Caitlin Lee makes homemade mini Poptarts, and we’re just not sure we need to keep writing an introduction after a statement like that. In addition to developing mouth-watering recipes for her site, Public Lives, Secret Recipes, Caitlin sells her own crisped rice cake pops called Krispops, and interviews creative women about their accomplishments and their secret recipes. We’re thrilled to have Caitlin share her story on F&G today!
Welcome to Flock & Gabble, Caitlin! Tell us a little bit about you.
Caitlin: I’m the founder of the Chicago-based lifestyle web publication Public Lives, Secret Recipes. I graduated from Indiana University, where I studied apparel merchandising & business, in May 2014. I started PLSR in October of 2014 and in April 2015 I was able to take my site full time. I’m originally from Cleveland, and I moved to Chicago immediately after graduation. Some of my favorite places in the city are Pinkberry, Formentos, Oak Street Beach, Sunda, Soho House, RSVP, and Tea at The Langham.
How would you describe Public Lives, Secret Recipes to someone who’s never heard of it before?
Caitlin: PLSR focuses on recipe development, the latest fashion, DIYs, and so much more. Another portion of PLSR features interviews with people in the public eye. In addition to the site, I sell Krispops, which are crisped rice cake pops. They’re absolutely delicious (not to toot my own horn or anything…) and come in six flavors: cake batter (my personal favorite), cookies & cream, cookie dough, s’more, mini burger, and the flavor of the month. Krispops can also be customized for any event, and ship nationwide.
Is Public Lives, Secret Recipes your full-time job, side hustle, or hobby?
Caitlin: Before Public Lives, Secret Recipes I was working for eDrop-Off, a luxury consignment shop and website based in Chicago. I absolutely loved working there, and I was pretty nervous to leave for so many reasons. Will this continue to pay the bills? Will I have to move home because I can’t pay rent? Will eDrop-Off think I’m making a mistake? A million other questions ran through my head every moment of every day. When I finally told my manager (and the owner of eDrop-Off) my news, they were beyond supportive and made me feel very secure in my decision. They still continue to support me, which means the world to me! So in April of 2015, after 7 months of blogging, I was fortunate enough to make Public Lives, Secret Recipes my full-time job. While it is my full-time job, it’s also my side hustle and hobby. It truly does consume my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Walk us through your thought process behind naming Public Lives, Secret Recipes – why did you choose that name, and what does it mean to you?
Caitlin: After taking over friends’ social media feeds with images of the desserts I had been making, I decided it was time to do something more about it. People were constantly asking for recipes or where I bought my outfits, so the blog really made sense. When brainstorming what to call the site, I knew I wanted to do something more than just my recipes, my outfits, etc. That’s where the idea for Public Lives, Secret Recipes came from. I decided it would be awesome to see what other influencers, celebrities, and people in the public eye were whipping up in their kitchens. Hence: Public Lives (interviewing the people), Secret Recipes (getting their recipe)!
Which three pieces of content are you most proud of, or would you want a brand new fan to check out first, and why?
Be a Pop-Tart in a Bowl of Cereal My Mini Pop-Tart Cereal recipe is probably the one I’m most proud of. The images were taken on my iPhone, and it wasn’t’ until an editor at Bustle asked to share the article that I decided to post it on my site (until then, I had only posted it on Instagram). Boy, am I thankful she asked, because it soon after went viral: it was featured in Time magazine, Cosmopolitan magazine, Seventeen magazine, BuzzFeed, Country Living, and so many others!
Winter Whites I still am obsessed with this outfit and wear it all the time, so as far as fashion posts go, this might be one of my favorites.
PUBLIC LIVES: DYLAN LAUREN OF DYLAN’S CANDY BAR | SECRET RECIPES: GINGERBREAD HOUSE Recently, I interviewed Dylan Lauren of Dylan’s Candy Bar for the Public Lives, Secret Recipes feature. It was such an honor to meet and chat with her! She’s been an idol of mine for a long time, so this was an incredible opportunity.
It’s just about realizing in the moment that it isn’t forever. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, it will get better.
Tell us about a time that you almost gave up – the absolute lowest moment in your blog/business.
Caitlin: Yikes! Well… there was that one time I set my kitchen on fire.
I was attempting to make cookie dough eggrolls – sounds amazing right?! – with two friends. I had never deep fried anything before (nor will I ever attempt again… well, maybe one day). All of a sudden, we saw smoke coming from the pot of oil. My first instinct was to open the window (huh???), and then we attempted to put it out with a fire extinguisher. I later learned oil fires should only be smothered – spraying them with an extinguisher can splash the oil and make the fire worse.
