If your dream job involves cupcakes, cake, and sprinkles you aren’t alone. Agathe Assouline-Lichten and her sister Arielle are co-founders of Red Velvet NYC a company that sends pre-measured ingredients and easy recipes so you can bake gourmet desserts in your own kitchen. You can choose from a variety of delicious desserts ranging from nutella cupcakes and birthday cake to tiramisu and molton chocolate cake. Oh, and their namesake red velvet cake, of course!
What inspired you to start Red Velvet NYC?
I grew up in the gourmet food business, so good food, cooking, baking, and entertaining has always been a passion of mine. About a year and a half ago, while my sister and I were both Blue Apron subscribers, it hit us — there were plenty of meal delivery subscription offers, but no one offered dessert. For us, it was about filling a need that didn’t exist, in a market that was virtually untapped.
What were the first logistical steps you took to start a business?
First, lots of research. There was so much that needed to be determined. I read a lot of books, talked to entrepreneurs, and gathered as much data as possible. The second step was to create a minimum viable product and test it. This was what ultimately shaped the business model and helped it become what it is today. The third step was making a plan to leave my full-time job, getting my sister (and co-founder) on board, and getting to work.
What is a day as Agathe like? Please walk me through a day!
My days vary so much! On any given day, you can find me strategizing, coming up with new marketing and advertising campaigns, pitching press stories, overseeing operations, securing partnerships, researching our next recipes, testing recipes, and even making the occasional delivery. There’s nothing I won’t do — that’s how I know my business inside and out.
What are your responsibilities as CEO of Red Velvet NYC?
I run all day-to-day operations. Arielle, my sister and co-founder, is the CTO and creative director for the brand. She handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, while I focus on running our everyday business. From marketing to advertising to press to operations to finance — all of those things are in my domain. It balances well between us as we’re both doing what we’re good at.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Launching this company is by far my greatest achievement and I am very proud of what Red Velvet NYC has become.
What have you learned about yourself since founding Red Velvet NYC?
I’ve learned that I need to be patient. Things don’t magically happen overnight, despite how much you want them to. It takes time to acquire customers, to get systems in place, and for the word to get out. With enough perseverance though, I think all comes in due time.
What is the most important characteristic that someone needs to be successful in your role?
Things happen, and you just have to accept them and move on. You can’t get bogged down by the small stuff, or even the big stuff. If you’re resilient, you can take any challenge head-on.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting Red Velvet NYC?
The biggest challenge for me has been maintaining a work-life balance. When you have your own business, you work a lot. You don’t have as much free time as before, so your social life suffers. On the other hand, if I didn’t pour all those hours into the company, it wouldn’t look like it does today. And I’m proud of that.
What is the most important characteristic for entrepreneurs to have?
Grit is a quality many entrepreneurs need. Second to that are flexibility and confidence. Grit, however, is tied to perseverance. If you can do something for long enough without getting discouraged whenever something goes wrong, you have the potential to go very far.
You previously worked at Harry Winston, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Sotheby’s. What were your roles at those organizations?
I spent 10 years in marketing at luxury companies. I managed partnership and event marketing on a national and international level. I am thankful for those experiences as I could not do what I do today without the insightful experiences I had.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
I think once again it comes down to patience. I think that when we enter the workforce, we’re so excited to get to the next step, often times without good reason. It takes time to realize what you want to do, what you’re good at, and what you find rewarding. I think everyone has their own timeline — it’s just about finding your personal path in your own time.
What is on your desk right now?
What is your morning routine?
I’m not a morning person, unfortunately, so I wake up around 7 am and spend about 30 minutes in bed reading emails and checking my phone. Once I’m caught up, I eat breakfast, get ready, and do a quick store run to replenish anything we need at the warehouse. Then I am off to Long Island City, where our warehouse and office are. Occasionally I squeeze in a run or yoga if I can make it to class.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Melissa (from Baked by Melissa) once said in an interview that she has learned over the years to “think, then speak.” Speaking in the heat of the moment can often get us into trouble by reacting poorly, and I think about this advice all the time. Oftentimes I take a day to sleep on something and revert back once I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to deliver my message.
What is your career advice for other young professional women?
Do what makes you happy. Don’t get caught up in the societal pressure of what’s going on around you — just do what makes you happy and makes you feel good. With all that joy and confidence, the rest will fall into place!
Images courtesy of Agathe Assouline-Lichten and Red Velvet NYC.