By Paul Maryniak
“Let them eat cake” is Chelsea Mellor’s mantra.
But the Ahwatukee woman is not reflecting Marie Antoinette’s scorn for the poor that those words first evoked.
For Mellor, they reflect the spirit of her business, Iced for Life, which just marked its one-year anniversary at 1490 E. Williams Field Road in Gilbert.
“I got into this business because cake makes people happy, and if I can make someone’s day better with a delicious treat, then that makes me just as happy,” said Mellor, who parlayed her Arizona State University degree and her life-long love of baking into starting the business.
She makes all her cakes from scratch, and developed a signature twist on cupcakes that she calls “baby cakes.”
They come in what her aunt, Michelle Hirsch, calls a “scrumptious kaleidoscope of flavors that includes lemonade, strawberries and cream, German chocolate cake, red velvet, dark chocolate chunk, vanilla bean, margarita, key lime pie, pineapple crush, peanut butter chocolate, banana cream pie, and more and more.”
Mellor, a Mountain Pointe High grad who graduated from ASU with honors and a degree in management and entrepreneurship, believes “baking from scratch is most important when it comes to cake.
“Anyone can bake from a box,” she said. “I think the problem with many franchises in my industry is they always end up ‘commercializing’ everything, sacrificing the quality of the product. And by commercializing in baking terms, I mean using cake ‘mix’ that often only requires you to ‘add water.’
“Yes, it is more ‘cost effective’ from a business standpoint, but I am a strong believer that the quality is most important,” she added.
Hirsch joked that her niece’s customers share her belief that “cake is for life, not just for birthdays.”
For Mellor, though, it’s not just cake but baking and art in general that have been for life.
“I’ve had a passion for the arts and baking since as long as I can remember,” she said. “I’ll never forget my first ‘Easy Bake Oven.’ I wanted to be an artist when I was a kid, but I loved baking, so I decided to combine my passion for baking from scratch with my love of creating art into a business.”
Mellor started her business four years ago in a licensed home kitchen and found two big challenges transitioning to a storefront.
First there was an agonizing search for financing.
“Bank after bank turned me away because I didn’t make enough money while baking from home,” she recalled. “They would not even look at my business plan or take in to account my college degree in management: entrepreneurship. I bootstrapped everything until the storefront. Finally, BMO Harris Bank took a look at my business plan, and helped me get the loans necessary to get the storefront up and running.”
Finding the storefront also was challenging, especially since she had sought a place closer to home.
She had wanted to open the bakery a little closer to home
“I originally was not looking in Gilbert for commercial spaces at all. My target areas were Ahwatukee, Southern Tempe, and Western Chandler area,” Mellor said. “But there just was not anything on the market that was plausible for our first storefront.”
Her family happened to eat at Isabel’s Amor, a Mexican restaurant, and saw a “for lease sign” on a next-door suite.
“When they looked in the windows, they realized it was the perfect space, as it was previously a bakery,” she said. “This made a huge impact in the start-up costs as well.”
Though she moved to Gilbert to be closer to work, she’s moving back to Ahwatukee this month.
“I have lived in Ahwatukee many times over the years, and it is definitely one of my favorite places,” Mellor said. “I’m excited to be living back in Ahwatukee.”
Mellor hasn’t stopped dreaming.
“I would love to see the business grow to the point of potentially franchising,” she said, adding, “But still always baking from scratch.”
Hirsch said her niece’s experience shows aspiring entrepreneurs that they can and should “work hard, make sacrifices and take their passion and commitment to enjoy their own sweet success.”
Mellor is just glad to have made the transition from her home kitchen to a brick-and-mortar location.
“It has been the hardest year of my life,” she said, “but I am beyond thrilled and excited to have come this far, and to have celebrated a successful first year.”