By Meg McConahey The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Anamaria Morales, the "College Confectionista" whose handcrafted cheesecakes are helping her create a VERY sweet future.
The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Anamaria Morales is on a mission to bake her way through college, "one cheesecake at a time."
Tangy lemon, silky espresso, creamy peanut butter, sweet strawberries, red velvet. Each month brings a menu of new flavors to whip into cream cheese -- and melt the willpower of fans.
A year after launching "The College Confectionista" during her senior year at El Molino High, the spirited 19-year-old has banked more than $9,000 through baking. She hopes to more than double that amount by the time she's ready to transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College, where she takes online classes. Her goal is to be accepted into the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley.
For now, Morales is developing her entrepreneurial chops in the kitchen, experimenting with new flavor combinations, baking everything from scratch with fresh and local ingredients.
She uses Clover cream cheese, marketing through social media and in some cases, hand-delivering each $40 handcrafted masterpiece of velvety goodness.
Each cheesecake is a variation of a basic New York-style recipe, enhanced with a few tweaks of her own design.
Her Facebook page is sprinkled with retro advertising pictures of smiling housewives and winsome young lovers grabbed from mid-century magazines. The confectionista herself looks a bit like a 1950s time-traveler. A fan of all things retro, she loves to wear polka dots and handkerchiefs in her hair.
"Elvis Presley is my husband," she jokes, "who died a long time before I was born."
Morales grew up in Healdsburg, the daughter of Tomas and Laura Morales. She has one brother, Gabriel, 14.
Q. What prompted you to start your own business?
A. "I had been going through a hard time. I wasn't sure where I wanted to go to college. I stayed up late wondering and doing research about different colleges and ended up applying to over 20 schools because I couldn't make up my mind. My parents, who both didn't go to college, said maybe you don't want to go to a four-year university right away. Maybe you want to do a gap year or travel. That got me thinking. I've always been an entrepreneur. I worry about college expenses. I don't come from money, My parents had me at a young age and never started a college fund for me. I'm starting my college fund scratch."
Q. Did you have a mentor?
A. "Chris Kelsey, the Maria Carillo grad who at 18 founded the computer software company Appsitude (that works with individuals, start-ups and companies to design, build and market apps and mobile websites.) He's traveling to Milan and Brazil and Russia. He's a millionaire man. I saw an article about him in the paper and was so inspired. I did a bit of stalking and found his phone number and called him and he gave me advice. It was all confusing. But I decided 'I'm just gong to put it out there and launch this cheesecake-making business that I'd been thinking about for a few months and just see what happens.'"
Q. Why Cheesecake and not cookies, cakes or pies?
A. "I'm a baking fanatic. I love to bake. And I love my sweets. I decided on cheesecake because it's not that common. Think of cookies and you think Mrs. Fields. And everyone sells cakes. I wanted to do something unique and that was kind of divine and fancy."
Q. How many flavors do you feature, and what inspires you to change them?
A. "Four in total each month. Three that are seasonal and the basic New York cheesecake. I think it's a good strategy for me. I don't have to go out and buy a whole bunch of different ingredients to pleasure each person's desires. Rather, I'll have them wait anxiously for more! And I love seasonal flavors. For example, in May I'll do raspberry white chocolate cheesecake."
Q. How do you come up with your recipes?
A. "Each month I think about what holidays are coming up. For example, February is Valentine's Day. So I imagine what flavors would be popular on Valentine's Day. Oh, red velvet with an Oreo crust. It turns out to be this beautiful velvety, rosy red cheesecake. The most time I've ever spent on a recipe was until 4 in the morning. I got a knock on the door. My mom asked, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Oh, I'm just making up recipes.' When I get an idea, I don't stop until it's done. And I'm 100 percent paper and pen. I was hunched over my desk scribbling away."
Q. How can people order a cheesecake?
A. "By sending a message to The College Confectionista on Facebook or calling or texting at 707-495-5324."
Q. What else have you baked?
A. "You name it, I have made it. Everything with lemon are my favorites. I've made plenty of lemon bars and chocolate peanut butter cups and brownies. Baking and cooking calms me down, and I just turn on a little 1950s rock and roll and start baking and I'm in my element."
Q. Where do you work?
A. "I have a friend with a commercial kitchen. I use his kitchen when I need to bake in large quantities."
Q. How do you get the word out?
A. Persistence. Mainly it's been word of mouth via social media. I'm glad people like what I'm doing and have the heart to share.
Q. How is the saving going?
A. "I wanted to make this business with a purpose and put the money toward something meaningful. I've always been a saver. I don't let a penny from my College Confectionista business go into personal spending, even for gas. My ultimate goal is to go into college debt free. It's a far-fetched goal. But I don't want to leave my parents in so much financial debt that I feel guilty. I feel I should be in charge of my own education."
Q. What do you do for personal money?
A. "I really love to refinish furniture. I'm sitting outside now with a cherry red desk I just refurbished. I'm a huge believer in thrift shops. I find pieces, fix them up, paint them and screw on this and that and put them on Craigslist.
Q. Have you gained any weight?
A. "I should be 300 pounds. But 99.9 percent of it is not for me. I can't take a slice out of a cheesecake I'm about to sell. I avoid temptation because at the end of the day it's not for me. I also like to run. It's very soothing for me."
Q. How do you see yourself in the future?
A. "Being my own boss. I know I want to do business. It's what I'm passionate about. I know a lot of people my age are changing their majors. But from a very young age, I've been an entrepreneur, making cards or growing tomatoes. I want to be in business and help other local businesses grow and expand."
Q. What is in the future for College Confectionista?
A. "I'm hoping to turn it into a nonprofit, where I could create scholarships for other low-income and first-generation women, especially Hispanics, girls who have the drive to go to college and don't have the money. That would make me so happy."
Q. What have you learned about business so far?
A. "You can't be afraid to take a risk. If you're too afraid or are waiting for the right minute, it's never going to be the right time. You never know what might come of your actions now."