Today we’d like to introduce you to DraLisa Smart.
Hi DraLisa, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Winston Salem, NC, and I’ve always enjoyed creating things and baking as a child. I moved to Richmond, VA, for college, and while working part-time, I brought cakes to work to share with my co-workers. I was only doing it for fun, and someone planted the idea that I should sell cakes. It wasn’t until I moved to Baltimore for graduate school that I decided to explore starting a business. I started Save Room Desserts in 2012 and have been making small-batch custom desserts since then. I specialize in cakes, cupcakes, and decorated sugar cookies. My clients keep me on my toes with their present ideas, and I enjoy expressing my creativity in the designs I create. One of my biggest challenges was competing in season 4 of Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge. Not sure that I’ll put myself under that kind of pressure again, but it was an excellent opportunity and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In the beginning stages, imposture syndrome was my greatest challenge. It crippled me from following through on milestones such as registering my business, creating a website, etc. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to be a solo entrepreneur. For a long time, I had difficulty seeing Save Room Desserts as a real business. Nonetheless, even though I moved slowly, I continued to push my business forward by accepting new clients and expanding my reach in the industry. I still have a bit of imposture syndrome, but it looks completely different than it did back then. As a creative, I sometimes struggle with perfectionism and am concerned that my clients may not like the designs I’ve created for them. However, time and time again, I get so much praise from my clients. Both for their taste and look!
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Right now, I am known for my custom-decorated sugar cookies. Decorated cookies are extremely popular in the baking world now—my clients order cookies for birthdays, engagements, retirement parties, and so many more celebrations. You can put almost any design on a cookie. From my clients, what sets me apart for my cookies is the taste! I have heard so many times that they’ve had decorated cookies before but that they don’t taste as good as mine. Ree Drummond did say herself that my vanilla sugar cookies were the best cookie she had ever had! I’m so proud that I can produce a gorgeous cookie that is also delicious.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
As a baker, the Just Call Me Chef community has been phenomenal! This group is a sisterhood of black female chefs that originated in Baltimore, founded by Chef Catina Smith. It has been an incredible resource for mentoring and networking. I know I can always call on the ladies for advice and even connect their networks with my clients on services I don’t provide.
Garden tiered cake photographed by Katy Murray @katymurrayphotography