Alumni Spotlight – Amber Spiegel
“Be open to change and whatever comes your way.”
CIA Alumni Bio
Amber Spiegel ’07
Creativity runs in Amber Spiegel’s family. Her father attended the CIA in the 1970s but eventually turned his talents to woodworking. Her mother is a painter. But for Amber, the road to finding her own creativity took a few turns. She joined a number of her high school friends at Ithaca College, where she majored in business, thinking it would be a good base for any venture she had in the future. In her junior year there, baking became her relaxation. She also got hooked on watching Food Network television and realized that what she wanted most was a career in food.
Realizing her true passion
After graduating with her business degree, Amber headed straight to the CIA’s baking and pastry program. She immediately began to sift through her options. Bread baking was not for her. The required 2 a.m. start time during the three weeks of bread baking class was “both torture and total fun,” Amber remembers. “We were frankly a little delirious at that hour—but there was a lot of camaraderie in the bake shop.” It was when she returned from her externship at a country club in Florida that Amber realized it was the creativity of cake and cookie decorating that was her true passion.
Tapping into my full potential
After graduation, she won a cake decorating contest for the bakeware company Wilton and moved to Chicago to work for them. “I was in the decorating room and lasted about 18 months,” she described. “I wasn’t tapping into my full potential there and wanted more creative freedom.” Returning home, her parents, who always supported her creative aspirations, helped her out by setting up a 200-square-foot space where she began her cookie decorating company, SweetAmbs. For two years, Amber made amazing cookies and sold them on Etsy. But she noticed an increased interest by the public to learn how to replicate her designs and create their own as well. She uploaded online tutorials to YouTube, and her following on FB went quickly from 10,000 followers to 1,000,000 in just three years! “I was there at the beginning in 2014 when all the online channels were exploding,” explained Amber.
Today, her business continues to boom as she earns a living from YouTube ad revenue, sale of her cookie kits, teaching small individual classes, and exploring new platforms to reach her many followers. Her first book, Cookie Art—Sweet Designs for Special Occasions was published in 2016 and includes 30 unique designs and step-by-step instructions for each.
Amber advises that anyone entering the food industry be “open to change and whatever comes your way.”