As the son of Hungarian immigrants who escaped the holocaust as kids and the Russian Revolution in the mid-1950s, Steven Gara, Founder of Vita Bakes and SG Biz Services, is no stranger to hard work and overcoming adversity. Gara, who grew up in Arizona and New York, shared the story behind his entrepreneurial journey and how, through two unique businesses, he’s expressing his creativity and utilizing his distinctive skill set to help others.
“After college, I took two years off to do the ‘band scene’,” Gara said. “We played in major clubs in New York City and even had a label express interest in us. Eventually I wised up and, even though I still play drums today, I decided at the time to go to grad school. Not long after I graduated from Cornell, I moved with my family to Florida in 1996. I spent a few years in human resources before switching careers to Information Technology. That’s where I’ve been for the past 17 years.”
Since switching to the IT sector, Gara has worked for major companies in various industries including BankUnited, Carnival Cruise Lines and UnitedHealthcare/Optum, as well as small startups and companies in between. In 2016, Gara launched two businesses of his own – Vita Bakes and SG Biz Services. SG Biz Services is a natural extension of what Gara does in his professional life, with services that include business analysis, data analysis, project management and more. Vita Bakes however, was a bit outside of his wheelhouse. Nevertheless, the business was inspired by the passing of Gara’s parents and it gave him the creative outlet he was looking for.
“I lost my father and mother in 2010 and 2013, respectively,” he said. “I had a tough time dealing with their loss, but after it all happened, I wanted to do something as an inspiration to my creative side. I’m not good at sales, but I am good at coming up with ideas and twists on trends. I also love food and thought ‘What’s the last bastion of food not touched by nutrition or value-adds?’ That’s when I came up with the idea to start producing fortified bakery goods that are not only delicious, but also nutritious.”
Vita Bakes uses all natural ingredients and offers sugar free and gluten free options. Gara focuses on ‘flavor transparency’ and has trademarked a proprietary blend of 17 vitamins added to all products. When he first launched the business, he used a commissary kitchen for baking and hired an experienced chef for research and development. He did some events including wine and food festivals in Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale, but, along the way, has faced a few setbacks.
“We lost our first chef,” Gara said. “After that, we put the business on hold for a year to regroup. Since then, we turned our attention to co-packing. In general, funding and devoting the time necessary to grow this business, SG Biz Services and still maintain a full-time position, have been challenging. There’s also been a learning curve. Prior to 2016, I had zero experience in baking or selling this type of product. However, I was so intrigued that it was worth the effort. I’m analytical and creative and having the ability to balance both has been extremely rewarding.”
Even though Gara is still pre-revenue with both businesses, he’s laid the groundwork and established a strong foundation for future growth. He’s committed to the process and remains optimistic about the future.
“In terms of Vita Bakes, I'd like to get the product sold in stores and to work with a food manufacturer who can make, store and ship the goods out to different places as the demand arises,” he said. “I want to get it to the next level and give it more visibility overall as well.”
Gara continued, “SG Biz Services is a great backup plan for when situations like COVID-19 arise. Many businesses such as doctors, accountants and lawyers will have a need for my services. I’m trying to get visibility in the IT marketplace, but it takes time and money.”
What advice does Gara have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Keep plugging away at your idea because no matter how little you move the needle each day, at least you moved it forward that much more and made that much more incremental progress,” he said. “Any progress is positive. Keep doing what you do, figure what you are really go at and hone that and become an expert on it.”