Dalana Lara Turned Her Passion for Baking Into a Cookie Biz

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Hi, Dalana! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:

Hi, I’m Dalana, founder of The Cookie Mania. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, I moved to the U.S. in 2015. My lifelong passion for baking was always a part of me, even though I went to college and graduated as an accountant. Beyond balancing books, I’m also deeply committed to fitness, and I cherish my roles as a wife and mother to my two children, Giuliana and Gianmarco, as well as our two furry companions, Diego and Rocky. The journey to start my own business began unexpectedly last year, after my NY style chocolate chip cookies received overwhelming praise from family and friends. Despite my initial reservations, their encouragement made me see it as the perfect chance to combine my love for baking with my desire to spend more meaningful time with my daughter, Giuliana. That’s how my company came to life—a venture where I could transform my passion for baking into delightful treats meant for sharing with families and loved ones.

Passion is key for entrepreneurship! We’re so happy you found yours. What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?

What excites me most about being an Entreprenista League member is the unique opportunity it presents for mutual growth and learning within an all-women’s community. It’s the prospect of connecting with like-minded women entrepreneurs who are eager to share insights, experiences, and encouragement. This league embodies a spirit of collaboration over competition, creating a nurturing space where we can all benefit from each other’s successes and challenges. It’s a platform for empowerment, where each member’s journey adds value to our collective wisdom, driving us all towards greater achievements.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

The leap to start my business was driven by a deep-seated passion for baking, coupled with strong encouragement from my family and friends. Their unwavering support and belief in my skills transformed my lifelong hobby into a tangible dream. Witnessing their genuine enjoyment and hearing their positive feedback on my baked creations made me realize the potential impact of my passion on a larger scale. It was this blend of personal fulfillment and the encouragement of my loved ones that propelled me to turn my passion for baking into the foundation of my business.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Before embarking on my entrepreneurial journey, my professional background was in accounting, having graduated from college with a degree in the field. Beyond my academic achievements, I dedicated myself to being a full-time mom, a role that honed my organizational and multitasking skills. Additionally, I played a significant role in supporting my husband’s property management company, where I gained invaluable experience in business operations and management. This blend of formal education and practical experience in both family and business settings laid a solid foundation for starting my own business.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, becoming an entrepreneur was never part of my original plans; it all happened unexpectedly. The idea of owning a cookie business, or any business for that matter, never crossed my mind. My journey into entrepreneurship was sparked by a series of unforeseen events and opportunities that led me to where I am today. It was the combination of my passion for baking, the encouragement from those closest to me, and the realization that I could share something special with the world that ultimately guided me down this path. This adventure into entrepreneurship has been both surprising and rewarding, illustrating how life can take you on unexpected paths when you’re driven by passion and supported by loved ones.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

When I first launched my business, my initial vision was to keep it small-scale, focusing on occasional baking sessions, especially around the holidays, when I anticipated orders from individuals wanting to gift cookies to employees and stores looking to offer them to customers. My marketing strategy was grassroots and community-focused. I decided to leverage local events as a platform to introduce my brand and products directly to potential customers. By attending these events, I aimed to create a personal connection with the community, believing that the quality of my cookies and the passion behind my baking would speak for themselves. The strategy was to start with word-of-mouth marketing, relying on the positive feedback and referrals from those who sampled and loved my cookies. This approach allowed me to maintain a personal touch, which I believed was essential for building a loyal customer base. And so far, it’s been going well. The response from the community has been positive, with interest and orders gradually increasing. While the strategy primarily unfolded as envisioned, the business’s scope and reach have been growing, which is both exciting and challenging. It’s a continuous learning process, and I’m constantly looking for ways to adapt and expand my marketing efforts to align with the business’s evolving dynamics.

What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?

The biggest challenge I’ve encountered on my entrepreneurial journey has been finding the right balance between my roles as a mom and as a business owner. The demands of starting and running a business, coupled with the responsibilities of motherhood, presented a unique set of challenges that required me to rethink my approach to time management and prioritization. Thankfully, my husband has been an incredible support, stepping in to help manage our family’s needs, and allowing me to dedicate the necessary time and energy to the business. Additionally, friends have offered their support, providing both practical help and emotional encouragement during especially busy times. From this experience, I’ve learned the invaluable lesson of seeking and accepting help when needed. It’s taught me that it’s okay to not do everything on my own and that leveraging my support network can make a significant difference in managing the pressures that come with balancing family life and a burgeoning business. This challenge has also highlighted the importance of setting clear boundaries and dedicating specific times for work and family, ensuring neither is neglected. It’s a continuous learning process, but each day brings me closer to achieving a harmony that works for both my family and my business.

Accepting help is such an important lesson! What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

The accomplishment I’m most proud of to date is the overwhelmingly positive feedback I’ve received about my cookies, both in messages and through our success at events. There’s something incredibly rewarding about hearing directly from people who enjoy the fruits of your passion and hard work. Selling out at events has been a tangible measure of that success, reinforcing the idea that what I’m doing resonates with others. This recognition not only validates my efforts but also fuels my motivation to continue. It’s these moments of connection and appreciation that keep me going and fill me with a sense of fulfillment and pride in my work.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Yes, I definitely believe in the importance of work/life balance. It’s crucial not just for personal well-being but also for maintaining productivity and creativity in one’s work. For me, the key to achieving this balance lies primarily in organization. Being organized allows me to clearly define the boundaries between work and personal time, ensuring that each gets the attention it deserves without one overshadowing the other.

What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?

Reflecting on the journey of entrepreneurship, a pivotal piece of advice that I wish I had embraced from the beginning is the significance of networking and building a strong support community. When I first started my Entreprenista journey, I underestimated the power of connection and the impact it could have on my business.

What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?

I’m thrilled to share a milestone that truly means the world to me, especially as my business is still in its early stages. Despite the challenges of starting up, I’ve managed to sell out at shows, an achievement that not only fills me with pride but also reaffirms the love and hard work I pour into my products.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

As we look to the future, I’m filled with excitement about the path that lies ahead for our business. Currently, we’re in the process of trademarking our brand, a crucial step in safeguarding and solidifying our identity in the marketplace. This move is not just about protection; it’s about laying the groundwork for the next big leap—opening our first physical shop. But why stop there? My vision extends far beyond a single location. We dream of bringing our brand to every state, creating a network of shops that embody our passion for quality and community. This ambitious goal reflects our belief that the sky is the limit for what we can achieve. Over the next few years, you can expect to see us grow from our humble beginnings to a nationwide presence, each step driven by our dedication to our craft and the support of our incredible community. So, stay tuned—exciting times are ahead, and we can’t wait to share each milestone with you.

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