Q&A with Carlene O’Garro, Owner of Delectable Desires

The Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program began in 2008.  Our very first loan recipient was Carlene O’Garro, owner of Delectable Desires Pastries. Specializing in custom cakes and French pastries, Carlene has had a lifelong love of creating delicious (and beautiful) pastries. Up until this point, Carlene has been running her business out of her home and baking in the Crop Circle Kitchen Incubator in Jamaica Plain – coincidentally across from the Samuel Adams Brewery.   To celebrate the grand opening of her brick and mortar shop in West Roxbury, MA today, we caught up with her about the challenges and joys of being a small business owner in the food and beverage industry and how the Brewing the American Dream Program has been with her every step of the way.

Delectable Desires

Q: How did your passion for pastries begin?

A: It began when I was a little kid; I baked in the kitchen with my mom on Sundays. When I was about four, my parents bought me an Easy Bake oven so I could bake on my own instead of using the real oven. From that moment, I was hooked! I find baking to be so relaxing, it just comes naturally to me. Cakes are my main passion – I love creating desserts that look fake! When people take a step back and say “is that really a cake?” that is my favorite reaction.

Q: What ultimately made you decide to turn your passion into a business?

A: I didn’t want to go through life working in a 9-5 job, waiting on a promotion, and waiting on someone else to say I was good enough to get the corner office. I wanted to do my own thing and I knew that I could work hard doing something that I love and make it happen.

Q: How do you think having a brick and mortar location will impact your business?

A: For a long time I dabbled in wholesale because I just didn’t think my cakes were good enough, and I wasn’t ready to be at the forefront. But over the last several years I gained the confidence to say, ‘the cake tastes great, they look great, and people want to buy them.’ I actually can’t keep up with demand!

Opening up the shop was both stressful and fun. When it came time to open, I was almost sad! I really enjoyed spending the time with my family hanging the sheetrock together, putting in the floor, basically doing everything ourselves. I couldn’t have done it without my parents, my electrician Colin, my mentor Cathy Reuben, my uncle Phillip, and my brother Gerald. It was a lot of work, but having the storefront allows me to charge what I believe my product is worth, which is something I couldn’t do when I was working in wholesale. It also gives people the opportunity to come into a real store to be able to see the product and meet the people behind it – certainly helps with creating a buzz around the brand.

Q: You were the first loan recipient through the Brewing the American Dream program – how did that initial loan impact your small business?

A: With the loan, I was able to pay off a couple of vendors, purchase muffin pans, and some other equipment. These things really helped me continue on with my business. Even though it has been more than five years since that first loan, Brewing the American Dream remains my go-to resource. The team is not only amazingly supportive, but they helped me access a series of loans and at the same time, strengthen my credit – I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get the loan money I needed from the bank.

I also have had the opportunity to get personalized coaching from Jim Koch through the program – he has given me real, honest advice that pertained to the reality of my situation.

Q: Do you have any advice for other aspiring small business owners in the food and beverage industry?

A: If you have a dream, if you have a passion – it is a lot of blood, sweat and tears and it is a long process –  but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just know that with every success, there will be a new challenge, and that’s ok! I’ve dealt with a lot of critical feedback since I have been in business. I wanted everything to be perfect, to be done right. Remember that employees can walk away, but you cannot – your business is attached to you as a person, so protect your product and protect your brand.