Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mari Rubio, pastry chef, and owner of Casa Gioia, located in Miami, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Casa Gioia is a "bake to order pastry shop." We operate from a commercial kitchen located in Kendall, where customers come and pick up their orders through our curbside pickup system. When we first started nine years ago, we only made pies, but throughout the years, the business has evolved into mostly cakes. We're slowly but surely widening our cake options not just for birthday parties or gatherings but also for small weddings and events.
Our customers come to us because they are looking for nostalgia. I would say 95% of the people that buy from us end up returning because when they had one of our desserts, it reminded them of their childhood favorites. For example, we specialize in Dominican cakes, so for us, it's an honor when someone that has been living outside of the Dominican Republic for so long tries one of our cakes and literally thanks us for reminding them of home. It's a beautiful feeling.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and I moved to Miami when I was 18 years old to pursue my dream of becoming a chef. I graduated in 2012 from Johnson & Wales University with an AS in Culinary Arts, BS in Food Service Management, and a concentration in Events & Sales Management. Since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be a chef but never a pastry chef. I didn't care much- if not at all-about pastry because of its science and precision (patience is not one of my strongest virtues).
But, life is a funny thing, and she had other plans for me. While I was going through a post-college graduate crisis figuring out if Culinary was my thing or not, I was looking for work but wasn't able to find any. I wasn't qualified enough – but looking at it now, it just seems like everything was conspiring to bring me to where I am now.
While my work search was unfruitful, I started baking goodies at home, and they came out quite nicely. I needed a source of income since I was cut off financially, so it seemed like a good idea to sell them until I found something more stable. It was never my intention to become a business owner. But, one thing led to another, I started falling for baking, people started falling for my things, and Casa Gioia was born.
Fast forward nine years later, here we are today, sharing Gioia with everyone that wants it, anywhere in the States. What keeps me motivated? Why do I do it? - My need to express myself through every dessert that comes out of my kitchen. Some people express themselves through music, poetry, or dancing. I do it through recipe development and baking. I'd even go as far as to say it's pure selfishness. People say I make them happy with my desserts, but what they give me when I see their expressions after trying something I've made it's such an incredible feeling that's hard to put into words.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
To gracefully learn from my mistakes, turn them into successes, and maintain a business for so many years. Owning a business is a hard thing on its own, but these days with all the craziness that's going on in the world, it's extra hard.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I am going to speak for myself, but I guess it applies to the majority of small business owners and adults in general, but it can be very hard to find a work-life balance. Because in reality, being a business owner means that you never stop working- there's always something that needs to be done. It's very easy to fall into that never-ending list of things to do.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- First and foremost, have a clear vision of what you want and where you want to go. It is true that you need to have room for flexibility and changes because that's just life, but have a strong conviction and belief in yourself and your product/service.
- Have a plan- It is super important because it gives you accountability.
- If you don't do well with numbers/financials, invest in educating yourself and in getting someone on your team who is really good at it, too.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
In my experience, having a business is the hardest thing I've ever done - frustrating even- but it is also the most rewarding feeling when you see that your work literally brings smiles to people's faces.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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