517 Magazine Days of Giveaways

No Limits on Her Success

Growing up in Mexico, Lilian Chavira never dreamed she’d end up in Okemos, Michigan, of all places—but when her husband’s job moved their family to Okemos from El Paso, Texas i…

 

In a new town with two young children at home and her husband frequently away for work, the farthest from her mind was owning and operating a business. But, she says with a smile, “My business has shown me that anything is possible.”

And in the past two years, she’s proved that fact with the overwhelming success of her home-based business, Gellocake.

Q: What exactly is a Gellocake?

 

A: Gellocake is not just a bakery. It is actually an artistic concept. I use only the freshest ingredients for my cakes, flans and gelatins—there is actually no JELL-O™ involved, which many people think. There is a little something for everyone, including sugar-free and gluten-free; my dad was a diabetic, so I wanted to make something pretty, delicious and healthy.

Q: How did you get your start?

 

A: Well, after we moved to Michigan, I found my creative outlet in making cakes and gelatins. My very first Gellocakes were for church and other special people, like the young moms playgroup I was in. I would take a different dessert to them every week, to try out which recipes worked the best.

From there it was a domino effect, as one person ordered one, then two—then they told somebody else about how much they loved the product and they told somebody.

Q: Have you had any training?

 

A: I made cakes and sweets when I was young and my parents brought me up surrounded by beautiful food. They owned Lady Evelyn Gourmet Gelatins, named after my mother. She could make even a simple salad look fantastic. I decided to take a cake decorating class and knew it was the beginning of something fun.

Q: Your background is in marketing. How has social media helped you market Gellocake?

 

A: I have to be honest; I was not a fan of Twitter at first. But Facebook has been great; I had 100 fans after two weeks and I’m now working on videos for the Gellocake website (gellocake.com).

Q: What advice do you have for those business owners just starting out? gellocake4948

 

A: Faith. It is what has gotten me through. Perseverance—don’t give up. If you love something, God has given you that love for some reason. Everybody has a gift, a talent that we have to find and take the next step with and we have to act on it.

Seek out and commit to taking classes, most of them are free at the Meridian Asset Resource Center [MARC], Small Business Technology Development Center [SBTDC], Lansing Community College, the library. I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received from Michigan entities—they believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.

Q: The sour economy has affected everyone. How has it affected you?

 

A: It’s been tough times. The way we spend money now is different. I’ve kept my prices affordable, but I’ve gotten my name out and I’ve had a chance to show people the quality of my work.

I have also learned that change is constant; we have to adapt to change and in that process we can find innovation. Many great companies over time have had to adapt to change, especially in times of economic turmoil, like the Great Depression.

Q: You were awarded the 2009 Meridian Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. What was that like?

 

A: Really, really special. I was given the award in the same building I had received so many “no’s” in. I heard lots of “this isn’t going to work” and “this isn’t going to happen,” because of all the regulations and permits I needed to have for the bakery.

I was totally discouraged, but I have had great support—even from my kids, who I know look to me as an example. They have also helped me, if I ever need input on a children’s cake. Now I’m so thankful for the opportunity of getting my bakery properly licensed and some time later being honored with this award.

Q: How do you balance your personal and professional life?

 

A: It is not easy. I have to focus and know what my priorities are. If I commit to something, I do it; but I have to say no, too. Sometimes I’m up all night; it’s been tough—that’s why you have to love what you do.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

 

A: I just got a call recently from a guy who wants to sell my cakes in stores all over the country, he said he’s got customers ready to buy! I’m now working on the logistics of shipping and looking at franchising possibilities. I guess you can’t run without crawling first.

Chavira has proved that when it comes to succeeding at business, the sky is the limit no matter what one has to overcome. And just like the acorn on top of her Entrepreneur of the Year award, it’s true that great things may come from small beginnings.

Author: Sarah Wardell.
Photography: Terri Shaver.

 

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