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Meet Elaine Ardizzone & Donna Cellere of Sweet Cheeks Baking

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elaine Ardizzone & Donna Cellere.

Elaine & Donna, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Custom Designed Cakes, Desserts, Cupcakes, Cookies, and even some wholesale options, Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. was started in 2007 by us, Donna & Elaine, AKA “The Left Cheek” and “The Right Cheek,” respectively. We run this little custom cake design kitchen with a tight, incredible team of artists & bakers. “Elaine’s always Right, and I’m always Left in the kitchen” is Chef Donna’s catch-phrase. It works.

We were just two ladies, tired of working endless restaurant hours and filled with creativity and delicious recipes, who finally pulled together just enough cash to find some kitchen space and test out our baked goods. Soon we were connecting with caterers and hotel chefs, baking first our wholesale line for them and then creating some of their clients’ & personal wedding cakes.

Within our first year, we won the “Best Dessert of the Fest” at SD Bay Wine & Food Festival, attracting the attention of both Disneyland and the producers of FOOD NETWORK! Then it was being featured on Discovery’s “Fabulous Cakes!” and winning “Cupcake Wars!” on TV… quite a spiral of efforts to kick us into gear!

Now with over 10 years under our belts, we cater to very discriminating clients and their event planners, trying to keep the FUN in wedding & party plans and the TASTE in choices. We love what we do, and it shows! Watch for us on an upcoming episode of the new FOOD Network series called “Ridiculous Cakes!”

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The toughest struggles in this business typically occur around finances. It’s a very costly business to be in, and unfortunately, the average person thinks it’s just “eggs & butter” that we’re paying for (let’s not even discuss the triple and sometimes 5x’s cost increases on ingredients). Everyone assumes we are “rollin’ in the dough…” (pardon the pun).

Labor cost, training, & high taxes in California are through the roof; the ingredients we use for our recipes are exceptional QUALITY and cost as such, and the methods we use to get perfection in our product require more labor hours than cutting corners.

When we first started our business, we borrowed a friend’s oven down the street. We then got to rent a tiny corner of another company’s kitchen. It was a great opportunity to get started, and the owner was very kind to us, but as anyone has tried to work out of someone else’s space, it had its challenges. We were blessed after a year to find our own kitchen, which is kept clean & organized every day for the past nearly 10 years with the help of our former military owner & workers.

Nearly all of our clients say that we EXCEED their expectations (yayyyy!); however, of course, since we put our hearts into every order if someone is disappointed, we are personally devastated. That’s always a tricky element to the food business or the arts business. I remember the same sadness in the restaurant business when a guest was unhappy… it’s heart-breaking.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Sweet Cheeks Baking co. – what should we know?
Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. really started on a shoestring budget, so we’re very proud that it has done so well all of these years (for reference, it costs about $250,000-$2 Million to start a kitchen, and we did it with $15K). We had no money, and it was an incredible thing to see the 2 of us grow to the 10 of us (well, even 14 at one point, but that was nuts). It’s still a tough way to make a living, but we all truly enjoy what we do, get to CREATE and design in our favorite medium = FOOD.

We SPECIALIZE in:
:: ALL NATURAL recipes made from scratch (for real, not just in ads) with all recognizable ingredients. Nothing we make can sit on a shelf for long (a blessing and a curse)
:: Organic ingredients (not all, but we try)
:: Fantastic designs -artistic, sculpted, elegant, fun, trendy
:: Special dietary needs ALSO AVAILABLE and now popular: Gluten Free desserts + Vegan desserts

I personally love human interaction and design, so my job of networking with the other wonderful people in the events & hospitality business, helping clients come up with the perfect design for either a cake or desserts for their party and managing my team is all just fantastic! Of course, I have tough days, but I’m very proud to enjoy what I do and know that my team and clients enjoy it with me.

It took 10 years, but I think Donna & I would both say that our proudest moment was hearing our business consultant say, “We had a GREAT YEAR!” Holy heck, thanks to working with Andy (owner of INFIX Consulting), we finally started the winter off-season without tremendous financial stress… but now we have to pay the taxes on that. haha Cheers to passing 10 years!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
In addition to the obviously needed patience, kindness, and creativity that any events industry company should have for their clients (after all, we are creating cakes & desserts for some of the most important days of people’s lives!), we believe that “TEAMWORK” and flexibility are also integral elements to success.

When we hire new people, we aren’t just considering them “new employees,” we look at them as additions to our own family and imagine a future of collaborating with them in a close-knit environment for long, hot days. Laughter, Focus, and Courtesy are of ultimate importance – both to each other as part of Team Cheeks and to our clients.

Pricing:

  • Minimum orders may apply for desserts, cookies, & cupcakes and average $3/each
  • Average themed party cakes = $150-350
  • Wedding cakes average $9-11/slice

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Studio 512, France Photographers, Petula Pea Photography, Plum & Oak Photography, Next To Me Studios

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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