When I was 15 I took my very first cake decorating class and I knew right on the first day that I would own a bakery someday. I started taking college culinary classes when I was still in high school to try and get a head start. I graduated with my culinary degree in 2008, and continued to take more decorating and baking classes, while working in as many bakeries as I could to gain as much knowledge as possible. I always had two or three jobs at a time working as many hours in a week as I could to save up for the bakery. I waited tables a lot over the years and I was always baking and bringing in treats for people.

One of the places I waited tables at was a very small café called Ambition. One day the owner came to me and said, “If you’re really serious about this bakery thing, you know you can always open here.” So, I started small. I sold my cupcakes at the counter of the café just to test the waters, and then in 2015 I opened Sprinkleista Bakery, literally in the employee coat room of Ambition Café. The room was no bigger than a walk-in closet. I could barely fit a Pepsi cooler and a half sheet oven, but I had never been happier to be doing what I loved for myself. For a year and a half, I had my little bakery out of the closet-sized kitchen, before I realized that I didn’t have enough to space to be a profitable business. I knew I had to make a change to be where I wanted to be and that started the hardest year of my life. I didn’t have enough money to move, but I couldn’t make enough money in that tiny space. So, I started waitressing again on top of running my bakery.

I would go to the bakery at 6 a.m., work all day, then go waitress, then usually I would have to go back to the bakery to finish orders. I worked days at a time without sleeping. I would sleep for 30 minutes in the car in a parking lot, or in a booth at the café. I gained 40 pounds from stress and eating so unhealthy because I didn’t have time to cook for myself. I missed all the family events, I lost friends who didn’t understand that I couldn’t stop working. I ate Christmas Eve dinner in a Taco Bell parking lot because I worked so hard for Christmas and missed dinner with my family. I worked and worked myself sick, and I was so depressed but I had to keep pushing because I knew I could make it all better if I didn’t give up.

Finally had no choice but to jump into making the move to my own location. I wasn’t ready but I had to just go for it at that point and really give every little thing I had left. A space opened across the street from the café that I knew I had to go for, but I didn’t have enough to make it. I sold my car, and moved out of my apartment. I lived in the new bakery while I remodeled it because I couldn’t afford to pay rent for two businesses and myself. There was no AC yet and it was summer. I slept on an air mattress in a 90-degree building for three months. I would wake up in the middle of the night so hot I would have to go outside because I felt like I was suffocating. I joined the gym a block away just so I could walk there to shower. It was the hardest and lowest point in my life.

But when I opened the doors to the new bakery last fall, I knew everything would be worth it. On our first day open, a Tuesday, we sold out of everything in the cases. People were raving about how much they missed us and new customers were coming in saying how happy they were to have a bakery downtown. Everything I had struggled for would be worth it. Now the bakery is thriving, and we even added soft serve ice cream! We have more orders a weekend than we can handle in our tiny oven, and we have lots of walk-in customers every day. Making that move was so very hard, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Reliving this story isn’t easy for me, I have tears in my eyes just typing this thinking about how hard it’s been to get through everything. I have worked and worked so hard my whole life to build this business for myself. A lot of times people see the fun side of entrepreneurship but they don’t see how hard it is to get there. I am so happy and so incredibly proud to be where I am now. I now have the space to grow and continue to build this bakery and winning this contest would really help that. Thank you so much for reading my story and considering Sprinkleista Bakery in your contest. To see recent work and more pictures, check out our Instagram @sprinkleista. Thanks again!

Easy Peasy Decadent Desserts has now been open four years, but a year earlier we decided to start selling cupcakes at a local farmers market on the weekends. They were a huge hit, and we sold out week after week. Pretty soon, we were baking out of our house six days a week and we realized that something had to change. We invested all of our savings, and in June of 2013 we opened the doors of our brick-and-mortar store for the first time. Things were looking good. But then, six months after we opened, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. It was a devastating blow. At the time it was only my husband and myself, and we were both working 10-14 hour days. Now I had chemotherapy and radiation, not to mention weekly and sometimes daily doctor visits. I felt terrible all the time, but we persevered. We hired two people, but even with their help, we had to sell our house and two cars to keep both our household afloat and our business open. It was a struggle, and day to day, we weren’t sure the business was going to make it. Some days, I didn’t think I was going to make it either. But we were NOT giving up. We stuck with it, and just kept making the best cakes and pastry we could. We began to attract the notice of local media. Word was spreading.

We won Best Bakery in the Triad 2015, and then again in 2016. Our lead decorator competed on Cake Wars on Food Network and took second place. We were featured on My Big Fat Fabulous Life on TLC, and then we were invited to compete on Sugar Showdown on Cooking Channel, where we took second place. While we didn’t win, it was a real vindication of all the work we had done up to that point. Since then, we have continued to grow. We now have six employees. We have expanded into French macaron, croissant and other bready treats, and continue to grow our list of over 150 cakes and cupcakes.

It’s been a tough four years, but we feel that what we do contributes something irreplaceable to our customer’s lives. We bake ‘happy’. Whether they’ve had a bad day and just need a little treat, or they are organizing a birthday party, a corporate get-together, or a wedding, we provide the ‘happy.’ And it is such an honor to be included in all of these events, all of these lives. Some of our customers weren’t even born when their parents first tried Easy Peasy, and now we get to be a part of their lives as we bake for baby showers, gender reveals, birthdays, and someday, weddings. I am now cancer free, and feel better than I ever have.

This prize will let us produce even more ‘happy’. With the added capacity, we could realize our dream of having part of our business as an online French macaron bakery, taking orders, and shipping them all over the country. The sky is the limit, and Easy Peasy is going to be there.

I have been baking ever since I was a very small girl. By the age of 14, I was making bismarks for my dad and leaving all the clean up to my mom. Many, many years went on and I became a corporate accountant and just baked when I was in the mood. One day, 4 years ago, my friend and I took a cake decorating class and from there a monster was created. I started putting what I learned to use at home and my husband took all the goodies to his guys at work. Eventually, I was experimenting with new flavors, new techniques, and new products. Not only were my husband’s co-workers getting treats but the people in my office were too! News would spread that I brought in cupcakes and they would be snatched up in the break room in a matter of minutes.

I went from taking a decorating class at the high school, to teaching it one year later. I also began teaching classes at 3 different craft stores. For 3 years I juggled numbers and piping bags, going from my office to the craft store 3 days a week. The owners of my company decided they were going to move the corporate office down to Florida and offered me a position. My son was medically retired from the Army and moved back home with his wife and new baby. There was no way I was leaving CT now so I asked my husband, what should I do? I had many offers for accounting positions but my husband changed my life. He told me to follow my dreams. 6 weeks later on December 15th, Tina’s Cake Emporium opened its doors.”

I love putting smiles on people’s faces. I enjoy people coming in and telling me how great my cupcakes are. I have made so many new friends since I have opened my shop and I have also become so involved in the community and in helping others. I donate a three pack of cookies for every non-perishable food donation a customer brings in to the bakery to help with our town’s food pantry. One of my favorite moments through this time is the day I worked the Middle School’s Heritage Day Fair. The students were tasked with creating a model of what they wanted their town to look like in the future and one student had Main Street and included a sign with my shop! That really touched my heart.