From Corporate Trainer to Cake Decorator: Verná Mungin Finds Her Purpose as a Pastry Chef
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of the story Verná Mungin wrote while participating in a Whyography workshop. For tools and resources for writing and publishing your story, visit our Workshops page.
Verná Mungin sat in the conference room of the company where she’d worked as a corporate trainer for the last 15 years. She was listening to the president say the training department was shutting down. As he droned on about what a great job the department had done, Verná only heard blah, blah, blah. Her department was closing. Panic and fear set in, forcing her to wonder: What in the world am I going to do? She had bills to pay—a mortgage, a car note, tuition repayment.
Verná looked around the room at the team and saw their panic-stricken faces. She began comforting her colleagues with words of encouragement: “Do not worry, things will work out!” and “You are incredibly talented, it won’t be long before you find something else!” She prayed that these words might take her mind off her own panic and fear. And she kept her positive outlook all day—until she got in her car to go home. It was then that everything finally sank in. She began to sob uncontrollably.
Verná knew that her tears were not about losing her job. On the contrary, a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. For the last few years, Verná had come to the realization that corporate training was not her true passion. But she was too afraid to leave what she thought was a secure career. It was a position she’d mastered. It allowed her to live the wonderful life she created for herself while also finding a way to pursue her true passion—baking delicious desserts. Now, faced with no job and a profession she no longer loved, Verná was forced to leave her comfort zone and find employment elsewhere.
As time passed and job interviews yielded nothing, Verná watched cake decorating shows to occupy her mind. She’d always loved baking. She decided to enroll in a two-year culinary school program to put her skills to the test. Verná quickly discovered that baking was the fun part, but decorating was not nearly as easy as the cooking shows made it look. She questioned whether she’d made the right decision and if she should continue. Then one evening, after an especially difficult day of class, standing before her dressing room mirror in tears, Verná asked herself out loud: “Can you do this? Are you really cut out to bake and design dessert masterpieces?” Just then, a calming sensation washed over her. Verná heard the reassuring voice of her mother whispering in her ear as she’d done so many times in the past: “Where is your faith, Verná? You have what it takes to succeed. I’ve watched you master tough situations before, and I know you can do this! Just have faith!”
After much soul-searching, Verná decided giving up was not an option. She knew if she did, she would only be returning to a place of complacency. She’d be killing her dream of owning a business and doing what she loved. She’d be relegating herself to a life of mediocrity and misery. With a renewed determination, Verná threw herself into learning the tricks of the trade. She earned her culinary certification within two years. A short time later, she launched Cake Café, a specialty dessert business focused on custom cakes for any occasion, with a commitment to high quality service and customer satisfaction.
Verná thought when she launched her business, it would magically explode with customers. That was not the case. So she learned about marketing. She began talking up Cake Café by word-of-mouth, passing out flyers, and appearing at venues where passersby could sample delectable dessert items. Though customized cakes were Cake Café’s specialty, Verná spent many late (and some sleepless) nights working on new recipes, watching cake videos, and reading cake magazines. She was determined to master her craft. After years of networking, blood, sweat and literal tears, Verná’s small business was taking off.
Just as Cake Café was beginning to prosper, COVID-19 struck and brought sales to a near standstill. Verná did some research and decided to try putting cake in jars to see what kind of response she’d get. They were a hit! After advertising them, orders piled up to the point that she needed more capital for baking supplies to meet customer demand. Now Verná envisions offering her cakes in jars in select grocery stores, specialty shops and restaurants across the country. She also hopes to purchase a food truck for mobile wedding and party services to deliver desserts to various community events and to participate in food truck rallies and more.
Baking and designing cakes bring Verná inner peace. She’s certain she was created for this very purpose. But Verná’s favorite part is seeing the smiles on customers’ faces when they see their beautiful cakes and knowing she’s played a part in helping them celebrate and honor life’s special moments.
Photo: Cake Café