Marketing Success Stories

Vegan Art by Indira adds SBDC at FIU to its recipe for success

Imagine this. It’s a child’s birthday party and all his little friends are with him having fun and admiring the beautiful, multi-tiered cake. And when that big, magical moment arrives – to sing Happy Birthday and cut the cake – the guest of honor can’t participate because he has a food allergy.

That was a real moment and “it really broke my heart,” says Indira Cristin. That’s when she came up with the idea of making vegan cakes, which are dairy- and egg-free. The Venezuelan immigrant thought, “I’m an artistic person. I love art, I can paint, I can sculpt, I can really do beautiful things, maybe I can use these two things together? And I love to bake and celebrations are meant to be happy and create good memories, not stress.”

About eight years ago, Indira began making beautiful vegan cakes, at first calling her business Better Sweets, but rebranding her small business five months ago as Vegan Art by Indira. “I wanted to make it more personal,” she says. “Everybody will know who’s the owner and it’s more like, ‘let me ask my friend Indira to make a cake’.”

A few years ago, Indira was taking part in a small business program and was introduced to Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within the university’s College of Business that offers no-cost business consulting to small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. There she met SBDC at FIU consultant Mark Mungenast, a specialist in sales and marketing, business development and strategy, who has continued to work with her. “He has been a great advisor for my business.”

Vegan Art by Indira adds SBDC at FIU to its recipe for success

Mungenast says her ability to pivot, change direction and try different things has served her well. “When you’re an entrepreneur, if you get to thinking that there’s only one path, then you’re likely to fail. But if you’re thinking, ‘no, there’s multiple paths I can follow to get to my end result and to grow the business,’ then you are able to do that.”

Some changes she has made have included changing the mix of what she sells and offering smaller cakes, changing marketing plans when one wasn’t working, using influencers, and the decision to offer courses, Mungenast says. “She’s able to pivot and learn what works and what doesn’t work. And she’s got a wonderful personality for business.”

When she started her business, Indira specialized in large, super artistic cakes for big events, like weddings. She’ll still do those, but has since expanded with many offerings – some of them by necessity.

Vegan Art by Indira

Working through the pandemic was tough, but she came up with the idea of making small cakes for four or five people, but still very artistic so people could celebrate their birthdays or anniversaries at home. Then 2022 was a strong year for the company as the world emerged from the pandemic, but the last year was difficult with inflation in the costs of insurance, leases, and goods. “We had to do adjustments in our system in the prices of the products and of course the cost and the impact on sales. However, I’ve been able to manage it and this year we are implementing new ideas,” Indira says.

Those ideas include offering classes for the first time. “The first class was a complete success and I’m already offering the next workshop, which will be on April 18,” she says.  In the classes, the participants learn how to decorate a cake “but the most important thing is that they have fun. People get to know other people and network,” she says.

With Mungenast’s guidance, Indira also upgraded her marketing and social media channels and began working with influencers to help promote her business. “I have YouTube, Instagram and TikTok [channels], and create content where I provide information for people so they can learn how to create great cakes or how to bake certain recipes.” In addition, Mungenast put her in contact with an instructor in Quickbooks, and he is constantly recommending programs she could sign up for or grants she could go after.

Indira’s advice to other entrepreneurs: “Have a strategy, a business plan, before you jump in. Also, there’s a lot of help out there for small businesses but the problem is that people don’t know that. Use these resources. It saves time and money. I can tell you that after eight years, I wish I could have found this help before.”

Indira said it was a challenge starting a business in a country with different laws and processes as an immigrant, starting a new life in Miami by herself. “I wasn’t as planned as I should have been but sometimes the journey teaches you. I started from scratch, and little by little, I have built a great team and a solid company. It’s a small business, but I think that what I give to my community fulfills a need that was there and that nobody was paying attention to before.”

She has three employees now. Over the last couple of years, she has participated in competitions on the Food Network. “We didn’t win, but the experience by itself, just to be there, makes you feel like a winner,” she says.

Indira’s culinary skills were entirely self-taught until last year when she earned her pastry chef certification from an academy run by Amaury Guichon, a famous French pastry chef in Las Vegas. “I needed to do this for me, which is eventually going to be good for the company. I needed to get all this knowledge, I needed to learn more to develop more products.” This year she is exploring new flavors and ways to improve her recipes.

“I love challenges, everything that pushes me to learn and get better. Today I feel very fulfilled because when I look back on how I made all this out of nothing, I feel very, very proud of myself.”

Vegan Art by Indira



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