ROOT – Like most rampant single moms with a toddler, it’s not easy for Cristal Sanchez to get a full night’s sleep. But it’s not just because her almost two-year-old son is keeping her awake; she also has to take care of a cheesecake.
With two full-time jobs as a mom and at a local bank, she spends at least 20 extra hours creating specialty cheesecakes for SancheeZe cakes, his small bakery business with specialty cheesecakes made from scratch at his home near Three Mile Road.
“I cook when he sleeps,” Sanchez said, patting her son Sal’s head as she explained her tedious process of baking cheesecakes. It follows the “low and slow” method of taking extra time between cooks.
“But I constantly have to either set alarms and wake up to move the cheesecakes because I have work the next day,” she added.
Sanchez’s cheesecakes range from traditional with a strawberry filling to rich and decadent Oreos-based cheesecakes. It also offers gluten-free options that are suitable for ketogenic diets.
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As a single parent
A single mother, Sanchez decided to start selling cheesecakes as a therapeutic creative outlet and as a way to earn money at the same time.
“I earn a living wage, but even two parents struggle,” she said of making money. “So I was like, ‘I have to do something.'”
Prior to starting his business, Sanchez was in a “deep place” battling depression and comparing himself to others. She was also fighting for custody of her son. After resolving the custody issue, Sanchez took up his baking hobby and began serving cheesecakes to friends and family. She then felt encouraged to gift them to others, so she started her small business in July.
“It took a lot of soul searching,” she said.
“What can you do to make your future better for yourself and for him (Sal)? She thought. “I wanted to have some independence and be able to say to myself: Hey, I can do this on my own.”
Sanchez’s parents and other members of her support system look after Sal, giving her more time to fill orders when she is overwhelmed, for which she is incredibly grateful.
New small businesses
Sanchez is part of the approximate 440,000 small businesses which opened in early summer 2021, according to NPR, which reported that “the 16-month period from March 2020 to June 2021 marks a record for business start-ups.”
In the NPR report, economist Julia Pollak said recessions and economic downturns – like the one created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – can create ideal conditions for people to start their own businesses.
“Many people suddenly had the time and, in the case of COVID, the financial resources in the form of stimulus checks, to consider entrepreneurship,” the report said.
Take a “whip”
Sanchez was the family’s designated pastry chef and she often brought desserts to family gatherings, she said. Her roots in baking come from her mother, who was a baker for a local restaurant during Sanchez’s childhood.
“She passed on her recipes,” Sanchez said.
While she could make other desserts – like the tres leches cake, a Hispanic dessert made from sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of sweetened milk – she chose cheesecakes as her niche.
“I’m not a cake lover,” Sanchez said. “I just feel like it’s too dry. But I really like the cheesecake.”
Her small business – along with many others that aren’t brick and mortar but instead sell online or on social media – lives online, which means she has to post often to get the word out, she declared.
The first time she had a client who was not in her circle of friends or family, she said she was “upset”.
“I wasn’t sure if it was really good enough to sell … I couldn’t wait for an answer. Whether it’s my first or my 20th cheesecake, I always look forward to an answer. But she said she loved it, and her family finished it all, and it was a sigh of relief, ”Sanchez said. “She was my first real client and now it’s a repeat.”
Sanchez describes herself as more introverted, so the idea of opening a new business was a bit difficult for her. But she “bit the bullet”, as she said; and encourage other single parents to do the same.
“Do it, get outside,” she said. “I’m looking at my very first cheesecake, three or four years ago, and I’m laughing… So do what you thought about it.”
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