ACCION SUCCESS STORIES: CARLENE’S BIG DAY IN BOSTON
Ask Carlene O’Garro to describe the last 24 hours at her small business, and two things become clear: she loves her product, and she knows the flow of her shop.
After the recent blizzard in Boston forced her to close for two days, she opened back up and restarted a familiar routine: Baking fresh croissants and sticky buns for her 7:30 am regulars, chatting about the weather and connecting with the grandkids of her older customers. The second wave, like clockwork, came right at 7:50 to 8 am…
“Everything has been an uphill struggle, in a positive way,” Carlene says. “I had to earn everything I had, every step of the way.”
Today marks the grand opening of Carlene’s small business, Delectable Desires Pastries. Five years ago, Carlene recalls walking through West Roxbury and deciding she wanted to open a small business in the neighborhood. “It seems a little surreal,” Carlene says, reflecting on her new storefront that resides 10 minutes from where she grew up. “When I walk in and turn the key, I think, is this really my shop or am I working for someone else? It’s a funny feeling.”
With the help of Accion and the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program, Carlene secured financing and perspective to strengthen her business’ future. By attending speed coaching events, she realized she had to relinquish some of the different roles inherent in running a business, deciding to hire a bookkeeper who could help manage her business’ financial health. She also used a microloan to purchase equipment, including two confection ovens, a walk-in fridge, and a display case.
“I was able to handle the monthly payments,” Carlene says. “Everything in the space is paid for, and I don’t need to worry about leasing any equipment.”
Little did she know that her graduation from the Pastry Chef program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Education would eventually give her the opportunity to become an expert in construction and permitting. With the help of family and friends, she spent six hard months bringing her storefront up to code to pass inspection. At times working 18-hour days, she fixed up walls, floor boards, and the ceiling, becoming an expert in drywall, wonderboard, and grout.
The experience has Carlene convinced that she can tackle any new challenges that may come her way. For now, she enjoys making neat, clean wedding and designer custom cakes with intricate detailing that convinced one of her customers to wait one full day before cutting into the cake.
“You can do whatever you want, “ Carlene says. “You can manifest anything. That’s what keeps me motivated.”
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