Delicious original recipes paired with striking design results in distinctive celebratory experiences at Cream of the Cakes
After growing up in her family’s two restaurants, Liz Shannon always knew she’d go back to her food business roots someday. When the recession hit and her husband was laid off, she decided it was the perfect time to get back into the kitchen and earn an income doing something she loved.
“I grew up in the family restaurant business,” Shannon said. “That’s where I get my passion, my training and my purpose…it’s just in my blood.”
At first, she tested the market by creating gourmet cakes and desserts—delicious confections like mandarin orange cake—out of her home kitchen, delivering them to her customers. But soon, with plenty of orders and limited by the capabilities of her home kitchen, Shannon decided to expand. Her first solution was leasing the commercial kitchen at a local golf course. But she could only use the space within limited hours, and she was still getting more orders than she could fill.
Shannon knew that to expand her business, she’d need her own kitchen and storefront. But for that to become a reality, she needed additional funding. With the help of her daughter, a marketing and advertising professional, she streamlined her business, focusing more strongly on cakes and cake-related desserts, and adding sculpted cakes to her gourmet lineup.
She began approaching banks for a small business loan, but was turned down again and again. Undaunted, she kept refining her business plan and searching for solutions. Then one day, while at Lakeville City Hall to handle a licensing requirement, she found an Open to Business brochure on a table.
“I thought, let me check this out!” Shannon said. “I had to find an organization that could help me or give me advice, that believed in my plan and believed in me, and that saw me as a person and business person with the ability to do this.”
Expansion made possible with the support of Open to Business
Shannon connected with Open to Business Advisor Laurie Crow, who interviewed her and took her business proposal before the board.
“The first thing I told her was, ‘I won’t be offended if I get a no,’” Shannon laughed. “I’ll just go on to the next place. I have to do this.”
Shannon had already found a store space and secured a lease, but she still needed funding to remodel the interior, renovate the kitchen, and purchase an additional freezer and pastry case before opening. Crow helped Shannon obtain the loan she needed through Women Venture and the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD), the organizational home for the Open to Business program.
“Open to Business helped me figure it out,” Shannon said. “”They didn’t discourage me—they gave me options that could work given my challenges.”
The loan was finalized in April, and Shannon opened her Lakeville-based Cream of the Cakes storefront in May.
“I’m very glad that my path crossed theirs. They taught me a lot about the process and have been awesome to work with,” she said.
Original recipes combined with creative flair
Shannon prides herself on creating cakes and desserts that are not only beautiful and eye-catching but are exquisitely flavorful as well. Each recipe used at the cakery is either a hand-me-down from her family, shared by another baker, or personally developed to meet a customer request. In addition to using her own recipes, Shannon decorates each cake to reflect the occasions and customer’s wishes. Her creations range from elegant wedding cakes to whimsical birthday cakes and beyond.
“We want to be able to give someone a custom cake that is as delicious as it is beautiful,” Shannon said. “We try to blend the uniqueness of creativity and the deliciousness of fresh ingredients.
Since opening the storefront and getting walk in traffic, demand for Shannon’s desserts has increased yet again. She now employs two additional bakers as well as her youngest son, who is learning the ropes of the business and all aspects of decoration and dessert-making. Shannon is confident she has the right team in place to keep customers coming back.
“We want to get to know the customer,” she said. “We tap into who the cake is for, get their likes and their favorite colors, and we follow up after the cake has been eaten. The best compliment I can receive is for them to come back through my door or to recommend me to someone.”
Visit Cream of the Cakes at 20655 Kenrick Avenue, Lakeville, MN 55044. Find out more online at www.creamofthecakes.com.