How this Toronto 19-year-old started her own sweet and savoury baking business
A 19-year-old in Toronto has started her own sweet and savoury baked goods business serving alfajores, sugar cookies, ricotta cake, quince pie, empanadas, shepherd's pie and much more.
Her name is Maria Zanella, and she even makes seasonal items like panettone. She also bakes lots of items free of allergens like gluten, dairy or eggs, such as breads, butter tarts and apple tarts.
She's been known to make the occasional ultra-trendy cocoa bomb too, and has tried her hand at some classic French items like pain de mie, pain au lait and creme brulee.
The business is called Maria's Sweet and Savory, and despite Zanella's age, it's been years in the making.
"I started my business because I've had a passion for baking since I was eight years old. Since I was young, I've made the cake for everyone's birthday at home, desserts and baked in my free time because I enjoyed it, I still do to this day. I always wanted to have my own bakery in the future," Zanella told blogTO.
"In high school, I had the opportunity to take co-op and decided to get into the baking field and took it two years in a row. I knew that by taking co-op I would gain more knowledge/skills. I got to explore more options and see the behind-the-scenes in the industry. Taking co-op gave me the reassurance that this was the field I wanted to get into."
She was eventually hired by both places where she did her co-op work, all the while continuing to share her obsession with her high school community.
"In high school, I would always take baked goods to share with my teachers as well as my classmates. I would take something at least once a month. For example, during Christmas time I made over 300 sugar cookies and decorated them all myself, and shared them with everyone at school," says Zanella.
She's currently taking Baking & Pastry Arts Management, and used to work at her school before COVID-19 hit, but was always hoping to start up her business in 2021.
"Since I was unemployed it pushed me to get a head start on my business. So throughout the summer, I started making my business cards, stickers, got my business license, and designing my menu. I officially started my business in September 2020. I was originally planning to start it in September 2021," says Zanella.
"Before the pandemic hit I was planning on selling my baked goods in a mall in the pop-up stands during holidays such as Christmas, Valentines, Halloween. That was the way I was planning to get my business going and promote myself. So since I wasn't able to do that I had to adjust and figure out what to do."
Instead, she gave out samples to local community members like she'd always done, people like her dentist, teacher, neighbours, doctors and friends. With homework and preparing orders she doesn't have much spare time, but is always doing something for the business such as recipe testing when she has time.
"Since I was taking over the kitchen in my house when I had to cook with my ingredients and tools, my family helped me set up a kitchen in the basement where I now bake and have everything I need. I bake everything myself. I am an online business only," says Zanella.
"Many people just do it for the money, but I do it because it is my passion and the money is a bonus. I love baking because it is calming and my whole life I've loved making people happy with what I bake. The best feeling ever is when someone says they enjoyed my product."
There are fixed prices for her standard products, and she also accepts custom orders by DM or email for pickup or delivery.