Featured Member: Monica O’Connell // Featured Member // Feb 15 2017

March 2017

Monica O'Connell headshot with wooden spoon in front of her nose.Doyenne Group (DG): What business do you own/work for?

Monica: Curtis & Cake

DG: What is your background? What got you to where you are now?

Monica: A life-long learner, researcher, and builder, I have always been interested in big projects that promote values of collaboration, community, and creativity. In my previous life I accomplished this through the arts and academia—most recently as the Executive Director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, where I served for eight years. I have also been a concert French Horn player, an arts and nonprofit consultant, editor, and writer and I hold a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from NYU. For all of this activity, I have been a baker and maker of things sweet since I was a kid and home baking has been a growing space of relaxation, creativity, joy, and skills building throughout my adult life too. I’ve completed courses at the French Pastry School in Celebration Cakes and Chocolate. In addition to the baking skills, I bring deep interest in community building, sustainability, creative placemaking, and local and regional foodways and systems—particularly of the south to this business. I also bring strong analytical skills, face-to-face, verbal, written communication, marketing experience, project management, strong aesthetic sense, and event planning experience to this venture.

DG: What made you decide to start your business?

Monica: Like the best blues, good things come from getting creative within constraint: Given what I have, what can I do? I resigned from a big job in Chicago about a year and a half ago and moved to Fort Atkinson to live with my husband full time. Starting Curtis & Cake seemed like a productive and creative way to respond to a new environment and situation.

DG: What is your biggest accomplishment so far in life and why?

Monica: Getting through 2007 intact: Moving from a city I thought I’d never leave to run a research center; completing a dissertation in a new city where I knew no one. That year gave me a glimpse of what I can do when I put my mind to it.

DG: What is your biggest accomplishment in your business and why?

The leap of faith I had to take to pivot professionally and commit fully to Curtis & Cake felt huge to me. I had to let go of things needing to look a certain way and cultivate a deep trust in myself and in the universe.

DG: What is the biggest obstacle that you have face while in business? What is the biggest fear that you have for your business?

Having little or no material resources with which to build.

DG: If you could give one quote to live by, what would it be?

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept” by Angela Davis is working pretty well for me right now.

DG: What words of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Remember that we are all meant to fly at full wingspan and there’s room in the sky for all of us. Step away from anyone who would act or suggest otherwise.


If you would like to know more about Monica please explore her web and social media sites! Friend, like, and share her hard work and celebrate her success with us!


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Located at: 1219 N Sherman Ave Madison, WI 53704

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