Business and entrepreneurship not a cakewalk

Lawyer-turned-baker speaks to MU business students.

Warren Brown, the owner and founder of CakeLove and Love Café, visited MU on Thursday afternoon to relate his passion for entrepreneurship, creativity and baking to students. What differentiates Brown’s bakeries from others is his dedication to making all his products from scratch right in the store.

“Each path to success is different and offers new insights and new perspectives, like a fingerprint, or, in today’s case, a cake,” Trulaske College of Business Dean Joan Gabel said.

Brown’s transition from working in a law firm to starting his first bakery and finally to owning several cafés and bakeries in Washington showed the audience the value of doing what you want to do in life.

“The story is a guy who followed his heart,” Brown said. “If I follow (my heart), maybe I can build my whole business around it.”

Although his message was optimistic, Brown remained realistic during his presentation. He wanted to show his success in business came from an exhausting amount of work, long-term time commitments and a little bit of luck.

Citing “The Prince of Tides,” by Pat Conroy, Brown told the audience the three mantras of his success: direct yourself to greatness, answer your calls and answer to yourself.

Before starting his business, he wasn’t really sure who he was, but he needed to find himself again. The person who he wanted to return to was the Warren Brown before others started to influence him.

“'Answer to yourself,’ was me saying to myself, ‘You can’t always do what everyone else wants you to do,’” Brown said.

So, in 2002, Brown left law and followed his convictions of becoming what he really wanted to be. He told the story of working late one Friday night on an important case the firm was taking to the Supreme Court. When he leaned out of his office and found the halls empty, Brown began to question if this was the right place for his talent and dedication.

“I think if you don’t question who you are and what you stand for, you’re not doing something well,” Brown said. “You’re not pushing yourself enough.”

He left the firm and began to bake. He started in his apartment kitchen and sold the cakes to people he knew. Eventually, Brown moved on and expanded to seven storefronts in the D.C. area.

“The choice to leave law to go into business was one that I couldn’t resist — I couldn’t pass up,” Brown said.

He said his success was not guaranteed. Before his first big break, he remembers looking at his bank statement and wondering if things were not going to go so well. Now, he wants to frame the bank statement as a testament to where he came from.

“I didn’t know what I was going to be," Brown said. "I didn’t really care at that time. Let’s just bake and see what happens."

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