We had the good fortune of connecting with Cayly Conger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cayly, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I was early in my career, I believed I had to be all things to all people in order to be successful. I was everyone’s “yes woman”. Living & working that way ended up pulling me in a million different directions, and over time, a realization that I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted and needed. I also burnt myself out and spun into a depression.
Over time I have learned that “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer, and also a full sentence. We can’t be all things to all people. And when people are upset or disappointed by that, it’s ok. I have learned to set healthy boundaries to carve out time for myself, my loved ones and my passions. It was learning to do this that created space for me to start my own baking business & travel blog as side hustles. Doing so has given me such a breath of new life.
To me, balance is working my hardest and most efficient in the time I have assigned for work, and fully letting it go outside of those bounds. It’s being fully present with what or who is right in front of me, and making sure I have time to rest and to do the things in life that bring me pure joy.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Though my career has taken me in all different directions – from merchandising for Lululemon, Adidas & Nike – to project management with a boutique creative agency working on projects for the likes of Universal Studios, Coca Cola, Warner Brothers, Disney, Sesame Street, Hasbro, Marvel and many more. It has taken many twists and turns along the way. But all along I always wanted to bake & travel. I always said that if I could do anything all day, every day – it would be baking. And in my off time, exploring as much of the world as possible.
So in 2019, I took the risk to leave corporate life behind, reducing my hours to part time, and convincing a local bakery to take a chance on me as a freelance baker with zero professional experience. I learned A LOT in that time. But after a few months, the bakery closed its doors, thus forcing me to go out on my own. It was definitely a little unnerving leaving a sure thing for the unknown – but I quickly picked up clients, and have become really proud of the business I have built. It is still small, mostly word of mouth, but it keeps me busy and I get to constantly challenge myself to push the creative boundaries to get better.
It also gives me something to keep me feeling like myself amidst the challenges of being a stay at home mom. What I have learned through all of this is to take the bet on yourself and put in the hours. I had almost NO experience in decorated sugar cookies when I started. But I just had this gut feeling that if I picked up the piping bag, I would figure it out quickly. And I wasn’t wrong. I had to put in a lot of hours to perfect my craft, and I am still always learning new techniques. But I trusted my gut and have found a niche that I am really proud of.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a tough question because there is so much! There is a ton you can pack into a week long trip in SoCal.
Assuming budget was unlimited, I would start with a day at Disneyland – and make sure to get the churros & the corn dogs (from the little red truck at the end of Main Street USA – most amazing in the entire world. Trust me on that). It’s the happiest place on Earth, so you can’t skip it.
The next day, we would take a drive down Highway 1 through Huntington, Newport & Laguna. For lunch it would either be a salmon burrito from La Sirena Grill or Poke from Bear Flag Fish Co. And of course we’d have to take some time to walk around the tide pools in Laguna, and jump in the water in Huntington. A Mint Mojito from Philz Coffee is also an absolute must! We would finish with an dinner at Driftwood Kitchen, and drinks on the lobby deck of The Montage Laguna Beach… that view cannot be beat.
Another day we would hike Crystal Cove – with panoramic views of the coast, it’s truly amazing. For the late afternoon, we would grab a bottle of wine & a charcuterie board and rent a Duffy Boat to cruise around Balboa Island during sunset. It’s the most refreshing, lovely way to spend time with friends.
One day, we would certainly have to make a day trip down to San Diego, the Zoo is really amazing – and they focus a lot on conservation, which I deeply respect. We’d pop over to the famous Coronado Hotel and get ice cream, ride Bird/Lime scooters around the waterfront and up to Little Italy for the best Italian SoCal can offer. Honestly take your pick, I’ve never had bad Italian at any of the restaurants. We would finish off the night with drinks and maybe a sushi roll or two at my favorite bar in the entire world – Cloak & Petal – it is GORGEOUS. Definitely capping the night with a Japanese Mule & a Kyoto Days – no one will regret it.
Finally, we would take a drive up to Malibu, stopping off in Manhattan beach for some shopping, a walk down the pier & some ice cream- and then enjoy some of the quieter beaches Malibu has to offer. Hopefully enjoy some surfing and grab dinner at Nobu.
Can this week actually happen though? Who’s with me?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband is my greatest champion, and has pushed me to dive in head first to the things I love. He has been supportive every step of the way. Also my mother – from whom I get my creativity – and who taught me to bake. She is a force in her own right and inspires me endlessly.