When I first walked the all-hallowed pink carpets of Cake International back in 2012, Cassie Brown was one of the big household names; she had her own products, her own airbrush and her own big shiny branded stand. Almost everyone I met had a ‘Cassie Brown’ airbrush and her stand at the show was always heaving.
Roll on a couple of years at another pink carpeted Cake International I was even invited to go chat to her by a mutual friend – but I didn’t go – because I was too intimidated by ‘a big name’ and as a total social recluse I couldn’t even bring myself to go over to her stand let alone strike up conversation! 10 years on, Cassie is still a big household name with her own product line and range of books. She now has a regular fixture of shows and has her own TV slots and teaches all around the world! Cassie’s sugar craft journey is 30 years deep and still going strong! There are not many who can say that now are there…
I finally got to hang out with Cassie by accident when we both enrolled on an intensive 2 day airbrush course at The Airbrush Company. To say I was nervous and skeptical when I discovered ‘THE’ Cassie Brown was also on the course with me was an understatement – but avoiding someone who is sat right next to you for two solid days is a skill even this rock dweller hasn’t mastered so I sucked it up and said… (in a – i’m totally cool with this – voice) “alright, how’s it going?”
And you know what, I wish I’d done that 10 years ago because she’s bloody ace.
We got on like a house on fire, both similarly motivated, both passionate about the arts, personal development and empowerment of others. She’s funny, quirky, down-to-earth, zero ego and all-round lovely.
So without further ado I bring you: Cassie Brown – Getting To Know You
Cassie is a multi-award-winning floral sugar craft specialist and an airbrushing artist. Currently, she is an International Judge, demonstrator, author, TV personality and a product designer.
Cassie has many passions in life, including those that involve any crafts. Teaching is one of Cassie’s main passions as she enjoys sharing her knowledge for airbrushing and flowers on a worldwide scale. She often runs workshops or demonstrations across the globe, as traveling is one of her hobbies.
So – Cassie, tell me what motivates you? What gets you out of bed every day?
“I just love being creative and helping others be more artistic, more creative!
I just love creating something out of nothing.
I love seeing what other people have created. I just love when they come up to my stand and show me all their cakes and their sugar flowers! I could look at their photos all day. “
“I used to always dream what it was to be a big name, to see my name everywhere, to be a big brand, but when I got there, it wasn’t what I thought and just made me feel really flat. So over the last couple of years I’ve gone back to basics and re-found my motivation. To share my journey with others and inspire them creatively and also from a business angle to be more authentic and true to myself. Be more than just a brand.”
“I also want to be a good role model to my kids;
I want to prove to them they can be anything they want to be and follow what they love, and not just end up in a dead-end job.”
How did you build such a well-known brand and loyal customer base?
“LOL – by making lots and lots of mistakes and taking leaps of faith! I had a dream – an inspiration, and I just found ways through to achieve it each time. I approached lots of people and companies or suppliers and just got out there!
You have to be practical, use the internet
to find the suppliers and contacts you need to build your brand.
It’s also worth getting you logo designed just for you as you will be more proud of it, if you look at my logo, focus on the flower and look closely at the petals, each petal is actually a tracing of my lips when I smile.
You just have to take those leaps of faith, stop dreaming about and get on with it.
You also mustn’t talk yourself down, or talk yourself out of it. Learn to control that chimp! (If you want a great book on controlling negative self-talk there is a brilliant book called The Chimp Complex all about training your mind to stop self-sabotage and negative self talk) If ever my children start on a negative spiral of thoughts and words I always say to them – control your chimp, and they know to stop straight away to get their thoughts back under control. Its so important to work on your mindset to be successful. “
How have you kept yourself at the top level for so long?
“I think I’ve always kept it real and stayed grounded. I also always use as much free promotion as possible to keep the brand relevant and evolving with the times. I used local newspapers and magazines back in the day and pf course now I use social media to build and maintain my brand. If you build a solid brand it will give you the freedom to be diverse within your sector, branching out into books, products, demos and teaching, even TV work. That all helps create longevity within your business model.
I think the biggest problem people have is underselling themselves. You have to start high – if you want to put discounts on and stuff like that you can but if you don’t start with a high start point you have nowhere to go. You have to value yourself and your products.
Always be proud of who you are and tell anyone who will listen.”
How do you market your various business products and which do you find the most successful?
“I use social media, newspapers, magazines, and any other free PR channels I can to get as much free publicity as I can!
In 2004 I built what we believe is the first big sugar collaboration with the Sugar Craft Guild to help promote their show at the time. 7 of us created a huge sugar water fountain, all working together we built a 6 ½ foot tall, 4 foot wide all sugar water fountain, complete with hundreds of sugar flowers! Everyone thought it was real so we to put signs up to tell people it was sugar and not to touch. I went to the press and we ended up in loads of local and national newspapers with it.
