“Along with a business loan, Community Capital helped me create a roadmap to grow the business. It also awarded me an education scholarship to work with a digital professional to build a new website and an e-commerce pilot that will get underway this summer.” — Owner Michelle Domenici
Support Provided: Business loan, technical assistance and education scholarship
Impact: 7 jobs created or retained
The Back Story
Michelle Domenici considers herself an accidental entrepreneur. “I always enjoyed baking for the kids, my friends and family but owning my own business?? That wasn’t exactly on my radar screen.” However, what started as a hobby and a way to channel her creativity turned into a full time business: Simply Sweetz Boutique in Pelham, NY.
Michelle is no stranger to the food industry. Having worked at PepsiCo for over 10 years, she garnered tremendous experience in food service sales and marketing and built a team of over 300 clients during her tenure. Baking was only an avocation until 2013 when she met a restaurant owner who tasted one of her cakes and asked if she would consider supplying cakes and dessert items for his restaurant. Her corporate career soon became history and Simply Sweetz was launched.
At the outset Michelle continued cooking in her own kitchen but ultimately she needed are larger, more professional facility. In June 2014, she moved to a 700 square foot shop in Pelham allowing her to bake and sell other candy products and host kids’ parties on premises. In the ensuing months, sales continued to rise at meteoric rates. Enter Community Capital who provided a loan and financial planning assistance to help Michelle move and grow. “We relocated on Super Bowl Sunday in a snowstorm and opened our doors the following Tuesday in a new 1,400 square foot facility.” Since the move, walk-in traffic has tripled.
The secrets to her success? “I am committed not only to creating a great product, but to building client relationships and quality customer service.” For instance, Simply Sweetz offers curbside pick-up and delivery. Michelle notes, “Repeat business is enormous… I feel like a part of these families as I provide special cakes for Christenings, Birthdays, Anniversaries and more.” The shop is also an active community supporter and is particularly proud of its partnership with the local elementary school Thanksgiving Pie Drive (Simply Sweetz donates back $5/pie to the schools) as well as its donations to County Harvest, a local food pantry network managed by several Pelham residents.
Only 24 months ago Michelle was a sole proprietor. Today, Simply Sweetz counts 7 on its payroll including a kitchen manager and cake decorator. “Our team is a diverse group from different nationalities and backgrounds. It has changed the creative dynamics in the kitchen and I continue to learn so much from them.” The new hires also allow Michelle to focus more on marketing and financial operations. To date, business has mostly been generated by word of mouth, supplemented with some social media. Expanding sales to restaurants and catering is central to Michelle’s growth plans.
Simply Sweetz 136 5th Avenue, Pelham, NY 10803