The Global Celebrity caught up with beloved local SoCal Baker, Elisa Marie. We were curious to know what has led her to pursue her dream for baking.
Tell us about you… (give us your back story)
My dad was a pastor, so we did a lot of moving around when I was young, but my big “growing up” years were spent in Kentucky. I have distinct memories of baking next to my Momma, standing on an old bucket as she whipped up biscuit dough without a recipe. She didn’t need one. She could “feel” when the dough was ready. That’s what baking has always been to me; a feeling. Yes, you measure and test and adjust as needed, but it’s also something deeper. Something you reach out for with your heart and your hands. Something you do with great love and care.
Fast forward a little to my teenage years in Oklahoma. I started baking on my own there. My mom and dad were working a lot, so I tried to bake an after-dinner treat for the family as often as I could. I’d go through Momma’s little black book (of recipes) and bake whatever looked good to me that day. Sometimes it was great; other times, not so much. But I learned a little something every time I tried.
That’s pretty much how it went until I decided to do the restless small-town girl thing and follow my dreams to California. And just like always, wherever I went, baking followed. I had big dreams of being an actor, and I was pretty good at it, but I wore lots of other hats; jewelry salesperson, fragrance specialist, call center monitor, and even a nanny. I developed a habit of collecting “lost” boys and girls; people without a lot of family or friends nearby. I would throw dinner parties now and then, and I’d always save a little extra money to bake up something special for everybody. It was what I did to show my friends I cared.
Then came my six wonderful years in Chicago, where I finally figured, well, I’d been baking all my life. Why not try to make a living with it? Suddenly everything clicked. I loved baking professionally and I loved my job. I found my passion. I found my way into sweaty commissary kitchens and quirky art gallery-slash-coffee shop in Fulton Market, and I even got to stage at Girl & the Goat once. It was awful, I just wasn’t ready for it yet. But I kept baking, and eventually I worked my way into a Head Pastry Chef position in a corporate building in the heart of downtown. I personally made and assembled desserts for a building of over 1500 employees each and every day. Corporate catering was good, stable work, but something was missing. The “feeling” part of the job wasn’t baked in quite right.
Life eventually pushed my husband and I back to California, where I felt I was finally ready to take all these past bakers I’d been, and put them all together into my own business. A place where I could bake my own recipes, and answer a very sudden and very powerful need to reconnect with my Southern roots. And then there was Elisa Marie Baking. My baby. My dream. The home of “Fresh Baked Love”. I’ve come an awful long way with a little flour and butter and sugar. But for as far as I’ve come, I always know that when I bake, it feels like I’m back home cooking with Momma.
2. What is your dream and how will accomplishing your dream benefit you and others?
I want Elisa Marie Baking to become what people in and around Orange County think of when they need a sweet treat that brings them back to their childhood. I believe in the power of simple things that evoke simpler times; and we need that more than ever these days! For all the chaos and stress in the world today, I want Elisa Marie Baking to stand for moments of peace and pleasure in anyone’s day. That nostalgic little treat that makes you smile.
From a business perspective, I’d love to have my own brick-and-mortar bakery. A calm, relaxing place for people to come to and enjoy something handmade while they look at old books, sip coffee, and maybe make a memory or two.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the market scene! I love the freedom and connection to my customers that I have as a direct-to-consumer bakery. It’s been a great way to make new friends and connections, and hear first-hand what people think of the work I do. But I’m at a point in my life where I want a place to call home, and my brick-and-mortar will be it one day.
3. Who or what inspired you to pursue this dream?
Ohh, gosh. There are so many people that have inspired me along this journey. To begin with, my Mom, Mamaw, and Grandma Reba definitely had a large influence. They raised me on good Southern recipes and a strong work ethic. Then there’s my husband, Steve. He was the person who encouraged me to start Elisa Marie Baking in the first place and follow my dream. I couldn’t ask for a better life partner, marketing manager, and hype man. Lastly, I am continually inspired by women in the business of baking. Nancy Silverton taught me not to settle and to keep trying new things until I am completely happy with my product. Martha Stewart taught me the value of business savvy and not taking myself too seriously. And Kerry Diamond from the Radio Cherry Bombe Podcast and Magazine inspires me every week by telling the stories of women in food in a real and resonant way. Hearing the stories of all the women who came before me and found a way to succeed encourages me to no end, no matter how discouraged I may feel from time to time.
4. What challenges have you encountered while pursuing your dream?
Getting started, hands down. I’m a girl that needs to know what she’s doing before she does it, and the research part of starting my own business almost single-handedly stopped me dead in my tracks. There is so much to know, and so much more you have to find out as you go along! Fortunately, I have a great support system and plenty of fellow bakers to consult.
Deeper than that though…we’ve all got that voice inside us. The one that says, “Oh, it’s too much. Go find something good on Netflix instead. You’re not really good enough to do this.” You’ve just got to find the belief in yourself to say “Oh yeah?” and take that first step. And then another. And another. Then, one day, you look back and see how far you’ve come.
5. Who or what inspired you to keep pushing regardless of the challenges you’ve encountered?
My husband Steve. He’s got this great thing he tells me whenever something happens, good or bad. He just tells me “Keep going.” Simple right? Just two little words that have totally become my mantra for when things get overwhelming or I’m working through self-doubt. It reminds me that I can feel however I want or need to, as long as I don’t let those feelings make me quit. It’s done amazing things for me.
Then there’s Rollie, my irreplaceable cousin-in-law and the woman I want to be when I grow up. She always reminds me to never give up my power, and remember I’m the one in the driver seat of my own life.
Taking these two pieces of advice to heart daily helps me keep pushing toward my dream of one day owning my little Vintage Bakery. Having that clear goal in mind and knowing all these little steps along the way help keep me motivated even on the hardest of days.
6. Please provide final thoughts/advice for others in the pursuit of their own dreams.
They’re only dreams until you start making them real. It’s only crazy until it works. If it’s something you want, then you’re the only person that can make it happen. It’ll take a lot of work and a lot of time, but you love it, right? Then dedicate yourself to it. Read an article. Join a group. Give a little bit of every single day to doing whatever it is you’ve got to do to bring that thing in your head and your heart out into the world, where everyone else can appreciate it for the miracle that it is. Find people you can lean on that will help you through when things don’t seem like they’re moving as fast as they should. And try not to put a clock on your success. It’ll come in its own time. Not a moment before or after.
Most of all, though, start. Start today. Start this minute.
Start. And KEEP GOING.