Meet the Innovative Entrepreneurs Who Won Our Top Awards for 2013

College Entrepreneur: Nelly Garcia
Photo (C) Sarah Wilson
Nelly Garcia
Entrepreneur of 2013

Nelly Garcia

College: Brigham
Young University

Brigham Young University

Sweet Success

A cake-maker prepares to share her craft

It started with the Facebook photos. When Nelly Garcia was an undergrad in Brigham Young University's online program, she posted some shots of a wedding cake she had baked for a friend. Between her lifelong love of baking and some classes she was taking for fun, Garcia had gained some serious sugar skills. "Then my other friends started calling and asking for wedding cakes. I decided to advertise as a wedding-cake bakery and got a lot of phone calls," says Garcia, now 27, founder of Austin-based Rocheli Patisserie.

Even before the advertising, Garcia, along with her mom (who was an executive chef in Monterrey, Mexico, before the family moved to Texas 12 years ago) and younger sister were turning out 15 cakes a weekend from their apartment kitchen, "which was a terrible mess," she says.

This past June, after earning her degree (and just before her classes started for BYU's online MBA program), Garcia began actively spreading the word about Rocheli through social media. Now the trio spends every weekend in marathon baking sessions, turning out 50 to 60 cakes.

"I start Friday at around 10 a.m. and finish at about 4 a.m. on Saturday," Garcia says. "We work overnight, then wake up at 7 a.m. on Saturday and deliver our cakes. We're usually done on Saturday at 7 or 8 p.m."

Her cakes start at $100 and have run up to $1,600 (for a wedding cake that had "a lot of details and bling-bling" and took 14 hours to complete). "I do love the extravagant ones," she says. "The harder they make it, the more creative I get."

The $5,000 prize that comes with the College Entrepreneur of the Year award will go toward a commercial mixer and video equipment for her next project: an online baking school. "I would like to give classes, to grow as much as I can and have franchises in different cities," Garcia says.But that's not all for Garcia. "I really would like for it to grow and not just be a bakery, but be an actual brand."

Once again, demand created the potential revenue stream. Living in Austin, Garcia has to travel to major cities to take classes in the latest baking techniques. She wants to make the process easier for others--especially those in Mexico (though she also has her eye on the rest of the world, naming Argentina and Spain to start). The recorded video classes will cost around $50, and Garcia plans to sell and ship supply kits for each class. She also wants to open a bakery in downtown Austin.

Launching a business while getting a degree has its challenges. "It's sad at times because I can see that there are always pictures on Facebook [of friends] in Vegas and having fun," Garcia says. "That's something I've never really had. I know I'll see the results in a few years from now. Hopefully."

College Entrepreneur: Nelly GarciaName three personality traits that have helped you become a successful entrepreneur.
Passion, determination and drive.

What is your motto?
Let excellence be your brand.

When you need to learn about something, how do you go about it?
I am a complete teach-yourself kind of person. There are books for everything! But when it comes to issues such as Texas laws or angel investors, I usually call governmental agencies such as the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, SBA, etc. I am not afraid of asking questions and making good use of their free workshops.

Do you consider yourself a risk-taker?
I definitely am. But I don't see the risk of what I can lose. I see how much I can gain. I seek opportunity, not security.

Are you a list-maker or a make-it-up-as-you-go type?
Definitely a list-maker. I have at least four notebooks that I carry with me all the time. Not only do I make lists but I group them into "urgent," "important," "follow up" and "general ideas."

Do you like surprises?
Yes. I like the thrill of the unknown--not knowing what tomorrow might bring, but knowing that whatever it may be, I am prepared for it.

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Jenna Schnuer writes (mostly) about business and travel and is a contributing editor for Entrepreneur.

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This article was originally published in the January 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Making It Big.

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