How did this even happen? It has been five years since I started Mili’s Sweets. Before that time, I would never in a million years think I would want my own small business. I’ve always thrived on stability and am not a person who takes many risks. I guess people change – sometimes because they have to and sometimes because they want to.
I’m sharing a little about how all of this started.
I had to become a mom.
my birthday, July 2007
Fast forward to one of the many miracles that have happened in my life. One of my favorites is becoming a mom. I don’t take this opportunity and blessing for granted. When I was younger, doctors told me that I’d need surgery to be able to become pregnant. That wasn’t God’s plan since two months after marriage, I was pregnant and have given birth to two extraordinary and healthy children, a daughter who is now ten and a son who is seven.
I went from having a wonderful career in the corporate world, to giving it up to stay at home with the kids. It was a team-decision that my husband and I made. It came with many sacrifices and I would not want to trade this special time for anything. I loved to cook and bake but I was only OK at it. Staying home really helped me to hone in on the baking and cooking skills that I wanted to have, for personal joy and for my family. So I worked it into my life, along with making baby food like a crazy-person, doing crafts and going on fun adventures with the kids.
Turned out, our baby was allergic to peanuts (and tree nuts).
days before our ambulance ride, June 2008
I’ll never forget June 25, 2008. Our 16-month-old son wanted to try the peanut butter sandwich that his big sister was enjoying for lunch. I gave him a little peanut butter spread on a small piece of bread. He seemed to like it. Then he violently changed. I called 911 for the first time in my life. This baby of mine kept saying over and over, “Uh-Oh. Uh-Oh. Uh-Oh.” I was scared. He was pink and swollen, and had giant welts that looked like second degree burn-blisters all over his face and body. The worst was seeing these giant sacks covering his eyelids, making them close. He could breathe. The ambulance was at our home in a few minutes. I still remember the medics who helped us and gave a special seat and teady bear to my sweet four year old (who was also scared). My husband was two hours away, at work, and would meet us at the hospital.
Our son was soon tested for allergies and we learned that he was very allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts. It took a toll, but I have always been strong and would be sure to protect our child. It seemed so strange and far fetched to have a child with such severe allergies. Our family was meant to have this small challenge and we were going to work it out.
I couldn’t buy my son treats at the store. I couldn’t buy him a birthday cake.
baby boy’s 2nd birthday, February 2009
It was quite a learning experience to figure out what I needed to do to protect our little boy. I couldn’t believe how many items in the store has traces of peanuts/tree nuts. I wasn’t going to risk having my son be harmed over his allergies, so I avoided most packaged foods all together. I learned to make everything on my own. I ended up cooking or baking everything for our home – three meals a day were fresh and I’d experiment with dessert. I loved doing it and it was good for my family. I really enjoyed my work and the outcome. My family liked what I was making too.
My son was really into Thomas the Train. In fact, he loved anything that had to do with trains. For his second birthday, I wanted to buy him a special cake but every single bakery I called could not guarantee that there would be no traces of peanuts or tree nuts. A bakery that could work out an order for my son, literally did not exist. So I couldn’t order a cake. I made one.
This funny, goofy train cake, that I made for my sweet boy, was awesome (to us). It was a turning point for me. It brought my kids so much joy. My sweets were bringing others so much joy. It left quite an impression on me. I decided I wanted to continue to develop my own recipes and to just keep baking.
I went for it.
Mili’s Sweets sampling party at my home, July 2010
With a lot of encouragement from my friends and family, I started Mili’s Sweets. It was on my wedding anniversary, March 8, 2010 that I made it official. I found the courage to go for it. I was nervous, but I just had to move forward.
I always felt like becoming a good baker and developing my recipes was a God-given gift. To have hope in the idea of supporting my family in any way, with doing something that I absolutely loved, felt like a dream come true. (I still believe this to be true. Every time I finish making a cake or complete an order, I feel thankful that I was able to do it.)
My friends loved my sweets. I’d try new recipes and gave most of the products away. I’ll never forget my very first official paid-order. It was from my friend, Honeye Hawkins. Our daughters took ballet together. From there, word of mouth, love, passion and prayer pushed me along.
I developed a following and a professional catering business where I set and styled dessert tables and delivered throughout San Diego County, while renting a commercial kitchen that was located near my home.
More people were exposed to my work.
San Diego Living, Cupcake Wars, September 2010
In the summer of 2010, I received a call from a local television show. The producer had tried one of my Creme Brulee cupcakes at a party and wanted to know if I’d like to be on a Cupcake Wars segment of their program, where a bunch of different local dessert/cupcake companies would “compete” and viewers would vote for their favorite. I was the absolute underdog of the bunch. I was also incredibly nervous. My mission, to provide nut-free sweets, to be myself and to simply make the best-quality and best-tasting product I personally liked enough to sell to others, shined through. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I won their little Cupcake Wars program! Having the title, “Best Cupcakes in San Diego” was a great building-block for my business.
