Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My fondest memories at Hofstra were in Professor Chaleff's ceramics classes. I had never worked in clay before and learned so much; the skills I learned in that class allowed me to teach myself how to manipulate fondant on cakes.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned in that position?
After graduating, I began teaching high school art in the NYC Department of Education. The hardest and ultimately most beneficial lesson I learned teaching is that autonomy when working for someone else is limited. Essentially, my job was to execute someone else's vision – regardless of how I felt about it – and although I loved working with students, that component did not suit me.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I opened my first bakery, specializing in push-pop and custom cakes in Brooklyn during the summer of 2017. I've always baked for my family; after graduation, I became interested in fondant-covered cakes. I used what I knew from clay and a collection of books to teach myself how to create fondant-covered cakes. I began decorating family birthday cakes, then cakes for friends. Then people wanted to pay me for cakes, and it became a secondary income while I continued to teach. In 2014 I left teaching to fully focus on creating my own cake business.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Things may not go as planned, and that is perfectly OK! Trust yourself enough to be able to let things flow without forcing things that aren't meant for you into fruition because contrived decisions are not sustainable.
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- Explain the meaning behind the name of your company, P.O.P. Cake Shop.
The "P.O.P." in P.O.P. Cake Shop is an acronym for Pushup Or Pop. Our hallmark product is the cake push pop that we custom create from a menu of cakes, frostings, and toppings for each customer.
- What influenced your career transition from teacher to bakeshop owner?
I just wanted to do more for myself, and the possibilities of growth consumed my thoughts. Having a skill and a degree means that I will likely always be able to find work, and approaching 30 I did not want to fall into the stagnation of having a "good job" that didn't feed my soul. I weighed my options and took a chance, and I don't regret a moment of it.
- Describe the most intricate cake you've ever made and the event for which it was created.
The most intricate cakes I have ever created required some form of sculpting. I had to sculpt an entire cake to create a trompe l'oeil Air Jordan 11 Concord, which required that the cake itself be proportionate to the actual sneaker. I also had to create gum paste, which is rolled edible dough that has the ability to dry hardened. I used that to make figurines that mimicked Doc McStuffins and the Powerpuff Girls, which stood on top of cakes.
Shana Lawson was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY by her mother, a Brooklyn native, and her father, a Guyana native. The oldest of three children, Shana was raised in a large, close-knit household that extended beyond her nuclear family and included her grandmother as an active matriarch. As a child, Shana and her siblings were exposed to the arts by way of arts and crafts and formal dance lessons. She also learned to bake, which – by age 14 – became her Sunday dinner responsibility. Shana attended St. John's Prep HS, where she further cultivated her interest in the arts by taking her first fine arts classes. As her passion for the arts continued to grow, she chose art for every elective available during her high school career.
Shana began her studies at Hofstra University in 2002 with a major in fine arts education. During her time at Hofstra, she took a ceramics class under the supervision of Professor Paul Chaleff and became fond of the craft. A week before graduating with a BS in fine arts education with a concentration in ceramics, Shana was offered a position as a high school art teacher in the NYC Department of Education. During this time, she continued to be the family baker but found herself experimenting with her Sunday cakes using fondant. Her first cakes were not aesthetically pleasing, but for her daughter's third birthday, Shana created a treasure chest cake, and guests applauded her creativity.
After many books and much practice, Shana began selling her cakes in 2010 via referrals and went on to obtain an MBA to gain the business acumen necessary to grow her company. In 2014 she took a leap of faith and left teaching to focus on cultivating her dream of owning a bakery. After three years of selling cakes on her own, P.O.P. Cake Shop opened in Dekalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, NY. Shana has had the opportunity to work with We TV, Doll 10 Beauty, Marjani Beauty, BRIC Arts Media, It's RichGirlz, Members Club Clothing, Tiny Harris, Demetria McKinney, The Other Festival, Carissa Rosario and James Anderson, Free Arts NYC, Jenell B. Stewart, and others. She hopes to have the opportunity to share her one-of-a-kind push pops and custom-designed cakes with the world.