If you are passionate about yourself and have something interesting/exciting to share, local newspapers love it. They are always looking for content so….
Don’t be shy!
Be forward thinking, build your confidence by entering competitions and creating work you love, get yourself noticed and then ride the buzz to bigger and better things. If you can get yourself on TV just do it no matter how terrifying it is. It adds gravitas to your brand and makes you ‘look’ better known and a more trusted source. Clients love that stuff!”
What one aspect of your business are you most proud of and why?
“I think my I’m most proud of my third and most recent book. Kew Book Of Sugar Flowers. It’s definitely my best achievement. It has 30 years of knowledge in it and it’s been so well received.”
What do you love best about being your own boss?
“I just love working my own hours and doing my own thing. I think I’m totally unemployable now, I’d not last a day!”
What is your biggest struggle?
“I have three major struggles.
- I have dyslexia. I went to a specialist school as a child due to the severity of it. I had to talk my assignments into a Dictaphone because I was so bad at reading and writing. I did my GSCE’s with a TA and scribe by my side! Eventually, I agreed to move to a mainstream secondary school but only on the promise that every Friday I could do my Sugar And Guild Sugar craft qualification. I even started selling my cakes in secondary school – creating my own business as a teenager! The sugar craft work gave me the confidence that the dyslexia took away. I was bullied for going to a ‘special school’ yet when I went to the pub with my Dad at the weekends and took my sugar flowers everyone was amazed. It gave me the drive and enthusiasm to continue and set my course for life!
- I was hit by a car in 1999 and left with a head injury which affects my processing and thinking.
- I also have Fibromyalgia which causes me a lot of pain. Unhelpfully it’s aggravated by stress!
The three combined can make for some challenging situations. I can be mid-sentence in a demo and totally forget what I’m doing and what I’m saying. I used to worry so much about it and always try to be perfect, now though I share my struggles, my journey and use it to encourage others who might also share the same problems. I am very passionate about sharing my journey and giving other people the space and time to share theirs with me.”
Are you happy in your business as it is? How would you like to grow it in the future to be happier?
“I am not aiming for happiness any more. I stopped that a long time ago! I am aiming for content instead. I am content, but there is still lots more to do! I have more people to inspire and still want to grow my audience.
I want to be more raw and authentic
with my work now, not the false perfect I thought I had to be! Now I know people aren’t judging me because of my head injury or dyslexia, I know I can be more me. And more people respond as everyone has hidden struggles.”
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
“If I had to start again I’d definitely be more careful who I listen to. I was told I’d never be an artist as I’m not good enough! We tend to listen to people who validate our own fears and doubts and if I had to do it again I’d not listen to them. I tell my kids “roll with what you enjoy and be empowered” So yeah,
be careful who you listen to
they might not know best even if they have the best intentions!”
What is the scariest business decision you’ve had to make so far? Did it pay off?
“Definitely the scariest thing is investing in product development, R&D. It’s a really expensive outlay with no guarantees at all that you are doing the right thing or you will get a return on your investment. It has definitely paid off but there is still a lot of growth to be done!”
Can you tell us about a mistake or something that didn’t go in as you’d hoped in your business and how you evolved beyond it?
“I made a mistake with my first book – Sugar Sensations. I had no clue what I was doing, I just knew I wanted to do it! So I found a publisher, negotiated what turned out to be the best deal and produced something that realistically wasn’t the absolute best that it could have been. It just didn’t quite hit the mark – an expensive lesson!
But it was a lesson, a huge learning curve and it started my journey into creating much better and more successful publications.”
How do you personally measure success? What does success look like to you?
Success is contentment to me.
And contentment looks like travelling, sharing, and communicating my personal and business journey to others. I love talking to people and am interested in hearing their story and sharing my own. I’m the person in the supermarket queue who will find out what everyone else does for a living and how their day is going!”
I have to ask – as we have you here! You are a prestige Cake International judge – give us some insider tips – tell us how to win!!
“LOL. My biggest tip is always read the rules! Don’t screw up for a small oversight. Beyond that try and be unique! Stand out from the crowd.
If you get feedback do try and listen to it, take it on board. We are not trying to put you down – you will learn from good critique.
You won’t learn from denial.”
Ok, final question. If you could only leave behind one truth for the world to remember you by what would it be?
“Find out what you love and make sure you show the world, because passion will always drive your success.”
Thank you Cassie for giving me your time and insight. It’s been an honour to hang out with you again. Tell me where can we find out more about what you are up to and how we can get involved?
I hope you loved getting to know Cassie as much as I have, go check out what she’s up to! You will not be disappointed.
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