Interview with: Rooney Girl Bake Shop

Name: Maria Nicoletti
Age: 36
Location: Garden Grove, CA
Occupation: Customer Service Manager, Small Business Owner

Can you please tell us a little about yourself? 
My name is Maria Nicoletti and I live in Orange County city of Garden Grove in CA (originally from NYC).  My bakery is online but I do participate in the Great Park Sunday Farmers’ Market in Irvine twice a month. When I’m not baking or decorating, I spend time with my husband of 12 years as well as my adorable boston terrier Rooney for whom I named the company after.  I also love to do things that bring out my creativity like sculpting and quilting.  On top of all this I still tackle a full time job in LA as a customer service manager in the garment industry but I hope someday to be able to focus on my cupcake business 100%.  

What inspired your love of cupcakes?  
I’ve always loved desserts of all kinds - making them as well as eating them. I have always been the go to person for desserts at family and social gatherings and always focused on bite size treats like cookies, truffles, fudge, and of course cupcakes.  I just love sharing my desserts with people and seeing the joy a little sugar brings them. My mom was a huge influence on my love for baking. Growing up, I have such fond memories of being by her side while she prepared our family’s traditional greek desserts, some of which I pay homage to in cupcake form on my menu (ie: greek goddess/baklava). 

How did your company begin? 
Years ago, I attempted to start a cookie business in NY but never quite got it off the ground because my husband and I spontaneously transformed our lives by moving out to CA.  Since then, I’ve always had the lingering desire to continue my pursuit of entrepreneurship and turn my passion for baking into a business. But, I never had the courage to try again until last year when, believe it or not, I saw an episode of The Cupcake Girls on WE TV and their intro says something like they didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t have a business plan... and that just triggered something inside me and I proclaimed to my husband, Honey, we are going  to create our own cupcake empire!” Since then, I’ve devoted nearly every waking moment to building the RooneyGirl brand. I take pride in the fact that I create all my recipes from scratch. I don’t use recipes from the Internet or cookbooks.  I am not culinary trained but have learned to develop recipes through bakers formulas and after lots of trial and error, I’ve been able to  achieve moist, rich, fluffy, tender cupcakes that so many people love.   

I know Rooney Girl Bake Shop is celebrating its first birthday soon, what would you say were the biggest triumphs and obstacles you faced as a small business owner in your first year? 
RooneyGirl BakeShop just turned 1 year old on 2/12/12 and this has been such an incredible year, above and beyond anything I imagined.  Nurturing this tiny little business from nothing into a steadily growing clientele has been a great accomplishment for me especially since I’m relying strongly on word of mouth and its just reassuring to know that the quality of my cupcakes speaks volumes about my abilities as a baker and entrepreneur.  It was a year full of many rewards because I’ve been able to donate cupcakes and other services  to some non profit organizations that support causes very near and dear to my heart like  Icing Smiles, Boston Buddies, and Cupcake Camp Cerritos.  I also vowed that within my first year I wanted to be a part of a farmers market in Orange County and I achieved that goal within 10 months.  However, this has not been an easy process by far.  Start up capital has been minimal and the investment in a kitchen rental, permits, licenses, equipment, etc... really adds up quickly.  In addition, finding the time to juggle my full time job, family, and RooneyGirl BakeShop, time is non existant and sleep definitely loses out.  But thanks to an extremely patient and supportive husband, my dreams have come true and the joys I’ve experienced far outweigh any stress I have endured this last year.  

What advice would you have for other aspiring bakers who want to turn their passion into their business?  
Everywhere you turn there is a new cupcake business popping up so an aspiring baker really has to concentrate on their product development and make sure their quality really stand out above the rest.   Follow your dreams and there is no time like the present to explore a business venture.    Don’t lose sight of the reasons you decided to embark on this cupcake journey.  Do this for  the love of cupcakes and for wanting to share your baked masterpieces with others – you can’t expect to make money right away so you really have to focus on the pure enjoyment of it all.  It’s an uphill climb but well worth the energy and sweat.  The rewards of achieving personal success far outway the obstacles you will have to overcome. 

Aside from your amazing looking cupcakes, what else does your bakery sell? 
I really love to work with fondant and gumpaste to sculpt cupcake decorations like flowers, characters, and anything to match a client’s party theme. I even opened and etsy store to ship my decorations across the country.  My bakeshop also offers other small desserts like cake pops, macarons, mini cheesecakes, and small cakes but I can pretty much bake anything upon request.  I’m also experimenting with gluten free cupcakes and they have been very well received at the farmers’ market.
If you had to choose, what would you say is your favorite cupcake flavor? That’s a tricky question since I love all my flavors so much but I’d have to say my favorite is coco-lime paradiso which is a coconut lime cupcake with lime curd filling and a coconut vanilla frosting.  I have won local contest awards for my pink lemonade, greek goddess (baklava), and his majesty (banana/peanut butter), and fire & ice (lime/jalepeno/avocado/tequila) cupcakes. 

What is your favorite thing about cupcakes?  
I love that they are individual cakes that you don’t have to share with anyone – you get one all your own – so it brings about that nostalgic feeling of a being a kid in a candy store with not a care in the world.  I love that you can doll them up for a special occasion or keep them simple for everyday treats.  I love the endless varieties of flavors and the creativity they inspire.  

Is there anything else you’d like to say? 
I have developed my own cupcake recipes, taking classic flavors to new levels, and strive for moist tender crumbs in every bite.  I use high quality ingredients like belgian chocolate, organic cocoa, madagascan vanilla, and organic dairy products.  My cupcakes are baked with love and much care is taken into making sure my clients keep coming back for more.  I love decorating and can bring any theme to life with my fondant and gumpaste decorations – the possibilites are endless. 


Nichelle said…
Great interview Maria, The world should know how great your cupcakes taste!