My building’s maintenance team was able to put out the fire before the fire department came. When the fire department did arrive, I was sobbing like a baby and they thought I was a nut job. My stove and microwave had to be replaced, and my apartment was a nightmare. I think the worst part of it all, looking back, is how embarrassing the police report was. “Caitlin was making cookie dough eggrolls when her kitchen set ablaze.” I’m sure they got a good laugh out of that one!
After that, it took me almost a month to get back in the kitchen. It was something that really made me contemplate if I should be doing what I’m doing. I’m so glad I stuck through the nightmare – it’s made me a stronger (and safer) person in the kitchen and life.
What would you say to someone who’s living their absolute lowest moment right now?
Caitlin: There are a lot of tough times in starting and growing your own business. They’re all worth it, because with one ounce of bad comes double the amount of good. It’s just about getting through it. My Dad actually send me an email with a quote from Winston Churchill that really resonated with me: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Being in my 20s and being an entrepreneur, there are a lot of curve balls life throws at you. Heck, at any age, in any position, there will always be something. It’s just about realizing in the moment that it isn’t forever. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, it will get better.
Now, tell us the most awesome, champagne-popping-est story of your journey so far.
Caitlin: There have been a lot of these – I’m very fortunate! Some of them include the time Damsel in Dior posted a picture of my Krispops on her site (plus, I catered an event for her and Neiman Marcus!), catering orders for DVF, being featured in Time and Cosmo, and many others that make me super happy. Honestly, anytime someone places a Krispop order or comments on an Instagram/blog post of mine, I get really excited, because it’s still really amazing to me that people enjoy what I have to say and what I do/make.
Who do you lean on when things aren’t awesome/celebrate with when they are awesome – who’s your flock?
Caitlin: I’m usually a really private person, so for me to even have my career and life out there in the open is terrifying. When things get tough, I usually go to my mom for emotional advice and my dad for career advice. Between them and my close friends, I’ve got a great crew to vent to. They’re all troopers for always having my back and helping me in times of need.
What app, tool, or other resource has had the biggest impact on your blog and business in the last year?
Caitlin: People are the best tool and resource ever! I’ve encountered a ton of truly amazing people since I started my site that I feel very fortunate to have in my life. My website team, family, friends, other bloggers and entrepreneurs – their advice and stories have made my journey that much easier, knowing that others have gone through it, too, and that they’re always here to lend a helping hand.
Anytime a woman puts herself out there to do what she loves and to make a difference, it’s worth noting.
Share the best book, blog post, or podcast episode you’ve read or listened to recently.
Caitlin: Does Netflix count? Because I’m obsessed with Narcos and Making a Murderer. 🙊 As far as books go, Gone Girl is a top contender in my list.
Do you eat everything you make, and do you come up with all your own recipes?
Caitlin: YES!!! I have a huge sweet tooth, so I’m totally content eating a layered cake for dinner – who wouldn’t be?! I don’t always necessarily eat the entire treat, but I do share with friends, family, or whoever is around. I do ALWAYS taste test everything with a few bites. You’ll notice in posts I’ll often admit to whether I ate the entire thing for dinner or just had a few bites. The hardest, however, is with making a Krispop order. I always want to eat them but I can’t, because people need them for their events and parties! Not such a bad thing…
As for making my own desserts, yes, every recipe is my own original work. I’ve been baking for as long as I can remember, and I’ve come up with basic cookie/cake/etc. recipes. Then I take that basic recipe and put a twist on it to make it a unique recipe for my site. Sometimes it takes me 6 failed recipe before I get it all right, but it’s so worth it in the end.
Name three women who you think are totally killing it online.
Rach Parcell, Pink Peonies
Amber Fillerup, Barefoot Blonde In terms of bigger bloggers I adore, Rach Parcell & Amber Fillerup. Their success and hard work is truly inspiring.
Lauren Conrad I’m also the biggest Lauren Conrad fan. Her site is a huge inspiration for mine.
Corri McFadden, eDrop-Off Mom, owner of eDrop-Off, blogger, contributor to WCIU, and so much more – Corri is the definition of a hustler. Having worked with Corri at eDrop-Off, I’ve heard her story numerous times but never tire of it. In fact, I feel as though I gain something new from it each time. It’s incredible how she built her business and life into such a success.
Lauren Gores, Lauren’s Lyst I met Lauren a few years ago, and she’s truly one of the sweetest, most inspiring people around. It’s not just her site that’s super fun, helpful, motivating, and happy – Lauren is the exact same way!
Caitlin: Oops, sorry that’s more than three! I honestly feel that anytime a woman puts herself out there to do what she loves and to make a difference, it’s worth noting.