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Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

Black Entrepreneurs Month: Piece of Cake

Food by LJay is a cake business founded by La Ronda Jones-Gutierrez in 2015. It was started as a food business but eventually transitioned into providing customized cakes for several different occasions.

Tell us how you got your business started.

One night my daughter and I decided to watch our favorite channel, Food Network, and there was a baking competition on. My daughter said, “Mom, you should bake us a cake!” There was nothing I disliked more than baking. The measuring, the science, the time you must put into it. I never measure ingredients and can never tell people how I do the things I do in the kitchen. But I decided I was up for the challenge. It wasn’t my best work initially. I decided to challenge myself to do better the next time, and with no formal training I learned new techniques through YouTube tutorials. With every cake I completed I was able to improve on my decorating skills and techniques. After a few orders and great feedback, Food by LJay was born.

Do you like being your own boss? Do you ever think of trading it in for a steady paycheck?

I love being my own boss. I get to make the decisions on how much or how little I want to do. I get to be as creative as I want to be without being placed in a box. I set the tune of how the world perceives my art by what I put out there. No one is guiding me or shooting down my ideas, which was a nice change from other jobs I have had. Even when I decide that baking is too labor-intensive, I will still figure out a way to help others and possibly teach baking classes. 

What’s the best aspect of running your own business?

The best aspect of running my own business is the impact I am leaving on my family. I want to be their role model. I want them to be able to look at me and say, “Wow, my mom is amazing.” I want my family to know that I gave it my all, and because of my hard work and determination, I was a success.

What advice would you give someone who’s about to start their own business?

You may have to make a few sacrifices in the beginning, but it will all be worth it. Do your research and know the ins and outs of your industry. Connect with others in your industry and build a network. Mentors and coaches are great resources to have. Attend webinars, conferences, retreats, anything that will put you in the room to connect with those who understand what you are going through.

Baking: La Ronda Jones-Gutierrez in her Santa Clarita kitchen.

What’s the biggest challenge your business has faced? And how did you deal with it?

Currently I am facing the biggest challenge with the rising cost of ingredients. Unfortunately, due to inflation I have had to increase the cost of my custom cakes. It’s been hard. But as a business owner, you have to make those hard decisions. This has been a challenge because explaining to clients that the cake this year doesn’t cost the same as the one they purchased last year can be very uncomfortable. Most have been understanding and still order and I always make suggestions to change a design or select an item that can be more budget-friendly.

Has being Black affected your business?

Being Black has absolutely affected my business, in a very positive way. There has been a positive shift in the Black community, especially among Black women. Our goal is to be successful not only for ourselves but for our community. I am grateful for the support and outpouring of love my business has received within the Black community. With every attempt to set us back and limit our progress, our collective support for each other has strengthened us. Some of my very close friends have started businesses solely to support and promote other Black businesses. Because of many of these platforms I have been able to promote my business and expand my clientele. 

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is a managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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