President's Day was a company holiday. Hooray! So how did I spend it? I slept in (a little), did a couple of errands, some writing, some research, watched the Ace of Cakes marathon (for 5 hours) on the Food Network, and met my friends Linda and Monika for a glass of wine at City Winery. I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Duff, owner of Charm City Cakes and star of the show Ace of Cakes, when he delivered a cake made to look like a 64-box of Crayola crayons to the Toys R Us in Times Square. I was working at Toys R Us at the time, and my boss was giving interviews to the press that were there covering the event. We were celebrating the 50th birthday of Crayola's 64-box.
Prior to the event, I was a huge fan of the show and of Duff. After meeting him and getting to see one of the Charm City Cakes up close, I became an even more dedicated fan. The artistry that goes into these cakes is amazing - no question. What's even more incredible is the environment and culture of the company that Duff created. He is the only trained pastry chef in his bakery, and many of the other people at Charm City were his friends long before he opened the bakery. Charm City Cakes has one rule - you must have fun! Their website proudly states, "There are no limits to what we can do here at Charm City Cakes. You dream it, we’ll bake it, you eat it." Just watching the show you see what great camaraderie the group has. They collaborate, they have artistic freedom, and they share a tremendous amount of trust and support. It is one of the best models for a business I've ever seen. They work hard, they laugh, and they play. Warning - watching too much of the show may make you want to quit your job and create a company that's as much fun as Charm City Cakes.
Duff and his team are a great example of what's possible in business. He wanted to do things his way and he wanted to work with his friends. Duff is a great leader - he doesn't need to stand over them and approve all of their work. In actuality, he can't - there's too much to do and the only way to get all those gorgeous cakes made is to have an entire team that he trusts to do exceptional work. They've never once let one another down, and the resulting success is staggering. Every entrepreneur class at every business school should study the case of Charm City Cakes - the students would be better off and so would the world of business.