Jennifer Bratko is, like many other women entrepreneurs, passionate about her creations. Her work makes the dreams of brides come true and it has been featured in Cake Central Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle Bridal to name a few. She even made a wedding cake for the Vera Wang’s fashion show after one of her dresses!
She is sweet and humble and her clients constantly flood her with appreciation notes. Originally from Southern California, Jennifer Bratko has called San Francisco her home since 2005. A real estate agent for many years, Jennifer eventually discovered her true passion and redirected her life in order to follow it. Besides running her successful business, Jennifer is the mom of a rambunctious 2 year old who, as a first-time parent is pretty busy trying to find hobbies and activities for her.
How did you come about becoming a pastry chef/baker? When did you decide that this was your calling?
I fell into it – I was in real estate for about 17 years and survived the boom and the bust, but realized I was soulless and unhappy to the core. I ended up making my own wedding cake as a lark and loved it so much it sparked the “what if”? Next thing I knew I was blowing off touring properties and trying to sell someone a house in favor of developing recipes, doing bakery market research and trying to find someone to sell a cake to. I turned in my real estate license in 2009 and have been focused on Beyond Buttercream ever since.
As a professional woman, what are some of the biggest challenges you face in your job and how do you manage to overcome them?
So many challenges! Sure, running a business is a struggle but honestly, my business struggles are probably the same as the next gal. What really keeps me up at night is making sure I am a good mom and spending as much quality time with my daughter as I should be. Every day she learns new things from nannies and day care and I can’t help but to feel guilty that it should be me teaching her those things. My other huge struggle is making sure I take time for me. I pretty much never do that and I know one of these days it will catch up with me most likely in a bad way.
What do you find the most satisfying part of your work?
I can’t express how cool I think it is that something I made with my own two hands is a centerpiece at a major life event like a wedding. Even though I am super critical of my work and on more deliveries then I care to admit I think the client is going to hate the cake I made. But then I get another 5 star review or a handwritten note or email thanking me for the cake. It’s so satisfying!
What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs who have unusual (or challenging) career goals?
It’s not enough to love what you do – that’s only part of it. You need to find your niche and stick to it. Find what makes YOU original and never waiver on it.
Give us an example of how you’re currently helping other women entrepreneurs advance professionally or fulfill their career goals?
I go about hiring a little different – instead of looking for the best resume I look for the worst and give those people a shot. It’s so hard to find a job nowadays and it always seemed unfair to me that how eloquent you are in a resume determines whether you will get a job. All my past (and current) assistants had horrible resumes and were straight from pastry school with very little experience. I love to teach so I make sure I try and teach them something every day they work with me. And I am extremely excited that starting in 2014 I will be traveling, teaching sugarcraft and cakecraft.
Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now?
I would be nowhere without my sister, Kris Topolcsik. Besides being the smartest woman I’ve ever known, she keeps me grounded and focused on the big picture. She’s also my CPA, manages to keep my receipts and books untangled, and I’m happy to say she is finally venturing out on her own to start a CPA practice. I love her to pieces and hope she still has time for my small cake business when she starts to rule the world.