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‘Ace of Cakes’ star Goldman: No secret to business success

Duff Goldman didn’t have a business plan. He didn’t have a tax identification number. He didn’t know payroll regulations.

‘Ace of Cakes’ star Duff Goldman gives the keynote address Thursday at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Small Business of the Year Awards luncheon.

“Make really nice cakes and be nice to people. That’s it. That’s all my business plan was,” said the “Ace of Cakes” Food Network star and founder of Charm City Cakes.

Goldman gave the keynote address Thursday at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Small Business of the Year Awards luncheon. The program, held at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover, honored three small business, as well as a nonprofit and a larger company that have supported the area’s small businesses.

“The best way to succeed is to not do things wrong,” he said. “There’s no magic formula. There’s no magic spell. There’s no trick. There’s no secret. It’s just do things correctly.”

Goldman, who moved to Baltimore from Sandwich, Mass. to study history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, got his start in baking at the former Savannah restaurant in Baltimore.

Wielding a resume whose biggest claim was an ability to make 12 Big Macs in one minute, Goldman convinced owner and acclaimed chef Cindy Wolf to give him a chance. She entrusted him with only one task: Making the restaurant’s corn bread.

He soon found himself under the wing of the restaurant’s pastry chef, who taught the eager college student how to make desserts in an attempt to decrease some of his own work, Goldman said.

When the pastry chef went on a week’s vacation, Goldman filled his shoes. He did so with “not a hiccup,” and when the pastry chef returned, he was out of a job and Goldman had taken over.

From there came culinary school in California and jobs all over the world. In 2000, Goldman returned to Baltimore and worked as a personal chef in Pikesville.

“That didn’t fit with my rock-and-roll lifestyle,” he said, noting the erratic hours of that profession.

So he quit the job and started baking cakes.

“I didn’t set out to change the world of cake making. I just wanted to sell cakes,” he said. “I was selling cakes so I could be in a band. I wasn’t selling cakes because I wanted to be some famous pastry chef.”

Charm City Cakes is known for its outlandish designs, such as a life-size baby elephant cake, a replica of the Stanley Cup and a working life-size motorcycle.

“The reason why we were making all of these crazy cakes is because anything someone asked us to do, we would do it,” he said. “I was trying to make a dollar. That’s it.”

Goldman now has about 30 employees at his location in Remington and a second location in Los Angeles. He’s also partnered with Blue Bunny on a line of ice cream and has a line of cake decorating and baking supplies.

Goldman assisted William T. Riley Jr., chairman of the chamber, and Eric D. Brotman, chairman of the chamber’s Business Development Council, in presenting the small business awards.

The ELOCEN Group LLC of Bowie, a minority woman-owned management and consulting firm founded in 2006 by Necole Parker, was honored as the one-to-10 employee business of the year. Belcamp-based Chesapeake Testing, which works with ballistics to test body armor, helmets and armored vehicles, was the winner of the 11-to-50 employee category. Choptank Transport of Preston won in the 51-to-200 employee category. The firm was founded as a one-truck operation in 1984.

“Chase your dream. That’s what I did. I’m still chasing, I just keep modifying it all the time,” said James B. Foulk, president and CEO of Chesapeake Testing.

The 47-person company is Foulk’s second entrepreneurial venture: He founded SURVICE Engineering 32 years ago, at the age of 47, after working at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).

His son, Jeff Foulk, took over the company last year.

The awards were judged by members of Maryland’s business media, including The Daily Record’s publisher, Suzanne Fischer-Huettner. There were a total of 35 nominees for the awards.