By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In a modest Northeast Philadelphia house, Masha Lipkovsky, an immigrant from Ukraine, thinks big — in terms of tiers, pounds of butter and flour, and elaborate decorative finishes involving rhinestones, wings, and even a teapot made of sugar.
To say that Lipkovsky bakes cakes would grossly understate an artistic prowess behind an award-winning six-tier stunner inspired by the wedding dress of Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and an Alice in Wonderland creation that weighed more than 80 pounds and took three people to carry.
Her inspiration comes from “everywhere,” she said.
“I am that weird person who will come up to wallpaper and touch it and take a picture of it, or come up to you in a mall and take a picture of your shoes or dress,” Lipkovsky said.
If only small-business financing was as abundant, she said.
The 29-year-old mother of two and her husband, Vlad Kozhukhin, 35, a digital marketing consultant, had approached 20 to 25 banks to inquire about getting loans to help them elevate what has largely been a hobby to a full-fledged business.
No bank would deal with them, they said, telling them they first needed to establish a business track record — a maddening Catch-22 situation confronted by most entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration came through with a five-year, $22,000 loan from TD Bank, with an interest rate of 6 percent. Friends and family have agreed to lend an undisclosed amount, which Lipkovsky and Kozhukhin said they will repay with 3 percent interest.
Then came an opportunity through the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia, or HFL, compliments of a stranger.
HFL had provided Lipkovsky a $5,000 interest-free loan in 2007 that helped her pay for two years at Community College of Philadelphia.