With plans to expand throughout California, Oregon, and Washington, Natural Decadence is poised to take advantage of the high demand for delicious, artisan pies that are gluten-free and allergy friendly.
Undaunted but realistic, Lando offered the following observation and encouragement to other aspiring entrepreneurs: “It takes ten times as much money, ten times as much time, ten times as many people than you would have ever imagined. But if you have the passion – starting and running your own business is the greatest reward imaginable!” It all started with two lifelong friends who were touched by food allergies at the same time. Rosa May Dixon's personal story of having a young child with celiac disease is similar to the countless moms she meets running a gluten-free business. Her young daughter, Solea, was constantly sick, vomiting on average 17 times a day and measuring in the 1 percentile for her age and weight. After several misdiagnoses, a doctor confirmed that the true culprit was celiac disease. Celiac disease is treatable with a controlled diet, eliminating gluten.
Around the same time, Rosa's friend and Natural Decadence co-owner, Milia Lando, discovered it was her food sensitivities that had left her exhausted and virtually unable to work. In addition to gluten, Milia had to cut dairy and egg out of her diet.
With Rosa’s background in catering and making pastries, Milia encouraged her to create artisan products that were dairy, egg, nut, and gluten-free. They started Natural Decadence with one flavor pie in a few local stores in their hometown, Humboldt.
Their pie caught the attention of a Whole Foods' food forager, and a year later their signature pies - Lemon, Pumpkin and Chocolate - are in natural grocers throughout Northern California, including 25 Whole Foods Markets.
Natural Decadence soon found itself facing the dilemma every small business owner hopes to have, how to scale up effectively. “We were not only facing launching the business, but we were growing at a rate we never anticipated, which is great but can be overwhelming,” Dixon explained.
In the process of navigating the many challenges of expansion, Dixon and Lando were referred their local SBDC. “We have been amazed at the amount of support we’ve received. We can honestly say we would not be where we are today without their support!” Lando exclaimed.
They attended most of the classes offered by the SBA and SBDC, and they met frequently with counselor Sandy Neal, Catherine DeSanchez, and Kathryn Ebowitz. Neal helped support Dixon and Lando on almost every aspect of their business: introducing them to key people, prepping them for meetings, writing a business plan and reviewing financials. Neal was also of great help in securing a grant that allowed Natural Decadence to move to the industrial kitchen they use today. Getting a kitchen that could support the increased demand for their product was a crucial part of their growth. In addition, DeSanchez helped them address their marketing needs, and Ebowitz worked with them on understanding QuickBooks.
Dixon and Lando are mindful of their rapid growth. “Managing and meeting major demand when you’re small can be tough. There is cash flow and money management, we’ve had to relocate our kitchen twice in a year, and manage a full staff (5 bakery employees, 2 owners, and 3 independent contractors) in the meantime. We want to meet the demand, but we also want to have smart and sustainable growth,” said Dixon.