Yvonne’s Arts and Sweets: Practicing self-care through baking and painting

Reporting and writing by Brynne Olsen

Yvonne Chappell, owner of Yvonne’s Arts and Sweets, is baking her way through the pandemic. The multi-talented young entrepreneur took some time out of her busy day to talk about her flourishing business with me.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Brynne Olsen: What is your day like as a baker? 

Yvonne Chappell: It’s not my full-time job, so it’s usually after work I’m starting. I’m actually baking right now — I have a cake in the oven. I bake around everything else. Baking is my stress reliever, it’s my self-care, but it’s also my business. People say “I don’t think that’s how it works,” but for me, it is.

BO: How long have you been baking?

YC: All of my life. But it wasn’t until college that I really started baking on my own outside of being in the kitchen with my mom. I would make cookies and brownies for me and my roommates as a way to bond after a long day of classes and tests. We needed it even though we were trying to make healthier choices, but the cookies called, so it didn’t matter anymore.

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BO: Who inspires you as a baker?

YC: Initially, it was my mom. She always allowed me in her kitchen. That was really beneficial to me. She allowed me to be very inquisitive, asking her what things were. 

Now, my customers. This business wouldn’t exist if they hadn’t asked me to bake things for them. When they say, “Oh my goodness, I had this and it was amazing,” it makes me think I did the right thing. That this business was the right route to go for me.

BO: What do you do outside of baking?

YC: I’m currently a teaching assistant in a fourth-grade math class. It’s so strange being virtual and not being in a classroom with kids. But they are so resilient, still rocking and rolling with everything. They have found ways to play games and talk to their friends. They are getting through it and it’s helping me get through it. 

BO: What are your most popular items? 

YC: A classic chocolate chip cookie. I get so many orders for this. I always have a batch of dough in the freezer because someone is always about to order them. As soon as I make it, I have to make more because it sells so quickly.

BO: What items do you offer besides cookies? Do you offer any dietary restriction-friendly items?

YC: Cakes in a variety of sizes and cupcakes. A popular cupcake I made is Mexican Hot Chocolate. I make brownies, cheesecakes, Valentine’s Day macarons, hot chocolate bombs for the winter season. I make all types of cookies. If it’s not on my menus and someone requests it, I can find a recipe and probably be able to make it. I can make gluten free and I also offer texture alternatives. When I have assortments and people say I can choose, I like to ask if there are any flavors or textures I should avoid.

BO: How can people place orders? 

YC: I accept dessert orders through Instagram and Facebook. They can directly message me with the specifics of what they want, especially if it is a cake or cupcakes. I have my email and phone number attached to my accounts. I deliver to Summit County and Cleveland. I’m born and raised in Cleveland but I moved to Akron six years ago. I cater to both. A lot of my work has come from word-of-mouth.

BO: How has the pandemic affected your baking business? 

YC: I started at the end of June, early July. It was a pandemic-born business. It’s the reason I started it. I was baking so much and not eating all of it. People would see what I made and say “I’d want some of that, how much is that?” I would say “I’m not actually selling it, but if you would buy it, maybe I should be.” 

So that’s how I started. I got the logo, the LLC, and everyone has been so supportive. Buying things, spreading the word on social media. I’m really enjoying it, even the marketing, like making flyers. I enjoy coming up with different things to make. 

Finding new customers can be hard. Because it is delivery-based, people are unsure because I am new and they do not know me. People are skeptical and I understand. Getting customers outside of friends and family is a bit challenging, but I’m finding different ways to get the word out.

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BO: As an artist, what mediums do you like and when did you start?

YC: Acrylic paints mostly. I’ve been practicing with watercolor recently. I’ve always drawn and doodled but I got a minor in art studio and started selling my work after I graduated from Case Western Reserve in 2019.

BO: Where can your art be found and where do you draw artistic inspiration from?

YC: I accept commissions through Instagram and Facebook. A lot of my work has come from word-of-mouth. I draw inspiration from Pinterest and other Black artists. I always try to make something that speaks to who I am as an individual.

Yvonne’s Arts and Sweets can be found on Etsy, Facebook, and Instagram. Yvonne can be reached at (330) 805-3344 and yec6@case.edu

Brynne Olsen is a wanderer who enjoys eating dessert first, writing, photography and meeting the demands of her fur children.