From the time I was a child in the Netherlands, I listened to my dad talk about the end of the world, which he always said was right around the corner. I grew up in a strict, almost cultlike Christian family: My siblings and I weren't allowed to watch TV, read newspapers, or even play with girls who wore trousers. At age 18, I moved to Norway; I got married, divorced, remarried, and had five children.

I'd been happily married for 19 years when my husband had a stroke. He couldn't work, and our savings went to his medical treatments. So to help provide for the family, I started baking cakes and cupcakes for friends and local events. A friend recommended I create a blog to advertise my business—I was so unfamiliar with the Internet, I had to Google "blog" just to understand what she meant. Still, I took photos of my work and posted them on my site, Passion for Baking. Then I started using social media, and every like and follow felt like a miracle. I'm dyslexic and never finished high school, but I've published eight baking books, and I have a line of cake mixes, a TV show, an online magazine, and 1.3 million Instagram followers. Now when I reply to comments, I try to pick the smallest accounts, the ones with the fewest followers. I want them to feel that they're valuable, too.


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