Savela Carosa, Owner of DELISH Gourmet Café and Pinellas County native, grew up in the restaurant business. Her father owned seven restaurants. Following high school, Savela went to school to become a Medical Assistant, but never ended up working in that field. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of her father and began her own entrepreneurial journey.
“The first business I started was called Vella’s Glitzy Fun,” she said. “We would host kid’s parties and do face painting, hair wrapping and bring them different toys. It was a lot of fun. I did that for about four years before working as a Legal Assistant for two years.”
Savela continued, “I met my husband, Guy, five years ago and we decided to move to Trinity. We felt like Trinity was a better place to start a family. After we moved is when I started Baked with Love – a mobile bakery and catering business. My parent’s restaurants were diners and I’ve always loved to create desserts for family functions. Someone mentioned that I should try selling my desserts, so I started doing custom-ordered cakes for people. From there, I started selling my goods at Starkey Market and eventually got into doing events and selling at other markets around town. I’m happy when I create things and people were happy with what I was creating.”
About a year ago is when Savela first identified an opportunity to expand her operations into a brick-and-mortar. She felt comfortable leaving her daughters with the grandparents and a spot opened up in a plaza that Savela had her eyes on for years.
“I always said that that’s where I’d want to have my brick-and-mortar,” she said. “It turned out that the timing was right and literally a week later I was in it. The space was originally a hair salon, so Guy and I had a lot of work to do. With some help from Guy’s uncle, we did all the renovating on our own. We did a lot of 12-hour days getting the place ready.”
Four months before the grand opening of DELISH Gourmet Café – the name of Savela’s brick-and-mortar business – she began a digital marketing campaign on social media. The effort paid off as 500 customers were served on opening night.
“We’ve had so much love from the community,” Savela said. “We’re very grateful. We’re also thankful to be in a position to give back. When the pandemic started, we donated 350 bottles of hand sanitizer to medical facilities, EMS and sheriff’s departments.”
DELISH Gourmet Café offers a variety of pastries, donuts, bagels, sandwiches, Gelato, ice cream, Italian Ice, coffee, espresso and – a drink that’s quickly becoming an attraction – the Freak Frappe. Picture a monster 32oz coffee milkshake topped off with pieces of cake, candy and other assorted sweets. They even have one with a sparkler on it.
Working through several challenges, including hiring and training the right employees, Savela has grown the business through mostly digital and social media marketing. She also hosts events for kids and adults.
“This past weekend, we had our Princess Belle event,” she said. “Each kid received a free book and got to take pictures with Belle. We’re also having Princess Anna from Frozen coming up soon. For the adults, we recently had a ‘paint your own pumpkin décor’ night.”
For Savela, who loves the no boundaries and creativity aspect of being an entrepreneur, her future goals include opening a slightly scaled-down version of DELISH Gourmet Café closer to Wesley Chapel. She’s also looking at the possibility of adding a food truck – something her husband, Guy, is extremely keen on.
What advice does Savela have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Go into the area you’re looking at and get involved in it before you take that first step,” she said. “You have to know what it means and what it’s going to take to run your business. A lot of people want to do it, but they don’t have what it takes and they don’t realize it’s much more work than just 40 hours per week. Lastly, it’s important to understand that you can’t please everyone. You listen to every comment and take all the feedback into consideration. You just have to be able to get passed the negativity and grow from there."