Cake Baking Maven Monica’s Recipe For SCORE Success
Monica Anderson is an American Small Business Champion (ASBC).
Her homemade Carrot Cakes, Ooey Gooey Butter Cakes and Southern Praline Cakes are all made from recipes handed down through the generations using only the finest ingredients, she said. Anderson’s New Orleans business, Cakes & Desserts by Monica, prepares cakes, wedding cakes, cupcakes, pies and cookies to be served at parties, receptions, corporate and sporting events, celebrations and family gatherings. She’s made desserts for the cast of the feature film “13 Sins” that was shot in New Orleans and released in theaters in 2014, supplied a soulful cake for R&B band New Edition while on tour at the 2016 Essence Festival and created custom cookies for a Prince Tribute presented by acclaimed New Orleans DJ Melissa “Soul Sister” Weber.
But it’s the sweet message baked into Anderson’s family-owned business’ mission that makes the frosting taste so good.
“Cakes & Desserts by Monica believes in supporting nonprofit organizations that support education, the arts and empowering women and children,” owner and baker Anderson said. “ I have donated cupcakes to the Louisiana Children's Museum “Festival of Trees” fundraising event, the St. Bernard Project “Hammers to Heels” appreciation party, baked cakes as a “sugar angel” for Icing Smiles in which bakers from around the world donate cakes to children and their siblings that are critically ill and most recently I donated more than 200 cupcakes to the New Orleans Pussyfooters Blush Ball FUNdraiser in which I am a member and helped raise $38,000 along with 122 other Pussyfooters for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children in New Orleans.”
This month, Cakes & Desserts by Monica was one of 102 winners of the “What Makes Your Business Unique?” challenge sponsored by Sam’s Club and SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to growing small businesses through education and mentorship, and a division of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
She submitted a zesty online application describing the most unique aspect of her small business that has contributed to her success, her positive impact on the community and her plans to use the prizes to grow her flavorful business. A judging panel of small business experts chose Anderson’s sugary startup as only one of two businesses recognized in Louisiana. She also received 12,586 online votes to help her win the national recognition of an American Small Business Champion, a $1,000 Sam's Club gift card, one year of SCORE mentoring to help her grow her business and a trip to attend the 2017 SCORE Awards in Washington, D.C.
Cakes & Desserts by Monica is now eligible to win a SCORE Award, one of three additional $25,000 grand prizes and the title of Grand Champion at the Awards ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 14. Selection is based on how effectively ASBC’s utilize their Sam’s Club gift cards and the SCORE regional training events to grow business revenue, as well as how effectively they promote the experience in the media and social media.
“I pray that I am one of the three winners as well as the Grand Champion title winner,” Anderson said.
While currently steeping in optimism, Anderson was on the verge of abandoning baking for good before entering the contest. She said trying to balance being a stay-at-home mom for her three sons Devin, 15, Dylan, 13, and Dorian, 10, and tough economic times left her baking enterprise struggling to survive.
Today, Anderson is committed to keeping her business at a rolling boil, investing all of her time and effort into whipping her operation into shape and spreading her altruistic recipe, giving back to local organizations through product donations and volunteering while refining her craft.
As part of her online application Anderson wrote, “One unique aspect of my business I would make succeed over the next year is to offer a variety of cake designs that would range from standard round cakes to gravity defying cakes and realistic cakes. I would also like to include party packages such as candy buffets and dessert tables. I'm looking forward to attending cake conventions so I can learn the newest and upcoming cake trends and also to subscribe to different cake tutorial websites to learn how to create unique cake designs.”
“SCORE is very pleased to honor the hard work and accomplishments of these 102 small business owners,” SCORE CEO Ken Yancey said. “They come from all across the United States, and provide diverse products and services for their clients, but all share in their dedication to making their dreams a reality. It is our pleasure to provide the mentoring, tools and resources that will help them continue to grow their businesses and enhance the communities they serve.”
“With $1,000, I would take half and purchase business and baking supplies and the other half to purchase food to feed the homeless,” Anderson’s online application reads. “With the training, I would like to learn how to run a successful business, and the help from a SCORE mentor would give me one-on-one on how to write a business plan, bookkeeping, marketing, etc.”
“At Sam’s Club, we proudly support and celebrate the unique experience of the small business owner,” Tracey D. Brown, senior vice president of operations and chief experience officer at Sam’s Club, said. “We are inspired daily by their ability to navigate challenges and triumphs on the road to success. And now, hopefully, the rest of the nation will be, too, as they get to know some of the nation’s most promising small business owners.”
Anderson said Cakes & Desserts by Monica is, measure by measure, rising to new heights, achieving economic goals sprinkled with sweet rewards. “I would say that this year, just from January to now, I’ve made about a little less than half of what I did the entire last year,” she said.
Anderson also weighs the growth of her bakery by her ability to donate and volunteer. “Donations are generally cupcakes,” she said. “Most of my volunteering is through being a member of the New Orleans Pussyfooters and participating in events such as the FestiGals Stiletto Stroll, which supports the New Orleans Family Justice Center and raises breast cancer awareness; the NAMI walk, which supports and raises mental health awareness; the NOLA Bluedoo Run, which supports and raises prostate cancer awareness; along with supporting other nonprofit organizations. I also visit elders in their home and help with at-home physical therapy twice a week.”
Anderson’s favorite dessert to make is candied pecans. She starts by roasting them, then washes them in egg whites, coats them in sugars and spices and bakes them to seal in the sweetness. When she teaches her recipes to her kids she blends in some life lessons as well. “I like to remind them that even though it doesn’t seem like learning math, English, reading and science in school would help in the future, it definitely does help in the baking world,” Anderson said. “As a kid I didn’t think so, but now as an adult and a baker I have to know fractions and measurements, what ingredients would react to make my cakes rise, read recipes or write contracts, know what color gels to mix to make a certain color, as well as some architect skills when building gravity defying cakes.”
“The best advice that was ever given and we hear it all the time is to never give up,” she said about her affection for confection. “No matter how hard it may seem. There will be dry spells where it seems like things are moving at a snail’s pace or not moving at all, but you have to have faith and believe that everything happens the way that God planned.”
Anderson said baking is a metaphor for business. In both you need to combine and sift through information and research to yield a chef-d'oeuvre. “The best baking tip is to take your time and plan ahead,” she said. “And if you’re learning a new recipe make sure to read it over and over again until you fully comprehend it because one mess up can ruin the entire dish.”
Cakes & Desserts by Monica