was there I spent my days baking.
Whenever I tied on my apron, she would toss me a cookbook and say, “Have at ‘er, honey.” From chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to brownies and so much more, I did indeed – and Mom encouraged me all the way.
Want to see just how long I’ve been creating in the kitchen? Check out the video Mom shot of me making Santa stocking cookies (my Christmas specialty!) one cold, gray day in December.
(Totally off topic but a note about my chubby little self. This was 1994 and Frito-Lay had just introduced the Nacho Cheesier Doritos. Somehow, we’d acquired hundreds of sample bags and had an entire closet devoted to storing them. I was a not only a Nacho-aholic but craved Top Ramen and of course, fresh-baked cookies. Even my mom’s insistence that my brother and I Mousercise with Disney every Thursday at 9 A.M. couldn’t erase my indulgences.)
Eventually, the Doritos ran out, I grew up and civilization called. A business degree landed me Grown Up Jobs on a career path to fame and fortune. Or, at least, to respectability, sexy shoes and happy hour with co-workers. My work defined me – especially the last one. It also set me free.
As an operations manager for a wealth management firm, I dealt with process optimization, data management, and such. I was good – really good! But my work felt like a prison, because it was so far from my personality, style and love of creativity.
One part of my job I loved, though, was mentoring college grads to align their talents, abilities and passions with their work. Doing so, I told them, they wouldn’t wake up in 10 years in a job they hated – like I hated mine, I could have added.
Okay, that sounds harsh. There were pros, of course – like heaps of experience and a hefty paycheck. But I worried: What if I got so comfy with cash flow that I never left?
With my 30th birthday nearing and my desire for meaningful work growing, the reality of my situation hit me. We’re talking a whack-your-forehead moment after which nothing will ever be the same. My A-HA? I’d better start practicing what I preach!
Scared shitless, I quit my “real” job, and followed my passion.
Opening the Lady Yum shop was always the plan, I just didn’t know how long it would take or how exactly I would get there. It required meticulous planning, tons of money, education, the perfect space, the perfect product, the perfect people, and the prefect process…and most importantly, I had to acknowledge and deal with my own personal fears and shortcomings. Namely, I had to learn how to ask for help. I had to learn how to let people help me. I had to be ok and comfortable admitting to people that I didn’t know everything. I had to learn to GET OUT OF MY HEAD and take the first step. I had to learn to be vulnerable and put myself out there. Once I started doing that, everything fell into place… and here we are!
This first location is a way to give my friends (whether it’s employees, customers, suppliers, community) an enchanting, memorable experience at a place where they can go to escape, to be whoever they want to be, to sip champagne at noon on a Wednesday, eat fancy cookies, and pretend they are in Paris.
Welcome, my love, to Lady Yum.