Welcome to “I Want Your Job,” Elite Daily’s new series that inspires females to go after their professional and personal dreams. We’ve teamed up with the most inspiring Millennial women who’ve made a name for themselves doing everything from tech design to owning a restaurant to bring you a taste of what being a Boss Lady in every industry really looks like.
These women never gave up on their dreams, never let a man tell them “no” and aren’t backing down for anybody. If you want her job, here’s how to get it.
How many of us have dreamed of turning a hobby into a full-time career? Of taking our biggest and most thrilling passions and making them a means of financial and emotional survival in the professional world? Of being paid for the things we love to do – of bringing joy to other people’s lives as a perk? Well, it’s possible – and no one can tell you that more proudly than Sweet Generation’s founder, Amy Chasan.
Amy took her favorite kitchen pastime and turned it into a successful business, one that’s so wildly popular she’s on the cusp of opening her very first New York City storefront. Sweet Generation was built on the premise that you can help with every helping – and that’s exactly what Amy and her team are doing.
Using her experience in New York City’s youth arts education and development programs to fuel her deliciously sweet future, Amy was able to bridge together the two worlds, creating a sinfully tasty menu chock full of buttercream, frosting and cakes that drives the company’s social-good mission. With every cake, cookie, bread and dessert purchased, Sweet Generation gives back to schools and students in need of creative outlets.
Sitting at a fun and festively decorated pink table, we’re immediately greeted by the intoxicatingly delicious smells of a freshly-whipped batch of sugar cookie batter.
“Baking has always been something I’ve loved,” Amy tells us, her eyes drifting to some far off place, as a huge smile stretches her face, “I grew up in a house where food was very important and everyone participated in [cooking] it. It was a family thing – all of my mom’s friends would come over and bring ingredients and they would cook together and create and [you could just] feel the love.”
But just because it was a hobby and a safe haven for Amy – she and her mom used to bake banana bread together during thunderstorms — her love of whipping up sweet treats didn’t exactly translate to dollar signs. At least, not yet.
“It all started with my boyfriend,” she says, adding, “we were celebrating an event and I baked cupcakes for the occasion… just because. I guess someone at the party had them and thought they’d been specially-made from a store, so she called a few days and asked if she could order some for her wedding. And she did.”
Little by little, Amy was slowly stockpiling a loyal list of customers who wanted her delectably good sweet treats for every celebration they could think of – and pretty soon she was devoting nights, weekends – even her lunch break – to baking, decorating and delivering her melt-in-your-mouth goodies to friends and strangers all over New York City.
That’s when the time came for Amy to make a decision: because it was so clear that baking treats, giving back to the programs she felt strongly about and bringing people an endless amount of happiness was her calling, was she going to drop everything and chase her dream?
Though it might not have been a full-bellied, “Yes!” in that moment, the urge was strong enough for Amy to leave everything she knew for a dream she just couldn’t shake and a hobby she refused to let go of.
“It was terrifying to leave a job that I knew. I started working when I turned 14 and ever since then I’ve had a crazy, strong work ethic. I love that feeling of having structure, responsibility, organization; I’ve always loved working and I like knowing where my money is coming from, what my benefits are, what I can expect on a day-to-day basis.”
For someone with a type-A personality, how on earth did she navigate the cloud-filled sphere of owning her own business?
“Deciding to leave was, without a doubt, the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I had no idea how I would buy food, pay rent, grow a company, be able to take the company to the next level, support myself and future employees. But I really felt like I didn’t have a choice because the urge to get me here was such a strong personal calling. As scared as I was, I was in a really unique position to drop everything and try. And if I was ever going to take a risk in my life, this was the time and the place to do it. So, I jumped.”
On the brink of opening her first-ever New York City brick-and-mortar, Amy reminds us that being your own boss and launching a business from the ground up has come with its own set of sacrifices.
For starters, she’s had to skip out on moments and occasions with friends and family because “when you’re running your own business, you can’t just pick up and leave.” Especially not when other people’s taste palates are depending on you.
Because Amy is so deeply committed to furthering arts education programs – she was once a teacher, administrator and evaluator long before Sweet Generation had been born – she runs an internship program that offers young adults who haven’t been successful along the traditional pathway an alternative route to victory.
“I’ve seen firsthand the dramatic impact that a comprehensive arts program can have on a child’s confidence, their engagement level and their ability to express themselves in ways that other people can understand. And I’ve also seen firsthand what happens when a program that offers children an outlet for their creativity is cut.”
