Great things happen, but not without struggles and obstacles of every conceivable kind. Making delicious baked goods, chocolate tortes, cookies so sweet they bring back memories of happier days is all Lilian Chavira, home-based baker, wanted to do. A culinary artisan who makes "cake" comes to life; a recent interview revealed a woman who not only had a story to tell but a dream to fulfill. This is the story of a woman who used gracious persistence to start a home-based bakery in Okemos, Michigan.
Inheriting her creative gifts from her parents, both excellent cooks she started baking desserts as a young girl. She insists at the time, "Baking was more of a game; a way escape a shy demeanor and express creativeness."
Lilian started decorating cakes 3 years ago; she started first by decorating birthday cakes for her children, took a "Wilton Cake Decorating course" which laid the foundation for more creative projects and soon realized she really "LOVED" cake decorating.
Today, Gellocake is giving her the opportunity to improve her skills all while growing her business and meeting new daily challenges. The name Gellocake was created in 2004, when her husband was transferred from Mexico/El Paso, Texas to Okemos, MI. She resigned her job as a graphic designer for a marketing department; to become a full-time stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately she still yearned to be creative and keep alive the memories and baking skills she learned as a child.
A true traditionalist, Lilian has foregone the use of "shortening" in her frosting due to its greasiness, and now uses only good old fashioned butter and cream cheese. She insists the cream cheese is actually a favorite request by her customers. Lilian continues to make gelatins and cakes for playgroups, church pot-lucks and as gifts for teachers and neighbors; never passing up the opportunity to bake and design for special friends.
One day the dream of owning a home-based bakery became a constant prayer and she decided to put it in God's hands and do whatever it would take to make the home-based bakery a reality.
According to Lilian it was a "HUGE CHALLENGE!" She contacted the Michigan Small Business Technology Center and the Chamber of Commerce and discovered that in Michigan, you need to have a separate space to prepare baked goods since using your home kitchen was not allowed. One option was to rent a licensed commercial kitchen in a church or restaurant; a possibility, but not what Lilian wanted to do. This baker had young children, and a husband who traveled; plus her gelatin desserts required a lot of preparation time.
Lilian began saving her money thinking that her basement was a possibility. She contacted the Michigan Department of Agriculture and asked an inspector to visit her home and talk about the possibilities. One of the requirements was to have a separate entrance because sanitation inspectors could come at any time and should not be able to view personal living quarters. The whole ordeal involved finding creative ways to address the various government agency requirements.
Lilian received rejection after rejection but did not give up; there was the oven type, window size, the height of the ceiling and a 3 compartment sink to sterilize equipment, stumbling block after stumbling block. Her house had a "parade" of inspectors from different agencies (township, state and health department) all giving her their own individual requirements.
The bright side of the experience occurred when Lilian found what she likes to call "angels," beautiful people willing to listen and work with her. She also employed a great contractor who did his best to meet all the requirements. The entire process took 7 months, and she had to spend four times the original budget but every time it looked impossible, Lilian insisted prayer saw her through. There were times when she wanted to just give up; forget about the bakery and continue her great life as a stay-at-home mom but the next morning she was thinking again about how to make it work. It was at that point she knew she was born to this... she needed to do it... but her children would always be her number one priority.
Lilian said the secret to her success was that she "always faced the process with a SMILE staying as professional as possible." She had a business plan, budget, photographs, drawings, different options, everything ready to show at every meeting and it did not take long before the government officials realized she was determined to make this work.
Lilian came up with the business name, 'Gellocake' by combining two different signature desserts - gelatins and cakes. With the name in place, she became inspired to jump over every hurdle that presented itself. Lilian insists "it took me almost eight months of planning, and getting all the permits from the different governmental entities to build my new separate industrial kitchen. It wasn’t easy but I am so thankful to the State of Michigan for making it possible! My reward was seeing Gellocake - Gourmet Gelatins & Cakes" become a reality."
So the next time you think you just can't go any further or you want to operate a home-based bakery but it's just too hard. Remember you have to have "Gellocake" persistence to make it happen.
The Meridian Asset Resource Center (MARC) held its first every Meridian Entrepreneur Awards ceremony at the Meridian Historical Village, Thursday, October 27, 2009 and Lilian Chavira owner of GelloCakes, LLC received the Emerging Entrepreneur Award exhibiting the example of what a growing Meridian business should reflect. Mrs. Chavira is a true example of what persistence and perseverance can do when you are driven by passion and determination.
Update: On Monday, July 12, 2010, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed two cottage food operation bills allowing anyone who makes less than $15,000 annually selling items such as jams, jellies and pies (baked goods) to prepare the items in a home kitchen and sell them at roadside stands and farmers' markets without imposing excessive state regulations.