by The Culinistas

Starting a business is a lot like baking a cake: An idea forms by following your nose, then you need a plan for making it come to life much like a recipe, and all the elements in the formula need the right attention paid, the right order, the right heat applied. But what happens when your strawberry sheet cake turns into a six tier, multi-flavored, gold dusted most ordered item off IG, and your sweet side hustle becomes a flourishing business? These people and companies, who started out small, have turned pastry passions into their main priority. 

Bronwen Wyatt, Bayou Saint Cake

Bronwen Wyatt birthed Bayou Saint Cakes during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sweet turn after losing her pastry position at a local restaurant. After taking a few special orders here and there, and building a strong community among queer-owned businesses in New Orleans, her cakes began to flourish. 

The community within social media can be a comforting place to share your passions, and Wyatt took advantage of that during the pandemic to showcase her talents with the world. Her cakes are simple, beautiful, and reflective of her true love for the art of baking for other people. 

Estee Stanley & Leah Smith, Gone Bananas Bread Co. 

When interior designer Estee Stanley and wardrobe stylist Leah Smith joined forces to start a banana bread company during quarantine times, it was a way to create some solace away from the harsh realities of the virus. Little did they know their sweet side hustle would turn into a well-loved baked goods company. 
They made the time go by with their joyous heart shaped banana bread creations after going slightly crazy at home. Now, they have a variety of banana breads available for purchase, and even merch: a Gone Bananas sweatshirt.Proceeds are dedicated to two organizations, Baby2Baby and This is about Humanity.

Max Kumangai, Humpday Dough

Max Kumangai, former performer on Broadway show Jagged Little Pill, started his gay- and black-owned business when his show was postponed for a second time. He craved a sense of belonging and the ability to take charge of something that was his, and soon after Humpday Dough was born. 

Max became enamored with the process of creating sourdough after having so much time on his hands with the show on hold. He first shared it with his peers after running out of room to keep it to himself and shortly after started delivering to people during the pandemic. In October of 2020, Humpday Dough was born on social media. When in-person connections were so limited, this brought both sides joy. 

Humpday Dough is now a thriving business with sourdough, focaccia, and different kinds of crackers available for order. 

Marta Grabowska, Foods by Marta 

Marta, a Polish food stylist and photographer, quit her corporate job and turned her deep passion for food photography into an exciting career. Instagram worthy baked goods are all the craze, and her pastries, cakes, and tarts of all sorts do not disappoint. She offers a range of private food photography sessions and coaching for food styling, and also provides a newsletter for exclusive content.

Annarose Davis & Jeffrey de Leon, Varsity Bakers 

Annarose Davis, one of the allstars in the Varsity Bakers team, has a long resume of professional baking experience including leading teams at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and Bouchon. She grew up baking with her family in Alaska and developed a love for creating at a young age. 

Right next to her is Jeffrey de Leon, who grew up in Southern California baking with his mother. After losing interest in his computer science talents, he looked for a career in the culinary arts and found himself at Le Cordon Bleu. Similarly to Annarose, after testing out different places to showcase his talents, de Leon ultimately ended up at a close knit, family-feeling company which became known as Varsity Bakers. 

Varsity Bakers is truly one of a kind, and is built on the foundation of a deep love for baking and for the people who support them.