Part II: The Sweet Taste of Collaborative Success — Meet the Cake Boss Ladies

Danny de la Cruz @ VRAI Magazine

by Danny de la Cruz

Creating not only beautiful, but delicious desserts, are what bakers and creative artists, Rechie Valdez and Frances Murray are all about. Get to know these talented boss ladies and be sure to see their approach to collaborative success.

Meet Rechie Valdez of Chietopia

VRAI Magazine (VM): Why did you start your own baking business?

Rechie: Chietopia represents my passion for artistic creation and design. For over a decade I’d been searching for an outlet to channel my ideas. I had tried several media: painting, drawing and design, just to name a few. During my second maternity leave, I started baking random things like muffins and cookies for my kids. One recipe led to another and I could not stop. I continued baking more challenging recipes and perfecting different techniques. Before I knew it, I found my creative outlet. I discovered something that made my heart beat loud and my head spin with ideas–that’s how I knew for certain that I was on to something. Why Chietopia? By definition Utopia is an ideal place or state. Chietopia represents everything that I love folded into one: baking, creativity and art — my ideal state of mind.

VM: Do you specialize in any type of baked goods? Do you have a signature dessert?

Rechie: I specialize in macarons, sweet tables and buttercream/fondant cakes. I would have to say based on customer feedback and orders, my signature dessert would be my ube/taro drip cakes/cupcakes.

VM: How does your background influence what you bake?

Rechie: I was born in Zambia, Africa, have a Filipino background and was raised in Canada. These unique characteristics have provided me the platform to fuse traditional cultural influences with what is modern and current. For example, the ube/taro cake I previously mentioned is a traditional Filipino flavour.

VM: What’s your best advice to someone wanting to start their own business?

Rechie: I have several, but here is my top advice based on my experience so far:

A) Be brave and believe in yourself: If you truly believe you have a great product or service that you can offer others, then take the plunge and have the courage to put yourself out there. Believing in yourself is truly important because owning a business will have different challenges and you’ll need to be able to dig deep sometimes when things are tough and will yourself forward. Self-motivation and ambition when starting something new is your single most important asset.

B) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: When you own a business, you will often need/want to take calculated risks or make important decisions to reach your goals. Oftentimes we fear what other people may say/think, or we assume a certain outcome. Fears should help caution you, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying something new.

VM: You’re a big believer of collaboration, but are there any tips for how to avoid pitfalls or challenges when working with another person who doesn’t report to you?

Rechie: Collaborating with anyone will require compromise. You will need to learn how to work together by taking time to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, I relied on Fran’s experience in the industry to provide her advice/expertise. Whereas, Fran would try some new ideas that I had to elevate our projects. Trust and communication are key. If you want/need to collaborate with other people, you need to be willing to listen to new ideas and to be open to feedback. If you have a ‘my way, or the highway’ mentality then nobody wins. Collaborating means having equal partnership. Sharing and contributing equally, respecting each other’s views and acting professionally can avoid most pitfalls and challenges.


Meet Fran Murray of Chez Fran Desserts

VM: Why did you start your own baking business?

Fran: I have always been creative–constantly drawing, baking and even crafting homemade paper decorations for family parties. I have wanted to own my own business since my teenage years. What kind of business? I had no clue. It was not until a few months after having my first child that I realized my passion and made the decision to take a leap of faith and turn my passion for baking into a business. I wanted to show my children, through my actions, that “they can…”. I also wanted to share my passion with the world via this creative medium. The journey thus far has been exhilarating.

VM: Do you specialize in any type of baked goods? Do you have a signature dessert?

Fran: I bake all things decadent. I am often experimenting in the kitchen. It is because of this deep-rooted desire to create from scratch, I find myself caring deeply about what the quality, flavour and overall experience of my clients will be when they bite into any of my delectables. While my clients often exclaim; “Wow, they look too pretty to eat!”, I care more about the taste. Hence, our tag line; “taste you can experience”. I specialize in baking elegant cakes as well as decorating dessert tables which allow me the opportunity to bake an array of desserts. The most repeated orders are for our dessert cups, also referred to as shot glass desserts. Just imagine walking around a venue with a trifle or deconstructed cheesecake in one hand and holding a mini spoon in your other hand with your pinky finger sticking out. Yes, yummy and fancy. Elegantly adorned drip cakes, cupcakes and French Madeleines are also often requested.

VM: How does your background influence what you bake?

Fran: What I bake and how I present what I bake is influenced by my years of observing my Mom in the kitchen and baking on my own at my Aunt’s farm in Northern Ontario. My Aunts had the best collection of dessert recipe books and oh did I love going through them and excitedly choosing my next recipe to bake! This is probably the reason why I’m still a recipe junkie! I experienced spring and summertime fun, picking and baking with the freshest and sweetest strawberries, raspberries and blueberries I’ve ever tasted. Christmas at the farm was my favourite time of the year. Every day for the few days leading up to Christmas, I felt a big warm hug in the house from the smell of shortbread cookies, European delights and rum cake that I helped to bake. As you can see, baking in my family is like a celebration and enjoyment of life.

VM: What’s your best advice to someone wanting to start their own business?

Fran: It takes courage to step out and pursue something that is near and dear to your heart. My advise is stand up straight with your shoulders back and chin forward and STEP OUT. GO FOR IT. You may very well stumble quite a few times. You may very well learn some not so nice lessons; however, chances are, they will make you stronger and wiser. Do not allow fear and doubt to take up residence in your heart and mind. Believe in you and your worth. Love what you do and find ways to gain new inspiration, as it will fuel your passion.

VM: You’re a big believer in collaboration, but are there any tips for how to avoid pitfalls or challenges when working with another person who doesn’t report to you?

Fran: So picture this–two insanely busy professionals, with families and various other commitments from different backgrounds, working passionately in the same industry and deciding to come together to create desserts for a few common clients. That was us! What could have ended up a disaster actually strengthened our passion for our craft, facilitated the growth of a friendship and showed us both of what we were made. How? We had scheduled impromptu check ins even when we had nothing major to discuss. It forced us to chat about what was and was not working, even in the midst of the madness that is wedding and summer event season. We communicated honestly, openly and gave ourselves permission to be transparent. Besides what we did, I would also suggest being open and willing to learn from each member of the team. So, get rid of the “I know it all” attitude and leverage each team member’s strengths.


Photography: Jonathan How of Made by Ten

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