When Sharee Gibbs gets ready to make a cake, she doesn't pull out the eggs, butter and flour. Instead, she reaches for the diapers, baby blankets and bottles.
No, Gibbs' creations aren't of the edible variety; they're gift "cakes."
"I like to make things that are practical and pretty," said Gibbs, a stay-at-home mom in Barrow County and owner of Oh Baby! Gift Cake Creations and More.
Although she's naturally crafty, Gibbs wasn't introduced to the idea of gift cakes until a little more than two years ago.
"One of my best friends was having a baby and she wanted a princess-themed baby shower. I thought, ‘Oh, OK. I have a little boy, but I can get into the pretty side of it,'" Gibbs said.
"One of my co-workers brought up gift cakes, so I (looked it up online). I thought they looked like something I could do, so I gave it a try.
"I used things that all babies need — like diapers, blankets and bottles — but I also added fun little girl things like hair bows. I even put a little tiara on top of it."
After her first effort, Gibbs didn't think much about it until she came across an article in Essence magazine where different people described their "side hustle," ways to bring in extra income.
"One lady made diaper cakes — and it was like a light bulb went off in my head," Gibbs said.
That moment of clarity came in handy a few months ago when she decided to leave her job as a speech pathologist assistant for an area school system.
"I just felt like God was pushing me toward something else, but I was very nervous about taking that leap of faith," Gibbs said.
"I prayed about it for a long time."
During her prayerful moments, Gibbs asked for ways to put her crafty nature to good use — and thus Oh Baby! was born.
"My mom first introduced me to crafting with cross-stitching projects. I was probably the only sixth grader who cross-stitched," Gibbs said.
"Gift cakes feed my desire to make pretty things. I can remember when my son was born, I kept looking at his cans of formula and thinking ‘I can do something with this." So I started decorating the cans."
Crafting is something that Gibbs says is in her blood.
"My grandmother was an amazing seamstress and so are (other women in my family)," Gibbs said. "I really think these things are in our DNA; we just sort of lose track of them along the way."
Although she's been crafting for several decades, Gibbs said it never occurred to her that she could make a career out of it.
"I didn't know how to turn my creativeness into a career. My thinking was you go to college so you can get a job to pay bills," Gibbs said.
"So that's what I did. I went to college, got my degree and I got a job — but it still felt like something was missing."
Now instead of hunting for that missing link to personal fulfillment, these days Gibbs' pondering of missing pieces is strictly related to decorations and materials to make her next gift cake or cupcake. The cakes are typically tiered, while the cupcakes are smaller confections.
"I like to hide a special treat inside each cake or cupcake. At first it's like, ‘Oh, what pretty towels.' But then you take it apart and there's a scented soap or something inside," Gibbs said.
From baby diapers to bath towels, she can make a gift cake out of just about anything - and they make great gifts, too, she says.
"For a housewarming present, I made a gift cake out of dish towels and oven mitts," Gibbs said. "And inside, I hid a gingerbread cookie mix and a hot cocoa mix."
She also has specialty spa-themed gift cakes.
"They're all custom made, so (customers) can design what they want," Gibbs said.
Currently, her business mostly gets exposure from word-of-mouth and her company's Facebook fan page, but Gibbs has plans to build a website in the future.
"In the long term, I'd really like for this to grow into a real, money-making endeavor," Gibbs said. "I would like this to become my bread and butter that funds my other passions."
One of her other passions is building a women's ministry that includes various community outreach opportunities.
For the time being, she's content with experimenting with different designs and growing her repertoire.
"I love the frustration of it. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to do, but it doesn't always work," Gibbs said.
"Some people do puzzles, that's their thing. For me, making gift cakes is like doing a puzzle, I love putting all of the pieces together and seeing the finished picture."