In between crafting tie-dye cookies as part of Sweet Generation’s partnership with She’s The First, a worldwide organization that sponsors girls’ education in low-income countries by funding scholarships to secondary schools, Amy doesn’t shy away from telling us what owning a business is really like. “From the outside,” she says, “what I do looks like a lot of fairy dust and sprinkled sugar and beautiful, fun and delicious sweets, but I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” It’s hard to disagree.
We’ve all seen “Iron Chef,” we know what goes on during “Chopped”; a look into Amy’s confectionary life proves to be a lesson in cold, hard and delightfully-rich determination.
It’s one that includes a lot of different hats and a lot of different roles. At any given moment, Amy is a baker, a designer, a caterer, a graphic artist, a boss, a business owner, a leader – and, most importantly, a woman.
While people might characterize a baker’s world as “primarily female,” the business world is still predominantly male – a trait that Amy quickly learned to use to her advantage. “I do feel like I have to assert myself more because I’m a woman.
I push myself to go out of my comfort zone, to do and say things that I might not feel 100 percent comfortable doing and saying, but would be totally realistic for a man to say and do. I do say to myself, ‘How would a man behave in this scenario?’”
Yet, in spite of her think-like-a-man attitude, there’s one thing Amy won’t compromise: her views on equality. “I don’t think you can be a woman in business and not be a feminist,” she says. We’ll cheers to that.
“I’m in an industry where it’s more ‘acceptable’ to be a woman and to have that special womanly touch,” she says adding that her femininity has also helped her score opportunities that she would’ve otherwise been overlooked for.
“People underestimate me,” Amy tells us, standing behind her stainless steel kitchen counter, a rolling pin firmly between her hands and freshly rolled out dough beneath her. She’s so in the zone that it’s actually impossible to picture her anywhere else, in any other room. “Sometimes that allows me to sneak through the door and get access to opportunities purely because they’ve underestimated me.” The early bird may get the first worm, but the second mouse gets all the cheese.
Regardless of the hiccups along the way, Amy is the first to admit that everything up until this point – all the good, all the bad that came before – led her here.
“I don’t know if I would change anything,” she says, and it’s no surprise that she truthfully means it. All the teaching, the advocating, the dreaming up of sweet treats from her cozy Astoria, Queens kitchen, it was all worth it. It was the path that led her here, the road that took her home.
Though home may now look like an Upper East Side kitchen, there’s no denying that in her mind she’s right back to her parents’ kitchen, right back to being a little girl, where sweets were the safety net, where sweets were the smiles.
While so much of her day focuses on coming up with new flavors and finding new, honeyed ways to recreate the classics, Amy takes the time to stop and smell the chocolate ganache whenever she can.
“I think we’re taught by society to constantly undermine ourselves [as women], but you should go into any scenario being confident with what you bring to the table,” she notes, neatly stacking fresh-made tie-dye treats on a cooling rack. We’re nodding in approval – dizzy with happiness amidst the scent of sugary dough.
The sweets may be sweet, but make no mistake: Amy knows exactly what she brings to the table.
Right now she’s setting her sights on her NYC storefront, determined to raise the money to get there. But regardless of what she wants, she’s all for celebrating women – and their choices – no matter what they decide.
“Everyone wants something else out of their life – some women want to be mothers, some want that high-profile CEO position and others want to be both – so I think it’s important to set your sights on what’s important to you and then create that for yourself.”
So what does this decadent baker who made a dream come true out of an adoringly-tasty hobby think of the pressures on women to have it “all” in today’s society? Amy gives us that deadpan look and that signature warm, welcoming smile and says: “I really think it depends on what your definition of it all is — and that’s really a choice that you have to make a choice for yourself. What does ‘it’ look like for you?” So honest, so inspiring, so very Amy.
Right now, a flourishing business, a thriving dream, a hobby that pays the bills and helps with every helping, this is it; this is Amy’s version of it all. But she adds, “at some point, I’m sure I’ll want different things, but I believe we have the power to change our minds.
Making those choices and deciding what you want – those are decisions people have to make for themselves when they’re ready for it.”
We’d just like to let it be known that no matter what Amy and the team at Sweet Generation decide, you can bet we’ll be here waiting, taste buds at the ready to sample every sugary sweet and cream-filled drop.
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