Welcome to In Her Element, my new series that shines a spotlight on some of the remarkable women entrepreneurs I get to work with. The purpose of this series is to demystify what happens in a Thought Partnership; share inspirational success stories; and to highlight tips and teaching points that might help other women entrepreneurs as they walk along their own path.

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Jeff Cooke Photography

Meet the cake-makin’, Harley drivin’, Mama of two: Shauna Austin

Shauna is a cake artist and the owner of City Girl Cakes in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. If you have a big reason to celebrate you can count her in! Shauna loves to break conventional cake rules and create stunning showpieces guaranteed to make people smile. She’s a master of fabulously sweet, edible art. Her online gallery shows off a wide range of styles from delicately feminine to modern edge to over-the-top hilarious. She’s the cake boss of the Canadian East Coast.

When I first met Shauna, I was completely struck by her raw talent. She walks into her ‘cake cave’ with a spark of an idea and she walks out with a masterpiece that absolutely delights her clients. I’m so impressed with how Shauna stayed the course and turned what was initially a hobbiest attitude into a full-time successful and sought after business. And she did it by showing up completely as herself. Nothing put on or fake about her (you’ll see that in the interview)!

It has been an absolute pleasure to partner with Shauna as she moved from hobbiest to badass business owner. This quiet rebel claimed her point of view and stepped solidly into her zone of genius. Learn more about Shauna here.

This is Shauna:

1. What were your top goals when you stepped into your Thought Partnership with Jac?

When I met Jac, I was feeling lost in my business and alone as a solopreneur. I wanted my business to have a life of its own, but one that was deeply connected to my values (which I still had to identify, so that became a goal) and that reflected my personality and not some generic brand. I also wanted to get out of the “oh, it’s just a hobby” mindset.

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2. Whenever we bring an outsider into the tender secrets of our business it can feel really vulnerable. When you hired Jac, what were you most worried about?

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively. Sometimes, I don’t feel like an adult in an adult world. In a room full of women entrepreneurs, I often feel like a shy teenager who’s just hanging out. I had a lot of jumbled thoughts in my head and would just randomly spit them out. Jac is a master (yes, a MASTER!) at listening and would take everything that I’d said and sum it up in a neat little phrase, “so, what I’m hearing is….” And she always hit the mark. I remember responding (in a loud voice), “Yes! Oh my god, how did you do that? How did you take everything that I just said and send it back to me in a way that makes sense?”

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3. What impact did your work with Jac have in your business (and life)?

My work with Jac was a game changer for me, both personally and for my business. The two are practically intertwined. There’s a lot of my personality in my business now. I started as a girl who had a knack for cake design, but when asked what I did for a living, I’d just say, “I make cakes.” I’ve always been the one who never sought the spotlight but just wanted to fit in with people, so most of my life was spent hiding a lot of my personality.

With Jac’s help, I identified my values and my beliefs. I am who I am and that person is freakin’ awesome (even if she does drop F-bombs. A lot). My confidence level soared and I signed up for things that I’ve always wanted to do (voice lessons, dodge ball, and now aerial silks!). And the best thing I have ever done for myself: I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Badass.

I don’t think any of this would have happened had I not identified and developed my values and beliefs with Jac. It was, for me, the key to everything else. As a result, I revamped my website and logo from the fluffy pink/brown to a bolder black and gold and updated my copy to better reflect my business. I am now able to proudly articulate why I’m in this business and what I have to offer.

4. What specifically did you achieve?

The biggest outcome was a complete revamp of my website and logo. When I started my business, I chose the fluffy pink/brown style that I felt would be popular or most accepted by others. It was safe. It was common. I am not safe – I’m a quiet rebel. I like things a little edgy. This feels right to me now.

I learned how to introduce myself without feeling like an idiot. Haha.

I also learned how to tell my inner critic (that nasty voice in my head with a Southern drawl), to take a hike. I learned how to take emotion out of the equation and look at the facts.

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4. You worked really hard in our time together, what was your proudest moment? What’s been your proudest moment since then?

I loved that one morning when we’d gotten through the identifying my values exercise and I read the list and I was like, fuck, yeah. This is me. And since then, I’m proud to be living by those values – especially when making decisions in my business.

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5. Based on what you learned about yourself in our time together, what’s stuck for you? What do you keep coming back to?

I absolutely loved learning about archetypes and identifying mine. It helped me set the tone for my business and focus in on the important things. It’s probably what I come back to the most. I continue to check in with both my archetypes and values once in a while to see if I’m staying true to them. I also come back to our “right client” discussions.

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6. What are the current challenges you’re facing in your business?

With my business, there’s a busy season and a not so busy season. My current challenge is not panicking when it’s my not so busy season (things like, “shit, do I need a job? Where’s my resume? I don’t even know how to write a resume anymore”. It hasn’t been updated in 7 years! *insert sobbing call to Dad*).

This past winter (in a panic), I tried to launch several different ideas, spent a lot of money I didn’t have, and strayed from the core essence of my business. I let fear lead the way when I should have rationally looked at my books and realized that this is okay and focused on other things like practicing my skills, or marketing… or just enjoying a little tiny bit of downtime.

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7. What worked for you about Jac’s approach?

Everything! Jac is the kindest soul. And she shoots (kindly) from the hip – and that is what you need when you’re looking for answers. She is caring, empathetic, intelligent, an amazing communicator, and funny. Sometimes you have to dig deep within yourself to get to where you want to be. She never left my side for a minute while I was struggling to find my answers.

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Jeff Cooke Photography

8. What are your top tips for hiring a Thought Partner or Coach?

Good question. I hired Jac based mostly on her blog. I loved her writing style.  Her content was excellent and it wasn’t cut and paste from some self-help book or completely technical jargon. I clearly heard her voice when I was reading, and I immediately knew she was someone I could trust, connect with, and work with. I actually also hired my current personal trainer based on the same – read and loved her blog posts. And both hires have been the best decisions I’ve ever made! So, top tip: read their website or blog posts and see how it feels to you.

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Shauna Austin is a cake artist and the owner of City Girl Cakes a boutique style cake company in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She’s a master of fabulously sweet, edible art and stunning showpieces that make people smile. You can follow her on Facebook Twitter and Instagram . Or check out her cake gallery right here.

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