PROFILE HEAVENLY SWEETS INC.: Noblesville bakery still rising Heavenly Sweets to grow in move to 'new' location

September 24, 2007

PROFILE

HEAVENLY SWEETS INC. Noblesville bakery still rising Heavenly Sweets to grow in move to 'new' location Tanya Marshall grew up in a kitchen, where she baked from scratch, tested recipes and shared a love of food with her family. A former 4-H participant, Marshall's childhood was spent toiling over an Easy-Bake Oven, spinning cotton candy, freezing homemade ice cream and dispensing soft drinks with her other favorite toys.

She's still in the kitchen, this time as owner of Heavenly Sweets Inc., a purveyor of wedding and other cakes for special occasions. Marshall's recipe for success was to follow her heart, listen to her gut, do the homework and pray.

Oh, and she hung onto the day job for a while.

"I kept a full-time [bookkeeping] job so that I could reinvest any profits back into the business. I bought used equipment and kept my overhead low. If I didn't have the money, then I didn't buy it. I paid cash as I went and I kept my personal expenses at a minimum," including putting 248,000 miles on a car before paying cash for a "new" used one, she said.

Marshall, a 54-year-old bundle of energy, is still growing her business. Because of her bookkeeping background, she understands a lot of the financial matters that some business owners don't. Still, she said, at the start, cash flow was a problem and she worried about making payroll.

She said she was forced to abandon her pay-as-you-go philosophy and charge her flour, butter and other ingredients, paying off the bill each month as payables and receivables caught up with each other.

Marshall also has experienced business failure. In the 1980s, she had a skin-care and color-consulting business, which were all the rage then. After a short time, the business folded and she returned to bookkeeping.

As Heavenly Sweets developed, it's gone from a dessert bakery to a catering service to a carryout café to a bakery. Before the end of the year, she'll move her operations from a house built in 1891 on busy Tenth Street in Noblesville to an 1860 Italianate house on Hannibal Street, in a neighborhood setting less than a mile away.

The deal required she buy the entire block, including the cottage that's been home to Steven Keneipp's The Classic Kitchen. Keneipp has announced plans to close his restaurant, but it won't be empty for long. Marshall plans to open one called The Mustard Seed.

The bakery will house the production kitchen, administrative offices, showroom, three party rooms for groups from about 12 to 30, and a nearby lawn area for events under a tent.

When Marshall was considering buying the new properties, she toured the Italianate house with her banker, Joe Voytik, relationship manager at KeyBank's Castleton branch, and shared with him her dream. Voytik has been working with Marshall for 10 years, and although she never had a formal business plan, he's been impressed by her business instincts, smarts and tempered ambition, he said.

"It's a really small company, and through the course of conversations, we've guided her in the right way to do business," he said. "But she makes a great contribution to the process. She has the passion."

Her enthusiasm and caring nature are evident to her clients, too.

"She was extremely accommodating and very professional and she made some excellent suggestions," said Sherri Reider, mother of bride Mallory Reider, who in August married Rob Isenberg in the Deer Zink Pavilion at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. At the center of the dance floor was a five-tiered Heavenly Sweets wedding cake, adorned with real roses and an icing decoration that resembled fine beaded lace.

Like most clients, Reider heard about Heavenly Sweets through word of mouth and had sampled some of the cakes at a bridal event at G. Thrapp Jewelers. "It was moist and delicious and it tasted homemade. The filling did not taste artificial," she said.

That's because nothing artificial goes into the ingredients and no trans fats are used. Heavenly Sweets uses butter instead of shortening, for instance, and makes its own fillings. The Reider cake had three-apricot, white chocolate mousse with chocolate ganache and chocolate almond between layers of white cake that served about 200 guests. "It was stellar and they did an incredible job," Reider said.

In high season, Heavenly Sweets makes 22 wedding cakes and 40 to 50 specialty cakes a week. There's stress in the process.

"The bride has entrusted you with her special day and you want everything to look pretty and taste fabulous," Marshall said.

She and her crews deliver the cakes just in time for the ceremonies in vehicles with heavy-duty air conditioning, to make sure nothing melts during the trip. Marshall's husband, Ron Silvers, provides mentoring, marketing and manages the Web site. For nearly 10 years, Pat Gordon has been coating cakes in preparation for decoration by other specialists.

Marshall said she's moved slowly through her business growth, making sure to do the research before taking huge leaps.

"Try to start small and stay in a realistic budget. When you are in debt, it is difficult to think about your business because you are thinking about paying bills," she said.

She rarely bakes anymore, focusing instead on working with clients and developing business. Marshall's learned to be careful about what she promises, making sure she can fulfill what she commits to, expecting "employees to do an excellent job but not necessarily a perfect one. Remember to tell them when they do a job well."

Listen to others, too, she said, because you never know where God-inspired ideas come from.

"Sometimes the road is tough, long, with disappointments and triumphs, too," she said. "But you don't give up, you learn from your mistakes and keep on keepin' on."
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