A Sweet Business Venture

by | Jan 8, 2015

By Jeff LaBonte

Briana Brusa sells her cupcakes at the Holiday Craft Fair at Auburn High this last December.

Briana Brusa sells her cupcakes at the Holiday Craft Fair at Auburn High this last December. (Jeff LaBonte photo)

Even before there was Cake Addictions, Briana Brusa was addicted to baking cakes.  “I started baking when I was in 7th grade and just loved it” said Briana.  Now 18, Briana is not only an accomplished cake decorator but an entrepreneur as well.

Briana honed her baking and decorating skills for several years before selling her first cake about two and a half years ago, while attending Shrewsbury High School.  As word of Briana’s talent spread, she realized that cake decorating might just be more than a hobby.

“It’s so much fun” she said. So much fun, in fact, that during her junior year in high school, while looking at colleges, she realized that starting a full time cake decorating business was what she really wanted to do.

“I looked at several colleges, but I really only wanted baking, not the whole culinary thing” she said. “Then I looked at some cosmetology schools. But I did an internship with [cake decorator] Penny Eagleton in Worcester, and just realized the college route wasn’t for me right now.”

In addition to the internship, Briana improves her skills by scouring the internet for ideas and techniques. “I look at Pinterest a lot, and watch YouTube videos to learn new things” said Briana. She also offers to bake for friends, and will often bring cakes when she visits friends who are at college. Last March, Briana created and sold 200 cupcakes, and donated all the proceeds to celiac research.  “It’s for experience and because I like to do it” she added.

Baking and decorating cakes is one thing, but running a cake business is another. With no formal business training, Brusa has taken a learn-as-you-go approach to the business side of things.

One of Briana's cake designs (Submitted photo).

One of Briana’s cake designs (Submitted photo).

“Both my parents are self-employed, so I learn a lot from them” she said. Briana’s father, Chris Brusa, has owned and operated Central Mass Handyman since 1996.  Briana’s mother, Tracy Brusa, founded Paint 2Gether about a year ago.

One of Briana’s first trials by fire was when Briana learned that her residential kitchen would need Board of Health approval before she could produce cakes for sale out of her home.

“There was a lot of paperwork, and I had to get ServSafe certified” said Briana. “But the worst part was going in front of the Board of Health meeting because it was on television.”

In the end, only minor modifications to her kitchen and workspace were required in order for Briana’s to become the first Board of Health-certified residential kitchen in Auburn. “I have a separate room in my house where I do all the decorating” said Briana. “I had to get a separate counter and a separate refrigerator for the work room. But that was about all.”

Once all the permits and certifications were in order, Briana formally launched www.cakeaddictionsbybri.com in July of 2014, and things have taken off since.

When Briana is not busy with cakes and cupcakes, she also works with her mother in their art-painting event business. They offer guided group painting events such as a weekly paint n’ sip held on Monday evenings at Chuck’s Steakhouse in Auburn. They also run events for fundraisers, parties, even for scouting merit badges.

Tracy (left) and Briana Brusa at the 2014 Holiday Craft Fair at AHS.

Tracy (left) and Briana Brusa at the 2014 Holiday Craft Fair at AHS. (Jeff LaBonte photo)

According to Tracy Brusa, “We can hold an event at our home studio on Millbury St. in Auburn, at your location, or at a restaurant or hall. We are flexible.” You can check out upcoming events and prices on her website http://www.paint2gether.com/.

To supplement the business expertise available from her family, Briana has taken several online courses both in business and cake decorating. This has prompted a couple of new marketing ideas.

“I hope to start doing more wedding cakes” said Briana. “I am looking to do some new designs, less traditional looking.”

Another program Briana introduced is her cake subscription service. Sparked by a friend’s comment about receiving cupcakes each month from a mail order club, Briana launched a local cake subscription plan.

“This way people don’t have to think about it” says Briana. “Your cake can be decorated any way you want. They can be for a holiday, birthday, anniversary, anything you like. With the subscription, you just call and tell me what you’d like and when you need it.”

In addition to the convenience, the subscription plan saves customers anywhere from $20 to $35 per cake. You can choose from four different plans, starting at $10 a

"Popcorn" cupcakes (Submitted photo)

“Popcorn” cupcakes (Submitted photo)

month for 3 custom decorated cakes throughout the year. The “Elite” plan offers 21 cakes a year for $720, which she says would be great for a business, organization, or catering company that wants to outsource the cake part of their business.

Ideally, Brianna likes to have about a two week lead time on cake orders. She will do her best to accommodate last minute requests. “I need 2 days at a minimum” she said.  “But as long as I am not terribly busy, I can usually do last minute.”

What does the future hold for the youngest of the Brusa entrepreneurs? “I plan to stay working out of my home kitchen and just grow my customers” Briana says. “I have thought about a shop, but I work well alone and with the added cost and work, it’s not what I want right now.”

Editor’s Note – In the course of my “field research”, for this article, naturally I had to sample one of Briana’s creations – an elaborately decorated cupcake I picked up at the December Rec and Culture Holiday Craft Fair at Auburn High School. It was beautiful and delicious. As you can see from the included photos, her cake and cupcake designs are creative and original. You’ll want to get on board before Briana and her wonderful cakes get swept off to be the next Food Network hit!