Four Sweet Truths From A Dessert Designer
Anyone with a seriously sweet tooth and an Instagram account would likely be an avid follower of Nectar and Stone. Awash in shades of pink, the stunning online creative canvas of Melbourne’s dessert designer, Caroline Khoo, is clearly and deeply rooted in commitment, passion and patience.
But there is one other cornerstone that is less visible. Nectar and Stone and its beautiful Instagram feed were, in fact, born of insecurity.
When Caroline went on her first round of maternity leave, she had every intention to return to work. Then that plan fell through so she decided to have another baby instead. But the joys of motherhood could not soothe her gnawing anxiety over her unemployment.
“I was really insecure that being a homemaker would make me unemployable,” she recalled. “I wanted to continue skilling myself so I could justify my time away from work to my future employer.”
Caroline began with teaching herself photography and digital skills before trying her hand at baking. The first stirrings of Nectar and Stone can be traced back to a casual remark from a friend who wished Caroline could make macarons for her wedding.
“Macarons always looked really hard to make so I decided I needed to master them. And I finally did after the 30th attempt.”
Caroline went on to conquer profiteroles, croquembouche and cookies. Within a few months, she was calling herself a dessert designer and had a business on her hands.
Also read: How To Style A Dessert Table
“It all stemmed from insecurity!” she laughed. That delightfully candid confession was just one of the many that Caroline dished out as she took woman with drive behind the scenes of Nectar and Stone. Here are four more.
“I did not want to be known as a cake baker.”
When it came to choosing a name for her new dessert business, Caroline had one steadfast rule. It should not include the word “cake”.
She wanted a name that people would come to know because of her success and not from a directory listing under the category of “cake baker”. This foresight stemmed from her days in the fashion industry where she observed how luxury brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton never attached themselves to a specific product. And so she turned to her favourite colours for inspiration.
“I love peach and grey. Grey connotes cooler months, stone, home wares and earth. Nectar is the sweeter side of life, and of summery, warmer times. I played around with the word peach because peaches have stones and then the word “nectar” came to me. The word “stone” was just a natural fit with everything else.”
Also read: The Art of Wearing Peach and Grey
“I had no idea what Instagram was about.”
Caroline’s initial social media plan was endearingly straightforward. Make desserts for people who were willing to pay for them, take photos of said desserts and use those photos as a Facebook portfolio. Her only focus at the time was ensuring her photography did justice to her creative output.
“I was not convinced about Instagram for a really long time so I just concentrated on Facebook. Then one day it suddenly clicked that perhaps I should be on Instagram since I love photos. It took me six months to properly work out what Instagram was about and no, I still do not have a social media strategy!”
What she does however have is an Instagram community of 278,000 fans.
Also read: How To Build a Thriving Instagram Community
“You do whatever it takes to make it work.”
Caroline is not the first person to juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship, and she certainly will not be the last. She will also never be the only one to find it a formidable challenge.
Determined to always be available when her two sons needed her, Caroline simply slotted in her work hours around their sleep schedules. This often meant going to bed at 3am and rising at 6am.
“That was the only way to make it work. Sometimes if there was a big order, I would not sleep. You just have to do it. And for a long time I did it alone. Then my mum who is a traditional Greek baker stepped in to help. She understands a lot about desserts so now she does the groundwork and I focus on the decorating.”
Also read: The Island Life of Skopelos
“My creativity will not die.”
Anything good always runs the risk of being copied or blatantly plagiarised, and Nectar and Stone’s creations are no different. Caroline has lost count of the numerous times her designs were passed off as someone else’s work on Instagram. While it used to upset her tremendously, she has since learnt to make peace with it.
“When I was starting out, I felt stripped of my success because someone else was taking my creative work from me. It required so much patience and perseverance to keep going despite knowing that my new work would be taken from me all over again.”
“But I have told myself that my creativity will not die. And now I just feel pity for those people for not having the confidence to take the chances I take every day.”
Image credits: Aimee Jones and Caroline Khoo
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