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CakeLove founder tells story of entrepreneurship

Brown dropped law to bake cakes

Warren Brown speaks with a student about the ingredients he experiments with in his cakes. He stopped practicing law to start CakeLove, a group of specialty bakeries he owns around the Washington, D.C., area.
Warren Brown speaks with a student about the ingredients he experiments with in his cakes. He stopped practicing law to start CakeLove, a group of specialty bakeries he owns around the Washington, D.C., area.

The founder and owner of CakeLove served up some sweet career advice and cake Tuesday night as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Warren Brown, a lawyer-turned-baker who owns seven bakeries in the Washington, D.C. area, joined fellow entrepreneur Christopher Gergen to speak to students about pursuing their passions, no matter how impractical or unexpected.

Brown spoke about his experience transitioning from a lawyer in Washington, D.C. to an entrepreneur struggling to open a bakery. He began to explore baking after years of cooking in law school.

“I’d go to parties and say, ‘I’m Warren, I’m a foodie, but I can’t bake,’” Brown said. “But I wanted to change that.”

In 1999, Brown began a year-long march through recipes, spending four hours every night baking as a respite from the legal job he did not find very enjoyable or exciting.

“I realized if I continued to bake cakes, I would actually deliver myself to that place, to my own call to greatness,” he said.

He realized his own emotional connection to baking when perfecting a cake for a boss early in his culinary experiments.

“I’m interested in the dynamics of ingredients,” he said. “I’m passionate about how they work together, how they interact.”

In 2002 Brown left his job as a lawyer for good.

He went on to start CakeLove, a bakery chain in the area around Washington, D.C. He hosted the show “Sugar Rush” on the Food Network for three years.

Brown’s stint on the Food Network brought Krystle Groseclose, a junior biology major, to the talk, which was sponsored by the Carolina Union Activities Board.

The cake was provided by Carolina Dining Services.

“I really like to bake, and I wanted to hear some more about how he did this, how he made his way as a baker,” she said.

Brown’s story is featured in Gergen’s book, “Life Entrepreneurs.” Gergen is the director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative at Duke University.

Gergen answered his own call to entrepreneurship while working at CNN after a year-long stay in South Africa.

“I was writing a story about Nelson Mandela, and I had been two years earlier on the streets of South Africa getting deeply involved in what was going on,” he said.

“Two years later, I was in a sterile studio writing about it. I could’ve been out there in the world making it a better place, not behind a computer screen.”

Sophomore Elly Crowell said entrepreneurship has the potential to transform the world and the lives of people who seek out their passions.

Gergen added, “Life entrepreneurship is not simply about starting for-profit or non-profit organizations, it’s a mindset of how you want to live, travel, find your purpose in life.”

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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