Lessons from the Old Year (2016)

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to this New Year in hopes that we can all start to shake off the burdens of 2016.

A lot of people felt like 2016 was particularly rough, I feel that way too. Looking back, I see that I socially withdrew during the year. I know it was in reaction to the news and tension that I felt in the air during that crazy election season. It just seemed like people in general were less open towards each other and the fear level was extremely high. Being very empathetic, that hurt my heart. Bakers like everyone to be well fed and happy, gathered around a table with loved ones, cherishing the good times. That being said, all I can do is try to make the world a happier place from where I stand, and naturally, that will have to involve food.

Last year, during this time I made a post of lessons I had learned during 2015. I really have enjoyed revisiting that post and comparing it to this year, so I am going to do it again! Here are some of the lessons that I learned while running Sweet Bytes during 2016:

Sometimes things are completely out of my control and all I can do is the best I can. 

This lesson came to me many times though out the year. Mostly during times when I had more requests for orders than I could fill and I had to say no far more often than I wanted to. Many weeks, I had to say no more than I got to say yes. It’s just not a good feeling for me to be in a place of trying to grow my business and at the same time having to stifle it. I’ve had to accept when I’m at many times over this year and just do the best I could with the amount of hands I have.The absolute WORST situation (nightmare) that was out of my control was when the beautiful double oven we installed last year DIED during Thanksgiving order production. It just went black right in the middle of baking. No warning. Just out. Have you ever tried to get a repair man during a holiday week? Well, hope you never need one, because your chances of getting one are slim. However, through a whole slew of miracles and kindnesses, we managed to get every order baked and delivered in time, but I don’t think the world “stress” can give you a clear picture of what I experience during that time. However, I came to the definite decision that I wasn’t going to be responsible for ruining anyone’s holiday and lo and behold things turned out OK. (The oven had just blown it’s thermal fuse… BUT we couldn’t get the proper sized fuse until AFTER Thanksgiving, so we limped through and the oven blew 2 causing equal stress and panic each time while we had to go to drastic lengths to find replacements. Yes, the oven was under warranty. Yes, the repairman came and checked her out head to toe and even ordered us an extra fuse for “just in case.” I was also chastised for using the self cleaning feature on my oven. The repairman said almost every time he’s called for new oven, that’s the cause.)

When the going gets tough, my family comes together to handle it! 

I just cannot tell you the determination Rene, my husband, had in fixing the problem with the oven. He came home from work in the middle of the day because he knew I would need him. It was a real crisis- ha ha- not life or death- but Thanksgiving dessert is about the most serious dessert there is! He did every thing he could, called every one he could, and didn’t stop until the oven came on again. My son, Maxx had studied electrical engineering over the summer and he got the schematics for the oven out and troubleshot the problem. My grandma offered me use of her oven in the middle of the night and continued to check on me for moral support all along the way– and that was just during the “Thanksgiving Oven Crisis of 2016.” These wonderful people have supported me in every way possible from washing dishes to folding boxes, to having to be on duty for pick up orders and deliveries, to handling tech and website, to picking me up when I am out of unicorns and rainbows. They are my biggest fans and helpers and without them I would just be unable to pull off this whole thing.


People are kind. 

I’ve always believed that there were more kind people in the world than unkind. It’s just harder to find evidence of that than it used to be. The silver lining of the oven dying was definitely the kindness of strangers. For Pete’s sake, I had a client insist that I come and bake the last of the pies in her oven, the night before Thanksgiving, when she was busy trying to prepare for her own family. She even came to my house to help me get over there and bake. We happen to live in the same neighborhood, but really, she doesn’t know me at all and she just offered to help because she was kind and had a beautiful double oven! Talk about a blessing.One appliance repair man thought about our oven all day and tracked down a fuse for us at another shop. He then called my husband to go get it, telling him that he’d bet money that was our problem! That got us up and running again until the next day. That’s when I blew fuse #2 and Rene had to set out searching for another fuse or we weren’t even going to get to cook our own Thanksgiving dinner. That’s when one of the managers of Home Depot offered to let us have the fuse in their floor model oven, and even took it apart! Sadly there was no fuse in it, but it was so kind of him to go through that trouble just to help!Actually, in this line of work I get to deliver gifts on behalf of kind people every week. Surprise gifts for coworkers, pies ordered for dads whose wives have passed away and they no longer get their favorite pie made for them, welcome to the neighborhood desserts, all sorts of desserts delivered from relatives far away who wish they could be in OKC to celebrate with their loved ones.

My clients are the best! 

I have so many clients who support me and encourage me all along the way. They make me want to always do my best. When a person takes the time to write a review for Sweet Bytes on Facebook, or Google, or for our Tastymonial Page, it almost always makes me cry tears of joy. I am a big cry baby. Most people never get to know that, but it’s ridiculous. I have some sort of eye leak or something. It’s so heartwarming when a customer writes to tell me something special that was shared over our desserts It’s also worth mentioning the beautiful person who let me use her oven one more time, so there, truly a kindness I will never forget.

It is lonely working from home. 

I only really mention this amongst other people who work from home, but since you are here, I can let you in on the secret. I think a lot of people who work from home suffer from this. It’s very lonely to work from home. At least, from my perspective of really liking to talk to and learn about other people. I miss people. I miss their stories and their input. I miss the energy of working with a team. That’s not saying that I don’t love what I do, it’s how I have been doing it for the past 3 years that is starting to wear on me. I get to see people when I deliver and I get to talk via email and phone many times a day, but it’s just not the same as being engaged in a real grown up conversation. Hopefully you can understand.

It’s time. 

After all of the lessons mentioned here, and all of learning that came from the lessons that are too numerous to mention in this post, I have decided that it’s time to leap. I have to move forward with this and allow it to grow like it keeps trying. I keep making excuses of lessons I still need to learn and things I don’t yet know, but after it’s all said and done excuses just keep me in the same place. I’ve been revamping Sweet Bytes almost since it began to make it able to fit into our home. However, it just keeps surpassing my expectations and requiring more time, more hands, more space, more everything. It’s gotten to the point of being like trying to keep an elephant as a pet… in the house…. it would be as unfair to the elephant as it is to the people forced to share their home with the elephant. So, it’s time to find my baby elephant an appropriate dwelling! I don’t have all the details, but I’ll be sure to post updates along the way.

Happy New Year!

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About Mikel Ibarra

Mikel Ibarra holds a BFA in painting, is a certified cake decorator, teaches baking and cake decorating classes, and frequently combines her passions for the sake of art. Sweet Bytes is where she shares everything she knows about the art of baking and running a baking business.