A baklava baking entrepreneur shares her secrets on business success and reinventing herself, explaining how we can take the necessary steps that we sometimes must in order to change our lives.
Something to Chew On: Monthly Musings from a Baklava Baker, World Traveler, and Lifelong Entrepreneur
As we near the end of another year, we reflect on what we did — or didn’t — accomplish, and what went right and wrong for us, before we devise our personal and professional plans for the New Year.
I have been an entrepreneur since I was 25 years old (more than half my life!) when I launched a mortgage brokerage, followed by a travel agency when I was 26, and then my own baklava bakery at 35 — which I am proud to say I still run and operate today.
I have experienced different levels of success and happiness through my business ventures and have learned so much as well — especially during the times life forced me to pivot; or, as I like to say, the times I’ve had to “Reinvent Rita.”
Personal and business success only happens through change, reinvention
I’ve learned that to live a long, meaningful, and purposeful life, evolution is inevitable. There are times on each of our journeys that we need to revamp, refresh, and renew. Let me tell you how I have done this in the past, and relate three lessons I’ve learned along the way.
The first time I had to reinvent myself happened long before I became an entrepreneur. I grew up in a very controlling religious denomination that discouraged its members from seeking opportunities for higher learning.
I was an excellent student growing up, so my teachers, guidance counselors, and principals pulled me into their offices multiple times throughout my high school career to convince me to apply to universities. I have always been a free spirit and a questioner, and the summer after I graduated from high school I cut ties with the sect in which I had grown up and decided that I did very much want to get a college degree.
I visited Appalachian State University where several of my friends went and decided I would go there too. I took the SAT, applied, investigated every scholarship available, and was awarded the Chancellor’s Scholarship — Appalachian State’s most sought-after, fully paid academic scholarship at the time.
“Fear is real”
I began the following Fall and graduated four years later. After I resolved to leave my family’s religious roots and apply to ASU, I didn’t waste time or second-guess myself. And although I was afraid, I pushed forward anyway. I took the first step, and that step led to another and then another. While fear is real, and I acknowledged it, I didn’t let it delay or hinder my progress.
Take the first step, and then keep making courageous steps toward your new direction.
My former business partner and I started our travel agency on March 17, 1999 — St. Patrick’s Day — so I always said we had the luck of the Irish on our side. Within a couple months of launching, we had two employees, and by the nine-month mark we had eight employees. Less than 10 years later, we were generating seven figures in annual revenue. Our travel agency survived 9/11, withstood the airlines’ later filing for bankruptcy, and we endured the subsequent merging of many airlines trying to recover their bottom lines.
However, in 2008, I had grown miserable in the partnership and felt that it was time to leave. This was not just any decision to make, though. As a mother of two small children at the time, there was much to consider before making such a bold career move. In the end, I considered my options heavily and I made a calculated decision. If change is truly imminent and necessary, we can’t afford to make rash or impulsive determinations. Take time, sit down in a quiet room, and write out the pros and cons of a decision. When you’re ready to move forward, get the necessary professionals onboard to help you see it through.
“Burning the boats” sometimes necessary for business success
Lastly, after the decision is made to pivot/reinvent yourself, burn the boats. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The person who I learned this from said that it came from the Spanish invasion of Mexico back in 1519. It is said that the conquistador Hernan Cortes burned 10 of his and his men’s 11 ships, forcing his troops to march forward with no possibility of turning back during their fight to conquer the land and the Aztec people.
With no hope of retreating, the Spanish did overthrow their enemy and went on to colonize all of Mexico. Of course I’m not advising you to leave yourself with zero options; that’s extreme. I’m simply saying that once you make the decision to make a change (whether business or personal) make it, and then create a point of no return for yourself.
I did just this when I left the travel agency and started Sheer Ambrosia Bakery. In the process of gathering information about opening a bakery, I learned I’d need to spend upwards of $30,000 just on my first run of boxes, marketing material, website, etc. Well, I did it! I spent the money that I had to to start a baklava bakery, in the middle of a recession — and I didn’t look back.
That was 13 years ago and I still every now and then have to burn a few boats to get to the next level.
So there you have it: three of many lessons I’ve learned over the years as a young adult, woman, mother, and self-made entrepreneur. Afraid or not, take your next step in your evolution as a person or professional.
Your parents raised you the best they could, but at some point it is YOU who must decide who you will be in this life. Second, make carefully considered decisions; don’t just make them on a whim, hoping by the grace of God you made the right ones. And third, once you have settled on a move, don’t back down from it.
You have charted your course, so stick to it and enjoy the journey!
Rita Magalde owns and operates a baklava bakery in Draper, Utah, called Sheer Ambrosia Bakery. She is the author of “From Mrs. to Ms.—How To Pull Your Life Together When Your Marriage Falls Apart.”
To learn more about her bakery or to place an order, please visit her website.