Coloring Outside the Lines

Alyssa Kyle is the owner of Alyssa’s Cupcake Confections, an online cupcake business, a freelance writer, lover of the written word and a yoga teacher in training. I’m passionate about life, and am always seeking opportunities for creative inspiration and adventure.

I was raised by an artist. If there is any truth to the ageless nature versus nurture debate, then for me, I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for my mother kindling the creative spark within me that would cultivate my future. We always had an eclectic assortment of art supplies, a treasure trove of felt, beads, paint, glue and construction paper. I grew up spending many an afternoon wandering through abundant aisles of artificial flowers and fabrics at our local craft store. Our house was a holiday haven for every season and occasion, beautifully adorned with the charming creations born of my mother’s magical touch. I accompanied her to craft shows, sitting behind her table beaming with pride as eager customers purchased her enchanting holiday masterpieces — turkeys with a kaleidoscope of colorful feathers, iridescent snowmen and ethereal angels disappeared one by one from my mom’s table. Soon, my hands began to look like my mother’s, nails encrusted with glitter and fingertips speckled with paint.

I remember one pivotal afternoon in elementary school when my art teacher spoke to my mom about an assignment she had given our class. She explained that her instructions were to draw a scarecrow in the center of the paper. She showed my mom the other scarecrow drawings and then showed her mine, which also included pumpkins, grass, a fence, a sky, sun and clouds. The focus of this meeting was to address my apparent inability to follow the directions by “coloring outside the lines,” as it were. My mom conveyed her surprise that a class based on creativity would focus more on structure and containment and less on encouragement of exploring individual artistic expression. She also pointed out that I did indeed follow the directions. I had just exceeded them, thus planting the seeds in me that would someday flourish into an unanticipated garden.

That summer my mom organized a camp at our local cabin. My friends and I spent those carefree days of youthful bliss enjoying incredible craft projects and activities designed to inspire us to use our imaginations. We fashioned our own costumes that we wore at a sing-along pageant for our parents. A chorus of whimsical butteries, bees and frogs serenaded our delighted audience. She was subsequently asked to write craft articles for the local paper, which I excitedly brought in for show and tell (maybe a bit show-off and tell) at school.

During my teens, my mother started other businesses spun from her latest ideas. Potted plant pals that she made with artificial flowers and painted faces for patients in hospitals, nursing homes and cancer centers that she found donors for. She also made and sold “inspirational owls,” stuffed, sewn cheerful creatures that were christened with names like dream, love and courage, made in memory of my aunt who died of cancer. These special gifts brought smiles and laughter to children and comfort and cheer to adults.

I continually watched my mom’s talents manifest into money which taught me that I could conceivably transform my own interests into income. I learned that my strengths were interwoven with the threads of creativity introduced, inspired and encouraged in me all my life.

After graduation, it was no surprise that I decided to tap into my inner artist. But my creative talents took me on a dierent path with a rather unusual artistic medium. My passion was with food, sweets in particular. This had been evident since childhood when I collected Strawberry Shortcake dolls and made play dough pastries into bountiful buffets. Plastic play desserts became real ones. I loved to bake and graduated from my Easy-Bake Oven to cookbooks quickly after realizing that perhaps there were recipes far superior to chocolate powder and water cooked by a light bulb.

I began whipping up treats for my friends and family. My unique cupcake flavors went over so well that I was encouraged to sell them at the local farmers market. After they had sampled them, I was given a spot. The market manager suggested I stick to vanilla and chocolate and prepared me for low sales. I chose my favorites instead — orange Creamsicle, key lime pie, banana split and pink lemonade adorned with a cherry, umbrella and straw. Already my creative mind was inventing more. I sold out in less than an hour, with enthusiastic customers asking for my business cards, which is how my home-based cupcake business was born. Every week I would enthusiastically entice customers by having themed cupcake flavors. For example, Carnival Day featured chocolate-covered banana, cotton candy, cherry snow cone, caramel popcorn as well as Ferris wheel and clown designs. I had balloons, games and prizes. My table was a huge hit week after week!

My business is now online and has blossomed from four flavors to 200, inspired by everything from traditional baked goods, ice cream flavors, popular candies, ethnic desserts and even cocktails. I began making cupcakes for birthdays, holidays, graduation parties, showers and weddings. Each cupcake is my own blank canvas, a way to express my creativity. I specialize in crazy, fun flavors and elaborate themed designs.

As a mostly self-taught baker and decorator, I have instructed classes using the wealth of knowledge I obtained from a plethora of sources and years of experience. I regularly sell my cupcakes for holiday events at a nearby store and was even featured on a local TV show. I expanded to festivals and eventually decided to add an array of other goodies to offer my customers. I now include pies, cakewiches, cupcake parfaits and more, in a huge variety of flavors and designs.

Influenced by my mother’s philanthropy through her artistic works, I donate a portion of my profits to two charities every year, in honor or memory of special people in my life. This year my donation will be going to a wonderful group of women who send cards and gifts regularly to people with brain tumors, in honor of my own incredible mother who was recently diagnosed with one.

I’m still happily living my dream as I do what I love every day: an artist with a pastry bag instead of a paint brush. In life, I have learned that my success and happiness comes from coloring outside the lines!