Have you ever thought of opening a business during a recession? How about during the pandemic? Well, this lionhearted momma just did that!
Filipino-American Mariel Black started her baking business, Sinful Treats, in June 2009, at the peak of the recession — everyone thought she was crazy to start a business at that time. She had only one product to sell, some unknown Filipino pastry called ‘Food for the Gods’. “No one knew what it was. I had to tell people, ‘it’s like a blondie with dates and walnuts’” she said. Starting out as an online bakery, she gave out samples to whoever was open to trying her product. People never heard of it, but once they tasted it, they loved it!
Because everyone was hurting during the recession, she found that people were more inclined to help each other. Soon, a few coffee shops agreed to carry her products, and she also kept selling online.
Her big break came in 2011 when the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento ordered 19,800 Snickerdoodle cookies for their main holiday event, The Polar Express. A year before that, she took her 4-year-old son on the train ride, where they served cookies and hot cocoa just like in the movie, Polar Express. He took one bite of the cookie, then he told her that she should make the cookies. “Ah, the power of suggestion, from a 4-year-old!” Mariel exclaimed.
She talked to the coordinators and gave them cookie samples and they loved them. The following year, they ordered 19,800 Snickerdoodles. “I said YES, even if at that time,” she said, “I had no kitchen and no employees to help me. I had a couple of months to figure out how to make it happen.”
She rented a kitchen in a restaurant at night and asked friends to help, “I had a crew of 5 people. Like little elves, we’d bake all night while the restaurant was closed.” They only had one oven with 2 racks, only able to bake 48 cookies every 12 minutes. The cookies were baked from scratch, scooped by hand, packaged individually, sealed with a heat sealer, and labeled — all 19,800 of them!
“It was the most exhausting but exhilarating experience. It was then I knew that I loved the thrill and pain that came with being a business owner.” She’s been baking for the Railroad Museum since then.
Sinful Treats grew to have its own retail location a few years later and became a full-service bakery and catering company. They created and launched their first baking mix in 2015 with their signature product, “the treat that started it all” — Food for the Gods Baking Mix.
The year 2020 would have been their 10th year baking for the museum, “but 2020 had a different plan for all of us” she said. All of their Fall and Holiday events have been canceled. “Being in the baking business, our fourth quarter is when we make the most. Suddenly, all of it was gone. Having survived and thrived during the recession, I can honestly say this year, this pandemic is a lot harder than the recession.”
But the lockdown didn’t stop Mariel to continue her passion, rather she pursued another idea – to have a one-stop shop for baked goods. “Recession, pandemic, lockdowns won’t stop me. There are always opportunities even in the worse scenarios.”
In October 2020, she launched an online marketplace where local bakers can sell their products and grow their small businesses. Sinful Treats is now home to the best local brands. Mariel’s goal is to empower small business owners, especially women and minority-owned businesses. All Bakers and Food Makers who have something special and have unique products to offer are welcome to join, “The food industry is already very competitive, but we are stronger together. So my hope is that through this marketplace, we can all help each other grow.” They ship cakes, cookies, desserts, and gourmet food across the United States.
“Everything I have worked for seemed to be a stepping stone to what I’m doing now,” she said, “Having a brand that’s already established, a working website, products that have been tried and proven, years of networking and relationship building, all of this and more are now helping to make this new path easier to take and faster to grow.”
Mariel always gets a thrill watching businesses grow, she also shares over a decade of her experience and wisdom with new small business owners. “I love baking, but my real passion is business”. She guides her marketplace sellers with what they need; teaching them about branding, pricing, basic accounting, packaging, shipping, and even how to improve their products and come up with new ones.
“I always tell my kids, when something bad happens, it’s usually a blessing in disguise,” she added, “True entrepreneurs find opportunity even in the worst scenarios.”
Facebook: Sinful Treats