SBA Loan helps satisfy Mount Washington’s sweet tooth
PITTSBURGH – Vickie Pisowicz still applies the numerous math and science courses she learned at Princeton and Harvard universities when she whips up pastries at the Grandview Bakery and Sweet Shop on Mount Washington.
“Baking is basic science, you have to be precise and use logic to follow a recipe,” Pisowicz said. “And, on a more advanced level, you have to take into consideration the fluctuations in temperatures and humidity and how those elements affect the dough.”
It may seem unusual to find a former corporate manager, who holds degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering coupled with a master’s degree in business and public policy at the helm of a bakery, but, for Pisowicz, community kneads blended with her personal desire.
“I developed a passion for desserts after reading an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about the art of cake decorating,” she explained. “And, years later, Mount Washington residents wanted a bakery.”
Pisowicz utilized her public policy background to pen a business plan and worked with the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation and First Niagara Bank to secure a location and a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) loan to open the full-service bakery complete with a candy and cake decorating supply center.
The 7(a) loan program is the agency’s most-used business loan program because of its flexibility in loan structure, variety of loan uses and availability. Last year, in the SBA Pittsburgh District Office 27-county footprint, 539 loans totaling more than $125 million were pumped into the Western Pennsylvania economy.
“I was familiar with the SBA and used the funds for equipment. The SBA is a fantastic resource,” Pisowicz added. “My loan was processed quickly and it was a great experience working with the SBA.”
Bakery boss Pisowicz assembled a professional crew, consisting of a manager, baker and cake decorator, opening the bakery in Oct. 2011.
”We’re a full-service bakery offering doughnuts, cupcakes, wedding and special occasion cakes,” she said. “We also have a small wholesale business that we hope to grow.”
Pisowicz said she believes bakeries are more of a community resource versus a small business.
“People are taken back to their childhood when they step into a bakery,” she explained. “And usually one is there to celebrate a happy and special occasion.”
This month, in observance of George Washington’s birthday and Valentine’s Day, customers can purchase Mount Washington chocolate-covered cherry or Raspberry-almond kiss cupcakes
“It had been 20 years since the community had a bakery,” she stated. “They have been so supportive, that our sales have increased 15-20 percent each year”
In turn, Pisowicz assists local groups.
“Bakeries are a tough business as product shelf life is only a day or so and customers like to be spontaneous versus placing an order,” she explained. “We have a donation/pickup program where a church, homeless shelter and girls’ organization take our leftover products.”
SBA Pittsburgh District Director Kelly Hunt said it’s rewarding to see small business owners, community leaders and lenders using SBA programs to better neighborhoods.
“The Grandview Bakery and Sweet Shop is a perfect example of an entrepreneur researching and meeting the needs of a community,” Hunt stated. “This month the SBA is launching a ‘Sweet on Small Business’ program, and it’s obvious that not only are we sweet on this bakery, the city is too.”
“Today’s SBA: Smart, Bold, Accessible”