Meet 9 Young Entrepreneurs Who Risked Everything — & Won

comments
We get it. You want to do your own thing. Start a business. Be your own boss. But, while it’s easy to complain about your current secure-but-not-so-satisfying position and ramble fantastically about an ingenious invention or innovative business idea you have, one daunting question always remains: Where would you actually start?

In our latest installment of Beauty Nation's The New Provocateurs, we teamed up with Revlon to track down nine brilliant young entrepreneurs who once arrived at that same crossroads and asked them how they found the courage to make the leap. Below, they talk openly and honestly about going into debt, getting fired, and becoming power players in brand-new fields. Their stories are equal parts empowering and unnerving — but that seems to be the guiding principle when it comes to successful entrepreneurship.

And, these sharp, fearless women have made it work. They share how they keep it all together, from defining a work-life balance to perfecting their executive-level beauty moves. So, grab a memo pad and put on your thinking cap. It’s time to draft that business plan.

The Cake Boss: Amirah Kassem

PHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON.
Have you ever met someone whose life is literally full of rainbows and sunshine? For Amirah Kassem, the 27-year-old proprietor of Flour Shop, it is just that — an endless cascade of color, glitter, candy, sprinkles, and cake. Lots of cake. At the ripe age of 25, Kassem left a career in the fashion industry to start her new role as a self-proclaimed “flourist,” a made-up position that suits her bubbly, youthful heart perfectly. But, as Kassem will tell you, the top-dog position is not without its challenges.
Flour Shop is a private, custom pastries business where Kassem dreams up delicious, sculptural works of edible art. Cake designs range from gigantic cheeseburgers and towering ice-cream cones down to bite-sized cake balls that look like sushi or Day of the Dead skulls. (Go ahead and peruse her Instagram feed for an instant sugar rush.) And, you know she’s good: Fashion icons from Chanel to Stella McCartney, musicians like Wu-Tang Clan and Mark Ronson, and even the Brooklyn Museum have tapped the frosting-only, no-fondant delights. Ahead, Kassem spills the colorful beans on what life’s like for a cake boss.
All products by Revlon. ColorStay Crème Gel Eye Liner in Black, $9.99; ColorStay ShadowLinks in Gunmetal, $2.99; Bold Lacquer Length & Volume Mascara in Blackest Black, $7.99; ColorBurst Matte Lip Balm in Striking, $8.99; ColorBurst Matte Lip Balm in Unapologetic, $8.99; ColorStay Moisture Stain in Rio Rush, $9.99.
The anti-business model
“It’s funny, when you think of what an entrepreneur does, you think, What’s the business plan? What are you gonna sell? What's the product? For Flour Shop, it was all 100% backwards. I didn’t know exactly what Flour Shop was going to be or that it was going to be custom cakes or anything. All I knew was that I was leaving the fashion industry to bake. There was demand before there was a product, a brand before a website, and it was called Flour Shop before there was a shop. Now, looking at opening one up, it’s totally crazy to think how backwards it was all done. My next goal is to look for a retail space where people can come into my environment and see where the magic is made.”
On doing it all
“I bake myself, I deliver myself, I answer all the emails. It’s funny when I talk to different people and they’re like, ‘You have a team, right?’ and I’m like, ‘Who is this team?! I need to meet them!’ You don’t think about every detail when you’re starting a business. [For me, I thought,] Cakes! No more office! But, then I realized, Wait, I have thousands of emails to respond to. Along with everything else you have to do for a business — like getting registered in New York. I was literally Googling [how to do] it.”
Why being your own boss is awesome
“I play with food all day. The kitchen is my playground. I eat ice cream for breakfast all the time. I really like waking up and throwing on a teddy-bear sweatshirt and sneakers and calling it my work outfit. I also like being able to create anything that I want. If something pops into my head — whether it’s edible glitter on your cake or sprinkles on your head — I can do it. I’m the boss! I never question myself. I always know that what I’m doing is right because I have so much fun doing it.”
The most surprising thing about my background
“I don’t have any professional training in baking. For me, it was about being able to envision something and make it happen by figuring out which ingredients will work. I’ll look at a cheeseburger, and my brain will start translating it into cake. A lot of my cakes look cartoonish for that reason, and it’s become a signature look for me. It’s fun to play around and break a lot of the baking rules. I don’t do the typical wedding cakes or piping or little flowers. It’s more like, How do I make this look like a giant ice cream cone?
Why I don’t aspire to “perfect”
“I don’t use any fondant. I refuse to do it. I know a lot of people like it because it has a perfect look, like Play-Doh, but I’m not going for perfect. I like the idea of doing things with frosting because it’s more of a challenge and it gives the cakes a more realistic look. I think of a child’s first cake and them being able to reach out, take a bite, and have it be all over their face. That enjoyment gets taken away when you add fondant. I love to keep it as real as possible. I don’t want people to feel like they’re peeling a cake like a banana. I want people to have a food fight with my cakes if they want.”
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
“Don’t look at competitors. People ask me, ‘Have you seen this cake or know that baker?’ and it’s just too many messages. I say stick to your gut and what you like. Everything I make comes from my head. I do things my way. I like butter, sugar — the real deal. A lot of people stop themselves from doing what they really want to do because they don’t think they have the proper training or experience, but that should never stop you. I’ve never had help, and I think I’m doing pretty well with these cakes.”
American Retro top, Kate Spade skirt, American Retro jacket, Whistles shoes, Judith Leiber red velvet cake crystal bag.
Photographed by Geordy Pearson; Makeup by Sophie Haig; Hair by Michiko; Styled by Laura Pritchard.