“There was something about taking seemingly ordinary ingredients and turning them into something amazing that gave me hope.”
Our next Creative Business feature is one of the sweetest people I’ve interacted with online (we’ve yet to meet in person, but I’ve no doubt she’ll be just as lovely in ‘real life’), Fen Bolodeoku of MonAnnie. It seems only appropriate that such a sweet and beautiful woman should work in one of the most delicious industries: wedding cakes and patisserie.
Fen is an incredible wedding cake designer and patisserie maker, based in Berkshire, and we first connected a few years ago when I was also making wedding cakes. Since then, though I have changed direction (following my joy and starting this business), Fen has gone from strength to strength in the wedding cake world – designing many bespoke and elegant creations. It’s been such a pleasure to witness and I can’t wait to see where the future takes Fen and MonAnnie. Let’s get to know more about the lovely lady behind the Creative Business…
What does creativity mean to you?
I believe creativity is an expression or channeling of an emotion or a combination of emotions.
In life we are surrounded by complexity; beauty, intrigue and love meet with tragedy, sadness, and pain. This complexity ignites a spark, and that spark becomes a flame; the heat from the flame is reinterpreted by us and through us in our art.
Have you always been creative?
Yes. I am an introvert and have always loved to quietly observe, assimilate, reflect and interpret things in my own way. My earliest memory of this is watching “The Sound of Music” as a child, reinterpreting it as a new story, and acting it out with my family.
What first got you interested in your field?
I loved baking as a teenager, but as life progressed, I pursued a different career and my love for cake took a back seat.
Life however has a way of sometimes steering you down a different path. For me it was a period of mental illness. One day in the midst of my distress I baked a batch of cupcakes. It was the first thing I had done in months that actually made me feel something. At first I wasn’t sure what that feeling was, but as the weeks passed and I baked more, I realised that feeling was hope. There was something about taking seemingly ordinary ingredients and turning them into something amazing that gave me hope.
From then on, I was hooked, and made up my mind to learn and improve.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
As time passed, I practiced, attended courses, and continued to nurture my newly found passion. Sharing my bakes with my family and neighbours brought me joy. I loved it, wanted to share that love with the world, and couldn’t think of a better way to share this passion than at the ultimate celebration of love- a wedding.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
I’m not sure I can pick just one. I love the baking process and developing new recipes. I also absolutely love creating sugar flowers. There is something meditative and peacefully still about the process of creation in both circumstances.
What is a ‘reality’ of your work that other people don’t realise?
It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to create each cake and piece of patisserie. They may look simple or small, but perfecting each one is a multistep process- and this isn’t including the hours of learning it took to be able to create each one.
How do you handle creative ‘blocks’ in work?
For me, I have to stop and take a step back. I don’t find my creativity can be “forced”. It needs space to breathe, and needs nurturing.
Do you have any other creative interests?
I love to crochet. I love music- both singing and writing songs. I’m also passionate about cooking (outside of baking!) and interior design.
What one thing would you say to someone dreaming of starting their own creative business?
Don’t take it personally.
Your art and your passion is separate from the act of business- the act of purchasing a product from a supplier. If someone doesn’t like your product, or people tell you “no”, that’s not a criticism of you as an artist or as a human being. Take the time you need to feel, heal, learn from it, and let your determination and passion fuel you.
Hope is definitely something we can all do with at the moment, and I love that baking brought Fen hope in such a difficult time. Creativity does have a wonderful way of taking your thoughts to a different place. It’s why I try to inspire and encourage you to both follow your creative dreams in business and be creative outside of work. Having said that, as Fen also rightly points out, creativity can’t be forced… not true creativity anyway. Sometimes those creative juices just don’t want to flow and it’s hard to find motivation to create.
It’s funny though, once I push past the initial resistance, emotion, or thought that’s blocking me from wanting to be creative – I normally find whatever it is I need. Whether that’s joy, contentment, or just a sense of peace. The most difficult part is, almost always, just starting. Getting ideas and little sparks of potential doesn’t come easy when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. However, if you can find a way to reach creativity without needing too much thought and energy – it can do wonders.
If you’ve been following this Creative Business series for a while, you’ll know I always end each post with the participant’s self-portrait. We’ve seen some really imaginative and creative pieces in recent features. I’m so honoured I get to share them with you. Fen’s self-portrait is particularly special, it’s so beautifully honest (see below).
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up to my email list to receive the ‘Creative Business Edit’ which includes further insight from the Creative Business features, as well as guest experts giving tips on the other side of creative business.