A while ago Bree and I were scouring the interweb and our beautiful friends, for info on women in Vancouver who were doing amazing things with their careers, making connections in the community, all with a family to support. Bree had just been asked to participate in an Instagram 12 Days of Christmas with other local creatives, and as we huddled over our phones insta-stalking the other participants we came across Lyndsay Sung of Coco Cake Land.
Our eyes widened in the cellular glow at the incredibly beautiful pictures on her site, and we were immediately drawn to the thoughtful way Lyndsay wrote about her love of food, her closeness with her family, and her adoration of her young son Teddy. As we continued to follow along, we were also captivated by her honest and open experiences with her wave of treatments after her breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year.
We fell in love with Lyndsay’s fun and bright Instagram, and her honest stories on her blog; which were full of positivity, sarcasm, and an unwavering focus on family, food, and friendships. When Lyndsay agreed to our interview, we were thrilled. And so without further adieu, enjoy the lovely Lyndsay and then head on over to her site to follow along and to keep an eye on when her much-anticipated cook book will be out! Enjoy xo.
P&H: What were you doing before establishing Coco Cake Land?
Lyndsay: I was teaching art to kids, playing music and touring in bands and finishing a degree in art at Emily Carr University – My program was Integrated Media.
P&H: What was your trigger to follow this career path?
Lyndsay: I think like a lot of creative careers, I followed an interest, focused on it, learned about it, worked hard and suddenly it became my profession! A material trigger would be that I was given a pink Kitchen Aid as a wedding present, from my grandmother – which led to experimentation in baking mixed with a lifelong love of the aesthetic look of cakes. I kind of ended up combining many of my loves – writing, photography and baking, into one job.
P&H: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Lyndsay: I’m on Instagram aplenty and oftentimes it’s a cute illustration or colour palette or art/ceramics even that can inspire me. Like I can imagine a slice of cake looking so pretty on a particular plate. Or a hilarious drawing that I think might translate into a cake face. I love lying in bed and reading cookbooks, and I love reading fiction or nonfiction books with long passages describing food. Creative or weird food photography inspires me a lot too – styling ideas and creating moods. I just love an “artful mess” in a food photograph, as though a colourful tea party was happening and all of a sudden everyone had to get up and leave – half eaten macarons, cupcake wrappers, bites out of cake, flung forks, a spill or drips of frosting.
P&H: What role does social media play in your business?
Lyndsay: It’s become a huge part of Coco Cake Land. People are less inclined to click through to blog posts, they get all their urge for immediacy filled with a quick scan of a cake photo. Instagram is where I spend most of my social media time. I think it’s good to just focus on one platform, to choose the platform that most interests you – like I should probably hang out more on Pinterest etc but the interactions aren’t meaningful to me, usually nobody cares who made the work, they just gobble up images like Pac Man and power pellets. I like the connection and interaction you can have with Instagram where you can pair an image with a caption and suddenly there’s a deeper story.
P&H: Do you involve your son in your work at all?
Lyndsay: My work right now is dribbling back to fruition after 8 months of cancer treatment – I’m attempting to work on my cake book and doing the odd blog post or sponsored post here and there. My son is involved in the sense that he appears on my blog in my personal posts – but he hasn’t quite wielded a piping bag yet. He has baked with me before and I plan on doing more of this as he has since turned 3!
P&H: How important is it that your son takes on or plays a part in the business when he’s older?
Lyndsay: So far Teddy has told me he wants to go to medical school. Ha! Though he also loves music and dancing. I’ll be happy and supportive of whatever he decides to “be” – drag queen, pro skateboarder, baker, doctor – whatever makes him feel happy and fulfilled!
P&H: What has been your biggest challenge running your own business?
Lyndsay: Initially when I was going whole-hog on making cakes for a living, I eventually found it extremely isolating and depressing to work solely on my own, day in and day out. I need social interaction! Now that I blog and freelance for a living, my challenge is staying focused and organized. Working from home is difficult because of distractions but I haven’t really found an effective way for me to manage this yet! Oops. My concentration kind of stinks lately too because of my chemo treatments, so I kind of have to remember that I’m still recovering. I see that as a challenge moving forward.
P&H: What is the hardest part in maintaining the work/life balance?
Lyndsay: Recognizing the difficult moments and not beating ourselves up too much over it. I think some of the modern day creative moms are similar to me in the sense that we’re raising kids and trying to maintain a house and home but we still want to be considered within a professional career setting as relevant and “doing something.” So much pressure to do everything and so much outside influence guilting us into feeling we’re not doing enough. I think being mindful that we can’t do it all every day is beneficial. I also think being more transparent and honest of these struggles can only help other moms and caregivers! Also with my work, because social media has become a large part of it (and sometimes I think I’m just brutally addicted), sometimes I’m “working” (ie putting up an Instagram post) when I’m supposed to be having family time. I have to remember to put my phone down or step away from the frigging computer. I hate it when I see parents out and about staring at their phones and their kids are right there. I sometimes catch myself like that, then I literally throw the phone down and go immediately into playing “restaurant” with my son or reading him a stack of books.
P&H: What does success look like to you? How will you know when you have achieved it?
Lyndsay: I know many others would define success as monetary or material, ie a chain of cake stores across the world or something. I feel content with what I’ve built with my weird little online cake world, and my dream was always to write a cake book, and that is happening for me. Maybe when I get that first copy of my book in the mail and I physically hold it and flip through the pages, I will feel like I’ve achieved one of my life goals. Mini successes happen all the time and it usually has to do with raising our son. Like my husband and I will be getting ready to go to bed and I’ll recount a hilarious story or joke Teddy came up with and we can both remark, laugh and share in our love for our son, and I feel like I’m doing alright as a mom. I think counting moments of happiness as our successes is all we can do.
P&H: What advice would you have wanted to know 5 or 10 years ago?
Lyndsay: Don’t take your relationships with anyone for granted. Spend time with the people you love and care about, friendships or marriages or partnerships, family members. Travel more before you have children, and enjoy things like brunch with friends, sleeping in and going to concerts! If you’re not sure if you want children yet and you can afford it, freeze your eggs or embryos. You never know what kind of health issues you might end up with.
Thank you so much Lyndsay!
Happy rainy Wednesday everyone!