GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Cupcakes, cake crafts and classes - that's the direction Mande Gabelson took when she decided to open The Baker's Boutique with business partner Callie Ash, April 1.
Gabelson, a trained ceramics artist, decided, instead of clay, to sculpt pastries when she began a cake business a little over two years ago at the Business Incubator Center on Orchard Mesa. She named her company Ava Sweet Cakes after her daughter, now 3.
Gabelson, 35, built a successful business of baking gourmet cupcakes and elaborate cakes of all shapes and unusual flavors (like coconut lime with avocado butter cream frosting, pink strawberry champagne with chocolate chips, and rootbeer float).
As a mother of two young children, Gabelson longed to work at home so she pushed for legislation to establish a Colorado Cottage Foods Act to allow for certain foods to be sold after being prepared in home kitchens. Working at home was also more cost-effective, she said.
"I started researching and found 28 other states with Cottage Food laws," Gabelson said. "The next step was to find a representative or senator to sponsor the law. I wrote everyone in the House and Senate."
Colorado State Sen. Gail Schwartz and other legislators sponsored the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, and Gabelson went to the capitol and testified for its passage.
She started a Colorado Cottage Food Facebook page where she answers questions and continues to update the site with current information regarding the law.
On March 15, 2012, Colorado's Cottage Foods Bill became law, and Gabelson left the Incubator to go home and bake.
She found it challenging however, to separate personal time from business when working from home. So, she met with personal life coach Marcus Straub, who helped her identify what she should focus on.
"He helped me to distinguish what I love to do," Gabelson said. "I love cupcakes, and to teach people. I decided I wanted to pursue a store that offered supplies, cupcakes and classes."
Gabelson consulted the Business Incubator again, this time to develop a business plan. When she was unable to secure a business loan, Gabelson posted on Facebook - where some 200 friends were following her progress - that she would not be able to open a business after all.
Gabelson had successfully marketed Ava Sweet Cakes solely from Facebook exposure and word-of-mouth. It was via Facebook in December, that Ash, a trained pastry chef, learned that Gabelson lacked funding to open a storefront.
Two hours after the posting, Ash called and left a message asking Gabelson if she'd be interested in a partnership. Ash had been saving her money for two years, watching for an ideal baking opportunity, she said.
"I was a fan of Mande's Sweet Cakes," Ash said.
The two women had met in August when Ash called Gabelson to ask if she could watch her decorate a wedding cake.
Ash looked over Gabelson's business plan, and the two women determined they had enough cash to buy inventory and to renovate the suite at 2478 Patterson. Gabelson said she was confident there would be a market for the business because "I was getting calls constantly," asking where she bought her supplies, and how did she learn to bake and decorate, and would she teach classes?
"I was always driving to Denver to get my stuff. I decided there's a market for it," she said.
The Baker's Boutique carries all kinds of baking pans and tools, sprinkles of every color, cupcake toppers, cupcake and cake stands, more than 100 different flavorings, molds for making your own homemade gourmet chocolates and more.
"There is every cookie cutter you can imagine - from a lobster to a rhinoceros. You name it, we got it," Gabelson said.
On opening day Monday, a woman from Delta came to the shop, having found the business on Facebook. By the end of the day, all eight dozen cupcakes had sold.
"At 6 p.m., we had three left - snickerdoodles - someone came in and bought all three," Ash said.
Different flavored cupcakes are made each day.
"We post on Facebook what the flavors are going to be," for the following day, Gabelson said.
The cupcakes Tuesday, were chocolate cherry, strawberry banana, white chocolate raspberry and chocolate stuffed with cookie dough. That morning, Ash boxed up a couple dozen to deliver to Community Hospital.
Ash said she's experimenting with some vegan recipes, and makes a flourless chocolate tort that she plans to turn into a cupcake, as a gluten-free option.
Ash and Gabelson plan to soon start offering baking lessons in the roomy kitchen at the rear of the store. The kitchen is also available for others to lease for teaching classes or hold meetings - supplied with cupcakes, of course.
Local chocolatier Christy Hovland, owner of Cherry Street Chocolates, plans to teach a class in making gourmet chocolates, Gabelson said.
Gabelson and Ash say they learn from each other. Gabelson points to Ash's culinary training from Colorado Mesa University. Ash considers Gabelson "a goddess when it comes to baking," she said.
Gabelson said she grew up in a household where her mother decorated a lot of cakes.
"I even took my mom to 'show and tell' in the third grade," Gabelson said. "I learned a lot from her.
"I got my business drive from my father. I grew up watching him run a business (Monte's Motor City Transmission in Grand Junction)"
"During the summers, we (she and her five siblings) were down at the shop doing something."
You can visit The Baker's Boutique online at www.facebook.com/TheBakersBoutique or call 970-241-0033.