Success tastes sweet for Mari Angeles Rubio, who was selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Young Entrepreneur Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Florida. Rubio, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, moved to Miami to turn her passion for cooking into a reality.
Following a six-month internship in Southern Italy, Rubio graduated with her degree and went home to Santo Domingo to spend the holidays with her family. Struggling with idle hands and time, she began experimenting with a pecan pie recipe. This experience proved life changing as the recipe was so well received by her friends and family.
After returning to Miami, Rubio took the remaining $50 from her weekly allowance and bought ingredients to bake her first batch of pecan pies. In less than a year, relying only on word of mouth, Rubio found herself, along with her mom and aunt, looking for a company name and kitchen space.
Thus, Casa Gioia, which translates to “house of joy” in Italian, was born.
Today, Rubio has hired additional staff members to keep up with the demand for her bake-to-order dessert business, which prides itself on delivering products to customers often while they are still warm.
Mari sought additional help in growing her business so contacted the Florida SBDC at FIU. Florida SBDC at FIU, the Small Business Development Center at Florida International University’s College of Business, provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Florida SBDC at FIU consultant Nile Kirec assisted Mari in building a strategic plan to create brand awareness leveraging the little resources she had at the time. The center has been able to further work with Mari on getting into a commercial kitchen to help increase her capacity and staff, as well as to improve her marketing and financial management efforts
For Rubio, her selection as Young Entrepreneur Small Business Person of the Year is humbling.
"Ever since I was 8 years old I knew in my heart that I wanted to be in the kitchen," said Mari. "For a girl that started her business selling to friends and family, the SBA Young Entrepreneur Award is a huge accomplishment! I hope to pay it forward by inspiring other chefs and entrepreneurs, just as those who came before me inspired me to turn desserts into a successful business."
- Mari Angeles Rubio, Founder- Casa Gioia