Alumna’s Sweet Success – Pastries, Passion & Entrepreneurship
Ever since she was a little girl, Glion Alumna Blanca Bertely ’06 believed that delicious food was the fastest way to make someone feel at home. Her love of welcoming and pleasing others inspired her to get a Bachelor in Hospitality Management at Glion, where her interest for fine dining blossomed into a true passion for culinary arts.
She made the leap from passionate foody to entrepreneurship by co-founding her own bakery – Mi Cielo Patisserie, in Bordeaux, France – in 2016, with her husband Diego Cervantes, who is an acclaimed pastry chef.
Blanca admits that entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but her training at Glion and her career experience gave her the confidence follow her dream of offering the tastiest treats in town…and in France, that’s no small feat.
A pastry shop with a twist
Mi Cielo Patisserie isn’t a run-of-the-mill baguette and croissant factory, it’s a fine pastry shop with an exotic flair located in the vibrant city of Bordeaux, France. Their philosophy:
“We indulge our clients with a culinary experience filled with flavorful and seasonal fresh ingredients. Everything we do is from scratch and we’re proud of it. In addition, we are the only pastry shop in Bordeaux that does not use any artificial colorants or flavors to our delicious sweet treats. We also try to support our local community by buying local raw materials,” Blanca said.
Blanca’s interest for pastry began at a young age, at home.
“It began when I was a little girl, having my mom always baking fresh cakes for us was such a delight. Entering our home created that homey feeling with the sweet cake-baking smell. Back at home, we have a saying: a meal without dessert is no meal,” she added.
From hospitality career to entrepreneurship
Blancas travels and career in hospitality management, gave her the opportunity to appreciate fine food from everywhere.
“I worked as Culinary Office Manager for the Boca Raton Resort in Florida (Waldorf Astoria Collection) during my management training program where delightful dishes were prepared on a daily basis. I was surrounded by very talented, kind chefs who let me try incredible dishes. Also, the pastry kitchen was in front of my office, so it was hard to resist the daily temptation of fresh key lime pies and jumbo chocolate cookies!”
Next, at the Karisma Hotels and Resorts in Riviera Maya, Mexico, she worked as Regional Sales and Marketing Manager, where she was delighted to work for a hotel that put a lot of emphasis on gastronomy.
“It kept nurturing my passion for good, fresh food, as they specialize in gourmet, beautifully plated meals included in their “all inclusive” package,” she said.
Her interest for the culinary world continued when she joined Grupo Azotea as the Director of Operations at the Hotel El Punto.
“I had the luck to enjoy their extraordinary cuisine along with their wide choice of fine restaurants on the 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. From traditional Mexican cuisine, to the Argentinian grill or their wooden oven pizzas, I was always spoiled.”
Finding a partner and sharing a passion
The tide turned on her career when she finally met the man of her dreams…and of her dream career.
“I got married to a very talented chef/pastry chef in 2014, Diego Cervantes, who always manages to make extraordinary dishes from the most ordinary ingredients, not only in desserts, but in any meal that he prepares. His background includes working for Michelin-starred restaurants, being pastry chef of a World’s top 50 restaurant by San Pellegrino in South Africa, working in famous pastry shops in Paris like Angelina or with Jacques Genin.”
The entrepreneurial spark
When looking back at what made her choose the path of entrepreneurship, with all of the dangers and pressures that it holds, Blanca pointed out that hospitality jobs are very intense. They prepare you well for a transition to independent work, which is a major advantage for young women who want to have a family.
“I’ve always been very curious and I love to create, therefore I can’t stay many years doing the same job as I can get bored very easily, she admitted, “After working many years in hospitality management, I decided that I wanted to do something on my own. My work schedules were intense and if I wanted to start a family someday, I would have to change directions.”
Interestingly enough, Blanca started then working as an independent wedding celebrant in the Riviera Maya, Mexico in 2013 and it gave her taste for independence and led her to meet her husband.
“The idea to open the pastry shop was born when I met my husband late December, 2013 at the beach where we talked about having a business together on the very first day that we met,” she explained.
Three challenges of opening a business
Everyone knows it is difficult to be an entrepreneur. Blanca shared her insights into the difficulties of getting started, setting up the company and overcoming those challenges. Here are her tips for three of the major challenges:
Approach Several Banks for Financing
“You have to be aware that you will make many sacrifices for at least a couple of years,” she said. “We had the challenge of getting our loan, as at first we didn’t approach different banks. We were too confident that our first option would say yes due to our experience and business project. To our surprise, they said no and then we quickly approached four additional banks. From the five banks we saw, we got two positive responses and we chose the best for us.”
Budget Renovations & Time for Permits/Administration
“Another challenge that we faced was when we started doing all the work in our boutique,” she explained “It took three months instead of one. Thanks to my previous experience I knew that it would happen, so I anticipated an extra budget on the side to cover the surprises.
“In France, opening a business can get very complicated due to the permits, laws and slow bureaucracy, so patience is an important ingredient to consider.”
Find the Right Location
“Finally, location is, as you have learned in Glion, a key point as well. Due to the fact that this was our first investment, we couldn’t afford to rent a place in the center town of Bordeaux. As a consequence, we work very hard on communication and relations to attract more clientele.”
Lessons & Community from Glion
Thanks to Glion, Blanca got a management cross training position in Florida back in 2006. It helped her to grow quickly in the hospitality world when she went back to Mexico to continue her career and develop her management and administration skills.
“Nowadays, I can finally apply all that I’ve learned to my own business. Glion opened my vision of hospitality management from day one. I learned to think out-of-the-box but also to be professional. Glion also helped me to adapt successfully to any given situation whether it be the environment, country, or the culture,” she said.
“Our goals are to diversify our product to reach more people and eventually open more shops not only in Bordeaux, but also in the outskirts. We would like to increase awareness on what we eat, especially nowadays with all the nasty additives and colors that are everywhere.”
The Glion community is very strong and it is often said that alumni appreciate each other as family.
“Thanks to Glion Alumni, we have met two lovely ladies who are also living in Bordeaux who have helped us enormously since we’ve been here. I would specially like to thank Camille Agostini for her welcome before our arrival. Bravo to the Glion Spirit!
Five tips to start a business
Blanca shared her advice for students who want to become entrepreneurs one day:
Gain Diverse Experience
“Start with some background in different companies (big and small) to get experience that they will apply afterwards to your company. Try different areas from HR, to accounting, to operations… this way you will widen your vision for when you decide to become independent.”
Be Ready to Make Sacrifices
“Another key point is to be ready to sacrifice and work much harder than when you are an employee for at least a couple of years. Even if you think that you give it your all when working for someone else, when you’re an entrepreneur you will eat, breathe and think your business 24/7.”
Plan Ahead for Working Capital
“Be aware that you will rarely receive any benefit for at least one year or two after your business has been opened. Therefore, having large savings is always a good idea so that you don’t give up before the business starts to give benefits.”
Trial and Evaluate
“Monitor your company’s expenses and real benefits very closely month after month to decide whether you have to look into another direction before it’s too late.”
Have a Marketing Plan
“Work on different sales and marketing strategies including social media communication and a nice, professional web page.”
“But the most important: be patient, be flexible, be open-minded and be kind to everyone around you.”
As members of the Glion community, you can assist Blanca’s business by spreading the word about what they do and also to acknowledge, support and give priority to them versus other boutiques or big industrial pastry chains in the Bordeaux region of France. Visit their website here: http://www.micielopatisserie.com/fr/