It is 9:35pm and Rachelle Blanc is starting up the car to to deliver 55 perfectly decorated desserts in 8 oz mason jars to a frat at the University of Miami. The jars clank together in the back seat as she takes the hour drive down US-1 to fulfil her customers’ sweet cravings. The sweet aromas of vanilla extract that fill the car get wiped away as she thinks about tomorrow’s obligations. The 19-year-old college student has an 8am class, unfinished homework assignments, and more orders to fill for tomorrow’s customers. Her dad is wiping down the countertop when she gets home and scolds her about her late night business runs. She brushes it off and rushes into her room to prepare for another long day.
‘Chelle’s Sweet Treats’ is an Instagram business that specializes in lavish desserts in personal mason jars. The Instagram business that started a month ago with only 18 followers, now has a thriving 400 followers with a constant flow of orders. The business launched after Blanc was inspired by a picture of banana pudding in a mason jar that she came across on Facebook. She tried the recipe, posted it on instagram, and the comments began to roll in. “I make banana pudding all the time for Thanksgiving,” she says. “The challenge was making it visually pleasing,” little did she know, it would be this profitable.
Since the start of her business, Blanc has made more than just banana pudding. She now makes rainbow cakes, Oreo and strawberry cheesecakes, salted caramel brownies, and peach cobbler, which range from $4 to $7 a jar. Her inspiration for new desserts comes from her Instagram segment titled ‘Suggestion Fridays’. “A lot of people were asking me for different flavors. There was a lady, pregnant with twins, who was craving peach cobbler her whole pregnancy and couldn’t find a good one. She inspired me to try it, and she loved it,” she says. Although Blanc’s thoughts about baking as an actual business were in the spur of the moment, it has helped her out with a lot of her personal obligations.
When Blanc was 11 years old her father, Edouard Blanc, was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure when the flu infected his heart. In 2013 his illness worsened and and he was hospitalized for several months. “My brother was away at school and my mom was a full-time student who spent most of her time at the hospital,” she says. “I felt like my family was slipping away,” she says. At the end of the year, her father was placed on the transplant list and had a PIC line inserted into his right arm, allowing him to come home. Blanc didn’t think much of her father being on the transplant list, but was just glad to have him home and see her family together. On December 9, 2015, Blanc in the midst of her final exams, found out that they had a heart for her father. “It has been six months and my father is doing well, he’s cured, a new grandfather, and an even better father,” she says.
Her father has been home to see Blanc’s business start up and grow and is very supportive. “The business hasn’t relieved me of any burdens because I am always cleaning up after her,” he says. “If anything, it is helping me get my strength back since the surgery,” Edouard says. Blanc has been trying to keep her grades up in school, run her new business, and simply stay sane with all the commotion in her life. She is currently waiting for an acceptance letter into nursing school at NOVA Southeastern University, a prestigious private university in South Florida, that her brother recently graduated from. “Nursing school is definitely going to change the components of this business.,” she says. “I am coming to a point where I need to work on my time management. Juggling the business with school now is nearly impossible. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like then,” she says.
Over the last few years, Blanc has come to realize that she adopted an unhealthy eating habit to handle her stress. “I am a binge eater. I eat when im bored, stressed, and when I have nothing better to do,” she says. Since Blanc has started baking she has abandoned her couch potato ways, as baking has kept her busy and helped her lose 10 pounds. Baking hasn’t only kept her busy, but also acted as a coping mechanism with the stresses of her father’s illness and school.
Blanc doesn’t always make the right decisions when it comes to balancing her business with school, but she believes it all to be a learning experience. “Finals week was crazy. I got a whole bunch of orders and was stuck between studying and making the orders. Of course, I chose the baking. I said I would study tomorrow instead, but more orders came up. It’s almost like they knew I needed to study. Story short, I never ended up studying, but I got a B on the final. It was all worth it,” she says.
Blanc’s sweet treat business generates nearly $500 every two weeks, allowing her to put some extra money into savings. “I act like the money is not there. I go out and spend on food, but never too much. That is the stash I need to go back into to buy my products,” she says. She generally spends about $200 dollars on products every two weeks and plans to save the rest for school. Blanc says the pay is great and the business has been very successful. Blanc’s mother, Carline Blanc, is happy to see Blanc make others happy. “The best part about the business is getting to see her do what she loves most,” she says. Blanc is most enthused that she no longer has to ask her parents for money.
Although Blanc doesn’t have any recent new customers, she does have a few loyal customers who keep coming back. Wizler Jean orders 2 to 3 desserts from her daily. He has ordered over 30 desserts since Chelle’s Sweet Treats has been in business. “The rainbow cake is my favorite,” he says. “It’s home made and you can tell she really took her time,” Jean says. He has referred all of his friends who have also become some of Blanc’s most loyal customers.
Blanc’s parents have been very supportive and have encouraged her to keep going. “I am the type to start things and never finish,” Blanc says. “But with this, I’m going to finish, definitely,” she says. Blanc wants to extend the reach of ‘Chelle’s Sweet Treats’ to platforms other than Instagram in the next few months. She is also working on shipping her products, after a recent inquiry from a party planner in North Carolina. Blanc plans to further grow the business and is excited to know what the future holds for her nursing career. “I’m still going to get my degree. I just really look forward to branching out with this business,” she says. “It’s not even about the money anymore. I’m just about making people happy,” she says.