I give until it hurts.
with my volunteers at Mili’s Sweets UTC fundraising event for American Red Cross, April 2011
I always dreamed of being able to give generously to charity. I was raised to give and give, but what I typically had to offer was my time and resources and not necessarily a check worth a significant amount of money. As soon as I understood the value in the desire for my sweets, I took advantage of it. I promoted to give to charities since it was the only way that I knew to fundraise on my own for a significant amount of money.
Via Mili’s Sweets desserts, I have raised thousands of dollars for several charities, schools, non-profit organizations and will continue to do so for what I can, and have a passion for. Many of my contributions are given silently. My most memorable efforts have been for American Red Cross, the local non-profit, “Fight Like a Girl, Team Kaelyn,” for an incredible little girl whom was fighting cancer, and for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
We made some friends.
my daughter and her best friend at their First Holy Communion, May 2012
I’ve always tried to squeeze Mili’s Sweets around my family’s schedule. I have always played the stay-at-home mom roll and am very active at my children’s school. Our school-community is super important to me. I have a few friends who I made there who really loved me (still do), love my products and believed in me so much, that they would introduce me to their friends, and always have me cater sweets for their special events.
One of those friends from the kids’ school is Ann Marie. I placed an ad in the school newsletter when I first had my license and permit and she gave me a call. We instantly clicked and over the years, we have become good friends. She is a special blessing that came into my life, to really boost my confidence so that I could take my work and what she also considered my gift, to another level. I love her for what she has done for me.
Then there was my friend Amy. Her daughter and my daughter became best friends as soon as they met in Kindergarten. I didn’t know Amy well at that time, but I always knew I liked her. That year she was pregnant, and after having her baby, I delivered dinner and dessert for her family to enjoy. Over time, we became close friends. She is like a sister to me – someone with whom I tell everything and anything. I love her.
Amy is the woman who owns MiaBella Yogurt & Desserts. She approached me in the spring of 2014 and asked if I’d like to partner up with her to start a dessert shop. Without hesitation, I said “Yes!” It’s one of the easiest and best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t believe that the shop will be open in just a couple of weeks!
Then there are the friends that I met and made through my business. To be supported in this way simply amazes me. We have real connections and not just a “like” on facebook. Take social media away and these incredible relationships would still thrive.
I confess, that don’t have many super close friends. However, the friends and family whom have been by my side, who really love me, have my heart. I cannot be who I am without them! I am so thankful for each one of them and they know exactly who they are!
I keep my family close.
my daughter makes my mom her birthday cake, July 2014
My mom lives with us in our home. My dad is one of my best friends. He has been through hell and we will always have each other’s back. I love my brother and his family. We are super close, even though he lives out of town. My husband and I are still completely in-love. He’s my other half, my very best friend. We’ve been together for almost half of my lifetime. I love and admire my step-daughter, who is grown-up and attending college. Our children are the loves of our life. My family loves me like no one else on the planet. They are proud of me. They want to be with me. We constantly want to be together.
I don’t live in “la-la” land. Life is usually not easy. It is incredibly difficult and dare I say a burden to care so much, to keep it all a-float – but life with this family of mine is a labor of love that I will never tire from. I am beyond blessed! I thank God every day for what he puts in front of me.
I need to stay true to myself.
One thing I learned a long time ago, that I bring into my life as Milissa in my “real” world, and as Mili in my Mili’s Sweets world, is to never compromise who I am. I try to concentrate on doing my very best every single day, at anything I sign up for and I sign up for a lot. I am extremely determined and passionate. I’m a “glass half-full” kind of lady. I’m a nerd. I clown all of the time. I laugh at my own humor and I want to laugh every single day. It’s impossible for me to hide my emotions and I tend to shed a tear or two often, whether tears of joy or not. I can’t pretend that my faith and my roots are not important pieces that make me whole. I will always love and encourage others, even if they don’t do the same for me. I hug. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I’m not. I am humbled with the understanding that I am here because of the opportunities that God has put in front of me – I’m just going to try to make the most of them.
I will always care about my work.
I care so much about each one of the desserts I make. I care about the people who want to enjoy a treat, but can’t because of food-choices or extremely dangerous food allergies. I live it and I totally understand it. I’ve had customers call me and talk to me just about the situation they go through, either for themselves or for their children when it comes to necessary food restrictions. Some just want to be sure that what I say I’m offering is what I mean. It is. Mili’s Sweets will not only always be completely free of peanuts and tree-nuts, but I will also try to accommodate other food-related needs by offering gluten-free and/or egg-free options. I will also always be happy to answer questions about the ingredients I use, so that people can be assured that it is safe for them to enjoy. I love what I do and I want to keep doing it.
P.S. Thanks for being here and for reading my little stories. I know this is some personal stuff, but I think it’s cool to share. Please, reach out to me and share your stories. Take care and big hugs!