Inspired by shows such as Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes, Luis Arias and his wife, Adriana Salazar, launched a home-based business designing sculpture cakes and other sweet treats. After putting their business on hold for a few years to learn from a more established cake maker, they officially opened Cake Makers Studio in May 2018. Arias shared the story behind the journey, how they differentiate themselves from other bakers and what they hope to accomplish in the future.
"Before going full-time on the business, I used to work in a restaurant," Luis said. "My wife, Adriana, was a stay at home mom. She was always great at baking cakes for friends and family. However, it wasn't until 2014 when we decided to turn it into an actual business. In the early days, we only did about one cake per month. Business was slow, which forced me to work for the restaurant on a part-time basis. From 2015 through 2017, we actually put the business on hold and both worked for another cake company to learn the industry. We were great at making cakes, but we needed to understand the business side of it."
Luis and Adriana's "big break" came after Luis designed a cake for the Lakeland Zombiefest. The design generated a tremendous amount of attention which gave them the confidence to go full-time on their own business and open a storefront. According to Luis, it was a true leap of faith.
"We didn't really know what we were getting into," he said with a laugh. "In the beginning, it was tough. The last business we worked for closed down, so we were able to start off with some customers. However, we had to figure out what licenses we needed and who to contact with the city and county. We made mistakes, but we tried to learn something from them. The whole thing was definitely a learning experience."
Today, Cake Makers Studio is pretty established. They've grown the business through collaborations with schools, wedding shows, colleges and other businesses. They also sponsor events around town and give away products. Luis shared that Catapult, a co-working space with a shared commercial kitchen for foodpreneurs, has been tremendously helpful and supportive of their journey.
"We don't have our own commercial kitchen at our location, but we've been able to use the one at Catapult," he said. "It's been a great relationship. They promote us when they can and there are many opportunities for networking."
According to Luis, Cake Makers Studio stands out for its ability to create big custom cakes. Of the three total cake bakeries in Lakeland, Cake Makers Studio is known for sculpture cakes. They also serve ice cream, milkshakes and chocolates.
For Luis and Adriana, everything about the process of designing, baking and delivering the final product is enjoyable. "It's a repetitive art, but we love it," Luis said. "We have so much fun creating cakes. We also get so much joy from making our customers happy when we deliver a cake. The support from the community has been great and we love being in Lakeland."
Looking ahead, Luis and Adriana are focused on finding a new location with their own commercial kitchen. They also want to hire decorators and help the local community by providing jobs. More long term goals include opening another location, possibly in Orlando.
What advice does Luis have for aspiring entrepreneurs who might be hesitating to take the plunge? "You have to start somewhere," he said. "You don't need a brick and mortar right away. Start small and start at home if you can. Once you have a proof of concept, start growing little by little. Also, utilize all the resources around you. Catapult, for example, is great. They have many resources to help you start and grow your business."