Bliss on wheels, curbside

Stefanie Wallace
January 31, 2013
Written by
The dictionary defines bliss as perfect happiness or great joy. Cynthia Pacheco uses the word to describe everything wonderful in her life: her children, her husband, and if it isn’t clear by the name of it, her business.

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The custom-built bakers rack holds 16 trays and is built into the wall of the truck. Photo courtesy Cynthia Pacheco.

 

Pacheco is the winner of the 2012 Innovator of the Year Award lead sponsored by Fuller Landau Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, and co-sponsored by Puratos and Hallmark Insurance.

She owns Curbside Bliss Cupcakes, Canada’s first mobile cupcake kitchen, based out of Mississauga, Ont. Her custom-built truck isn’t used just for delivering – Pacheco bakes, ices and decorates her cupcakes in it and, like her slogan says, brings bliss curbside at events and through special orders. Although I can already tell from her bubbly personality, warm smile and contagious laughter, Pacheco tells me she is very content, and her innovative company is a great source of her happiness. “I love going to work,” she says. “And I love food, but people really love food. When you do it well, you want to put your best into it.”

Years ago, baking was purely a hobby for Pacheco. Newly married, working in advertising before her two children, Mary, 7, and Matieus, 2, were born, Pacheco describes herself as the girl who always brought baked goods into the office. When she took a cake-decorating course at the local Michael’s craft store with a neighbour, her newfound love of decorating combined with a desire to try something outside of the corporate world lit a fire in her. Halfway through her maternity leave with son Matieus, Pacheco and her husband Tony discussed her options. She spent a few days a week working part time for a bakery during her maternity leave and was hooked. “Life is short but days are long,” she says. “You have to do something you love.”

She was inspired to start her own cupcake business. Owning a brick and mortar bakery crossed her mind, but the concept of a mobile cupcake truck came after seeing the excitement on people’s faces when an ice cream truck approached. “I thought, wouldn’t that be awesome, to bring something from a truck to people and have them walk away and be so happy? The ice cream truck drives around and brings people bliss. I wanted that.”

Pacheco’s attitude and enthusiasm have driven her to bake more than 14,000 cupcakes at events like the Royal Ontario Museum’s Friday Night Live and Scotiabank’s Nuit Blanche since Curbside Bliss opened in May – an impressive feat, especially considering the small space she works in. The 13- by seven-foot kitchen is housed in a bright blue diesel truck that was custom built from the ground up, weighing nearly 10,000 pounds. Plans for Curbside Bliss began in October 2011, with multiple meetings with the health department to ensure things went smoothly. Plans were laid out on the living room floor of the Pachecos’ Mississauga, Ont., home, with several blueprints drawn up. When the final approval from the health department came, the building of the truck began, and every last detail was considered. Despite having no resources to refer to, Pacheco researched every last detail and worked with the health department, determined to succeed. “When you invest that much time and money in something, you can’t give up. You just can’t.”

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The truck houses three mixers, a fridge, a sink and this countertop convection oven, which can bake 60 cupcakes in 14 minutes.

 
Her parents, John and Eunice Zielonko, have been involved since the early planning process, but besides them and her husband, Pacheco never breathed a word of her business plans to anyone until the truck was finished. “I didn’t want to jinx it! I just wanted to see if I could do it . . . and, if I could do it without opinion.” With a family of entrepreneurs, including her parents and grandparents, innovation is in her blood. “They all started successful companies and have been such a motivation and inspiration for me to start my company and to keep going,” she says. Her mother agrees: “She’s inherited a little bit of the entrepreneurial spirit of the family . . . she’s been a go-getter all her life,” Eunice says. Stepping away from the corporate world is a risk, but Eunice says her daughter’s cautiously independent attitude has been a huge benefit. “We were quick to encourage her because we knew that it would be something that would take off because it wasn’t too popular yet. She proceeded quite diligently and she went full-force. We stepped up to do whatever we had to do.”

Pacheco has her operation down to a science. She can bake 60 cupcakes in 14 minutes in her countertop convection oven, and by the time the fourth batch is out of the oven, the first one is ready to be frosted (each tray takes about four minutes to frost). With three mixers, a fridge, a three-compartment sink, a custom bakers rack that holds 16 trays and a generator that takes up three feet, organization and strict game plans are necessary – especially when you add people. But it’s all part of the process, Pacheco says. “When I think of a food truck, I think of preparing the food in the truck – not loading into it and selling from it. When you wrap your head around the spacing, it’s completely doable. A lot of people don’t even have that square footage for an office. When I’m there baking, I’m a machine. That’s my office now.”

Social media is a huge part of her business, and Twitter is her main way of communicating her location and daily flavours. “It’s the only way to be with a food truck,” she says of social media. “The first thing I do in the morning when we go on the road is send out a tweet.” She uses it to send reminders of events and photos of new products, like the gourmet doughnuts she’s been testing out. She tries to make her cupcake batter the night before to save some time, and quantity-wise, she has hit her stride in determining what’s needed. “We bake around 200 – if we sell out, that’s great, and if not, we trade them off for food at the other food trucks!”

She calls Curbside Bliss a family business. An electrician by trade, her husband Tony has become the “best piper ever.” Her parents help when needed, as do her cousin and sister-in-law. “About 70 per cent of the time I don’t finish and I ice when we’re there,” she says. “But that’s one of the nice things. If someone doesn’t want a cupcake with a certain icing we’re happy to change it for them. It’s amazing how many concoctions have come out of it!” For large orders, like September’s Nuit Blanche event in Toronto, a rental kitchen can be necessary. “We did just under 3,000 cupcakes – and only about 1,600 were baked in the kitchen. We did the rest in the truck with three people in it! It was insane, but amazing energy. We had people lined up until 5:30 in the morning . . . they just keep you going.”

Pacheco’s days off are spent replying to e-mail requests, preparing corporate orders, coming up with new recipes (on top of the 35+ plus flavours she already offers) and meeting with suppliers. “We’re limited on space, so I can’t take advantage of mass buying. We have to buy smart and build relationships with suppliers that understand I want to order a skid but can only take 10 per cent of it at a time.” The quieter winter months give her the chance to focus on scouting new locations for summer 2013, and taking corporate and special event orders. “We may bake in the truck but our company is so much more. Many of the food trucks have already closed up for the winter but we are still booking jobs, being curbside and delivering all year round.”

Pacheco’s wheels are constantly turning, but she takes time to enjoy every moment. “I have a blissful life. How can you not love what you do when all your worlds are just coming together?”

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