Elisa Marie’s love for baking started in the South when she was four years old, standing on a five-gallon flour bucket and helping her Momma make biscuits. Today, baking has become her true passion, from recipes handed down through her family to tackling the toughest French Pastries. She’s a self-taught baker who focuses on taste and texture to ensure everything lives up to her uncompromising standard of quality. After years of working as a professional baker in Chicago, Elisa has moved back to sunny Southern California to share what she calls “Fresh Baked Love” with her friends and neighbors.
Thanks for interviewing with us. Please give us a brief background and what inspired you in your career path.
Baking was and is a lifelong passion. It was always one of those things that were a part of my life in one way or another. From when I was three years old, making biscuits with my Momma when I was a girl in my twenties who fled to LA, baked pies for her friends, and tried to be the “city girl” I thought I was. And then to my thirties, in Chicago, when I made it a career and never looked back. The art, science, and downright therapy of baking were always something I could turn to when I needed it. No matter where I went, baking followed. If that’s not a “lifelong passion,” I’m not sure what is!
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Starting my own bakery felt like the natural next step in my career progression. Through my past baking jobs, I learned how to make a product at a professional level, design a menu, and meet daily demands on a scale as small as a family of 4 and as large as a company of 1500 employees. So, one day, after years of daydreaming about it, I figured I’d been given the tools and thought, “I’m basically already doing it for other people. Why not do it for me?”
The decision to make only Southern-inspired treats came from a very sudden and very powerful desire to reconnect with the Southern roots that I spent so much of my life trying to get away from. Life pushed me back to my family in Kentucky, and I came face to face with how much I missed that part of me. I wanted to make up for lost time, but I didn’t know quite how. So baking with my family’s recipes became my way of honoring where I came from and getting to the heart of who I truly am as a person.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to launching your company, and how did you overcome them?
Even though Elisa Marie Baking is technically only six months old, it’s the culmination of twelve years of daydreaming, researching, and jumping hurdles. I’d say the first was my lack of owner experience. I had all the pieces I needed (budgeting, scheduling, selling, etc.), but I wasn’t quite sure how to put them together in the way you need to run a business. So I essentially sent myself to school. I read every article, pored over every book, and watched every video I could. And I found that there wasn’t much that I couldn’t find an answer to once I figured out the questions I needed to be asking. A little curiosity and work ethic go a long way toward solving the problem of not knowing what to do.
But my biggest hurdle is and has always been myself. It’s so easy to give in to that little voice in your head that tells you, “You can’t do it” or “Nobody will like it,” and let that voice keep you from your passion. Fortunately, I found a great therapist who showed me an exercise to do every time I’m in that situation. I make myself sit down and write out three things I’m grateful for, plus three things that I’ve accomplished. Between that and having a wonderfully strong support system I can lean on any time, I have what I need to get through it.
What are 3 tips you can share with our readers as it relates to your industry?
Starting your own business is a great time to practice being fearless and embracing those times when things don’t go quite how they’re supposed to. Nothing comes out perfect the first time, so “fail” big and learn bigger. It only makes you better.
Don’t ever stop being curious. What can you improve? Why does something work the way it does? Find new ways to look at the work you do, and it’ll never feel stale.
Lastly, have fun! This is your business, after all. There will be days when you get bogged down by the mundane stuff, like invoices and administrative tasks, but never lose sight of the steps you’ve taken to bring your passion to life. It’s a wild ride, so you might as well throw your arms up and have a little fun along the way!
How do you personally define success? What does it mean to you?
Success to me is finding joy in doing what you love. I hope one day I will be making enough money to support my husband and myself, but more than that, I don’t want to lose being happy while baking in the kitchen. It’s where I am my happiest.
How do you differentiate yourself from others in your field?
Elisa Marie’s lineup is a collection of down-home recipes that I grew up with, mixed lovingly with my professional experience as a pastry chef in the heart of downtown Chicago. Everything I bake is a deeply unique and intimate piece from my past that I’ve tweaked and refined in the present until the taste and texture were just right. It’s work that I genuinely believe in, and I hope every bite gives the nostalgia of Grandma’s house back to the everyday foodie.
From a business perspective, everything about my bakery is DTC-oriented. I don’t have a storefront you can visit, nor do I have any partnerships with other vendors (although I’m VERY open to the idea!). I operate out of a cottage law kitchen in my own home, and I sell my entire menu on an as-ordered basis. So when you order Elisa Marie, you’re quite literally getting something homemade from scratch and delivered directly to your door by the very same person that took your order in the first place. It’s a fun part of my job that poses its own unique challenges, but I think it makes a real difference in my branding and products and drives home the fact that this is good old-fashioned home cooking. “Fresh Baked Love” from my heart to yours!
What was the biggest business mistake you made, and what did you do to learn from it?
I’m not sure if it’s a “business” thing or a “me” thing (probably a bit of both), but it was hard not to want things to take off right away. I’d have a few slow weeks in a row and then take to my bed in true Southern woman fashion because I thought I was failing. Not saying that I’m a paragon of the industry now. I’m still working hard every day to make this business my life. But if I could talk to myself six months ago, I’d remind myself that growing something takes as long as it needs to and to use the slow spells to rest, recover, and learn a new trick or two.
What advice would you give to someone asking for advice about becoming an entrepreneur?
Find people to lean on, confide in, and trust with your frustrations. One of my favorite parts of starting my own business has been the abundance of generosity from people who were a little farther down the road than I was and genuinely wanted to share what they learned with me so I would have an easier time than they did. Help is out there, you just have to make an effort to find it. A Facebook page, a collaborative workspace…heck, I’d be happy to help you in any way I can too!
What would you say is the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
In a word, and with every ounce of humility that I can muster…myself. My brand is my past, my story, and my experience of the world around me. You can never, ever ever run from an opportunity to share yourself with other people. I know it’s a terrifying thing to offer yourself up to strangers, but being your most authentic self is what will draw people to your message, make them root for you, and share in your failures as well as your successes. Starting your own business is a long road to walk. Do not be afraid to share the journey with others.
How can you be reached if someone is interested in your products or services?
Join me on my ‘Summer of Fresh Baked Love Tour’ this Summer! I will have 8 markets coming up. The next two are July 24th at the 714 Market located at 460 La Foresta in Brea. My next one will be the Gente Market Frida Kahlo Fest on July 25th at The Heritage Museum of Orange County. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see the schedule!