How a Former Lawyer Quit Her Job to Open a Successful Pie Shop
If you spend your weekends baking pastel cakes for fun and reading up on Ina Garten’s best baking tips, you might be a pastry chef in the making. Turning your love of baking into a full-time job and successful company isn’t a piece of cake, but learning from pros who’ve been there and done that can help kickstart your dreams into reality. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Brianna Abrams, the owner of Winston Pies, about how she quit her job as an attorney to pursue a life of pie.
Meet the Pie Pro: Brianna Abrams
On weekends, lawyer Brianna Abrams spent her time scouring local farmers’ markets in Los Angeles for fresh fruit to bake homemade pies. Growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Abrams and her family often made pies to serve to family and friends, and she kept the tradition alive when she moved to LA after law school. When she decided to leave her lucrative lawyer position to open a pie shop, her husband Daniel became her official pie taster. She grew Winston Pies from an online venture into a thriving brick-and-mortar pie shop in Brentwood, California. Nowadays, the working mama crafts delicious hand pies, pie bites, and seasonal fruit and cream pies for customers who delight in handmade treats made with local organic ingredients.
Brit + Co: What’s your morning routine?
Brianna Abrams: I thrive on being active, and with two young daughters, there’s no shortage of action in my morning. I try to wake up and go for a run to clear my head and make up for the pie I’ll be eating all day. I typically check in on the upcoming schedule for the day at the shop, and then help my two daughters get ready for school, which involves making breakfast, tying Princess Elsa braids, and lots of laughter. Mornings really help me set my energy for the day.
B+C: What inspired you to start your company?
BA: I had always thought that being what’s considered a traditionally successful professional woman was the definition of success for me. Having dedicated my education and early years to a career in the law, I became increasingly unfulfilled by an inability to express myself creatively. I really find that anyone can be good at their job, but to be great at it you have to love what you do. Starting Winston Pies was a no-brainer for me — it meant I could pursue my passion. For me, the payoff is earned daily when I see the reactions of my clientele, and I have never been more fulfilled.
B+C: How do you challenge yourself as an entrepreneur?
BA: I am constantly working to express myself fully in my baking without the financial aspects of keeping the business running inhibiting that creativity. That means being able to innovate and push boundaries in flavor profiles and textures and letting that be the driving force, rather than focusing solely on the bottom line. As I’ve found out, when you put the product first, profitability naturally follows.
B+C: Tell us about how your family and friends help support your business.
BA: My friends and family are a huge support system for me. They have been there encouraging me the entire way — from my husband setting up my first website to sell pies out of our home kitchen, to friends helping spread the word about my new company. Starting my own business has meant long hours and sometimes not being available to be with my young children at special events or weekend get-togethers, but family has stepped in to make sure there is a consistency and sense of normalcy for my children.
B+C: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
BA: When I was about to leave my job as an attorney, I told my father that I wanted to open a pie shop and be a small business owner. I thought he may be disappointed to see his daughter trade a high-powered position and office for an oven and a small business, but he was thrilled. He said, “Brianna, at this point in your career, you have all the tools you need to succeed.” This really made an impact on me because it reminded me that I was not starting at a beginning, but rather building on years of experience.
B+C: What do you love about your job?
BA: I love how happy and excited people are when eating our pies. I love that their experience becomes a part of their memories, or a fun family moment, or it reminds them of a loved one who used to make pie for them. For many, pie is strongly connected to their own families and roots. Any time we can honor that connection is a true success for us.
B+C: Name two female heroes who you think should get a shout-out.
BA: My Grandma Edna is a major hero in my mind. She was a strong, outspoken women who instilled in me my love for all things sweet. She also found joy in the little fun things in life, like the color hot pink, hats, and accessories. She led by example and showed me how to be comfortable in my own body and to have the freedom to express myself.
I also truly believe that the real heroes are working moms, who very often work extremely hard, often with little-to-no recognition, to give their children an education and opportunities to follow their passions freely and wholeheartedly.
B+C: If you could tell aspiring creative women anything, what would it would be?
BA: Be kind and be open to advice, but ultimately trust that you know your product better than anyone.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Winston Pies)