This past Sunday a huge article ran in the O.C. Register about my business, my family, my life. It gives you an insight of what I’ve gone through to get Two Parts Sugar up and running. I am truly blessed to have such a supportive family, friends and following. I truly love you all. A special thank you to Teryl Zarnow for writing such an amazing article and really capturing the heart of Two Parts Sugar.
From Sweat to sweet
Only a certain kind of woman is willing to mix it up and go head to head against guys in a wrestling match. You might not expect it to be the same woman who now bakes cupcakes for a living – but it turns out they require the same ingredients.
The tenacity to score on the mat is not all that different from the tenacity you need to make a business into a winner.
So call this a story about what happens when sweat meets sweet. To me, though, it’s that familiar tale of a young mother juggling family and work. Mothers who learn how to fit their dreams around their children know how to grapple with life.
Monica Serratos, 28, wrestled at Estancia High School in Costa Mesa. As one of two women on the team, she wrestled mostly guys in the 103 or 112 -pound weight class.
She didn’t win a single match in her first year, but that only made her work harder. By senior year she was team captain.
Monica met her future husband, Fernando, on the wrestling team at Golden West College — and that’s where three babies come in.
Monica is primed to tell me about all this, plus cupcakes and the Academy Awards, but 3-month-old Angelica announces – loudly — she’s ready to eat. There’s no arguing with that.
Monica fell into baking the way women fall in love: opportunity and attraction to something sweet. She was working weekends and nights at Macy’s, and wanted to start her own business. Then her sister took a culinary class and Monica sampled some recipes.
“I liked the cake on one and the icing on the other,” Monica recalls. “When we put them together, it was gold.”
First, she experimented with recipes – a little more egg here, a bit less oil there. A good cake is moist, not over-baked, with icing that isn’t overly sweet. One result is her signature raspberry red velvet cake.
“This is my passion … when people pop a bite into their mouth and their reaction is ‘Wow!’ you’ve created this little bit of dessert heaven.”
For a year she explored the idea of a baking business. She took some classes in cake decorating and discovered she was good at it – very good.
Monica began selling her creations to friends and their friends and suddenly realized: “I guess I’m in business.”
Two Parts Sugar (www.twopartssugar.com) launched in December of 2008. Listening to Monica explain how she hustles to build her business is exhausting.
Less than a year after launching, a very pregnant Monica was competing (and losing) in the first episode of the Food Network reality show, “Cupcake Wars.” Yes, she admits, she spent one crazy evening with power tools building a display stand for her cupcakes.
Twice she’s accepted the annual LA Cupcake Challenge, passing out thousands of samples so the public can eat and vote. The first year Two Parts Sugar won a second place and bragging rights for its (suddenly) “award-winning” cupcakes. In February, she won a third place for her chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes.
She’s already diversified from cupcakes into other sweets and aprons. With marketing help from her brother, Monica tweets and blogs and looks for every advantage.
When the Academy Awards came calling, Monica didn’t hesitate. She pulled several all-nighters to bake mini-cupcakes for tasting and “swag” bags for stars visiting the gifting suite.
She’s tasted other cupcakes. With no modesty she says:
“Some of the cupcakes out there made me realize that what I have here is fantastic.”
An entrepreneur and mother, Monica knows all about juggling her time. Most mothers mentally barter with our kids, trading more favors than a backroom politico: If we accomplish one chore for me, later we will do one fun thing for you.
Monica trades a morning at the park for a run to buy ingredients or make a delivery. She packs Alicia, 3, Anabelle, 2, and the baby into the car and tells them it’s time to make a trip. She bakes; they bake with an Easy Bake Oven.
After the girls’ 8 p.m. bedtime, she heads to her Irvine-based kitchen to work. Her time is her own until 6 a.m. when the kids wake up.
“I tuck them into bed. They know Daddy is here and Mommy has to go to work.”
No problem – if you don’t require sleep.
And here’s where wrestling comes in. This is a grueling schedule. To meet it, Monica calls upon the same focus and drive she needed just to finish a practice.
“Some nights I’m baking and I’m dead tired and I tell myself: All right, it’s overtime. I need that extra bit you have to give.”
Endurance counts. She’s taken a self-taught, crash course in business: setting prices (too low), buying supplies (no longer at the grocery store), packaging and marketing.
So far, Two Parts Sugar is barely profitable. The deal with Fernando is that she needs to at least cover expenses and pay the family’s bill for health insurance.
Monica is selling cupcakes, but she’s buying herself time.
Right now, her business is the freedom to stay home days and weekends with her girls. But she has ambitions: maybe her own storefront bakery one day, maybe a little saved for the girls’ education. She would like them to finish college.
“I am setting an example. My girls can see it’s important to be independent and be able to support themselves and not have to rely on anybody else.”
She wants to build a successful business. She wants to be a successful mother. She wants more hours in the day.
All mothers wrestle with that.