Nessa Presta invited me into her Melbourne home on a frosty winter’s afternoon in June. The sweet scent of vanilla lingered in the air as I stepped out of the freezing Victorian chill and into Nessa’s humble abode. Having not met before, we both nervously giggled about hopefully not being catfished and sat at a rustic timber table, adorned with a refreshingly minimal centerpiece. Nessa is the face behind Sugar Mommas Cakes and Pastries, Melbourne. Here we chat small business ownership, creativity and experimentation in the kitchen.
What were you doing before the days of Sugar Mommas?
Before Sugar Mommas started, I was working in the airport around pastries. Prior to that, I had completed my certificate in patisserie. So all of my jobs have been around hospitality.
How long has Sugar Mommas been operating?
It’s just hit over a year now. It is full time but mainly picks up over the weekends.
Tell me a little bit about your business
I like to put my own touch on things. You can have your stock standard cupcakes but I’ll suggest ideas to my customers and come up with a design for them (depending on what they like) so I can put my own touch on it as well. Especially if they give me a photo and say they want to replicate something, I let them know that I can replicate it but there is not room for creativity then. So I will suggest a bigger bow or something like that. I love making cupcakes. I love sprinkles. For weddings, I think it’s a bit of a trend at the moment to do a small cake and then a cupcake tower around it and individual desserts, which I love.
What motivated you to take the leap and open a business in Melbourne?
I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to do something in patisserie. I’m not sure why I started it a year ago because before I started my course I was working in a coffee shop and I didn’t even realise that I used to talk about it so much. Then a year ago when I opened Sugar Mommas, I went back to my old work (which I had left about four years previous) just to visit my old friends and get a coffee. They asked me what I was doing and I told them that I had opened (Sugar Mommas) and they said, “Oh you finally did it!” And I thought whoa, this was years ago and I was talking about it then? I’m not sure what the push was, but maybe it was just timing and everything happens for a reason.
What are some of sugar mommas philosophies?
Everything that I create is made from scratch. It’s all made with fresh and wholesome ingredients. That’s a main thing that I really want to put in my desserts. Because I know some people get packet mixes – which I don’t agree with because it’s not just about the look of the cake, it’s about what’s going into it as well. I can’t really follow a recipe to a tee. Even with cakes and pastries, everything has to be on point or else the cakes might not turn out. I like creating something and seeing if it will turn out – cooking is like science. I really like experimenting and I get to taste it all!
What’s your best advice for small business owners?
To branch out and interact with other small businesses. Try to build yourself a network. Another thing is to go and get resources that are out there for you – from your local council, other small businesses or online. Through my social media, I’ve found other small businesses that have started in similar ways. We encourage each other and give each other advice. I’ve also started a course online, which teaches me how to run my business and is tailor made to cakes. It takes a step of courage to ask other people for help and be bold – every one is more than happy to help.
If you were a dessert what would you be and why?
I think I would be a cookie. Just because they can be really plain or you can jazz them up. They’re simple and cute.
Who’s a business owner than you admire and why?
Raynold from Masterchef. I love him. He’s amazing with his pastries. He opened a place in Sydney. Also Gelato Messina. They’ve opened a place in Melbourne and I love how creative they are. They put their own twist on things and it’s something that inspires me. They don’t stick to the norm and everyone loves it.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Through other people in my industry and seeing what they’re doing. I’m a creative person myself. I love to draw and paint. So if something inspires me in that area, I’ll try and bring it to my work. Gold lustre is my go to. I can’t get enough. I’ve pretty much travelled the world. Canada, Malaysia, Vietnam, Dubai, England… Moving around and being influenced by different cultures has helped me to understand that every one has different needs. I like stuff that is rustic but I wont stay away from trying different flavours.
What do you find most rewarding about running your own business?
Knowing that I’ve achieved something for myself.
What do you find most challenging about running your own business?
Being the only person running it. Being your own boss has its benefits and challenges.
What’s next for Sugar Mommas?
Growing, learning and always moving forward. I never want to put a limit or goal on Sugar Mommas. It would be amazing having my own shop. Food truck, shop front or working in a factory making granola (laughs). You don’t want to limit yourself.
How would you describe Sugar Mommas in three words?
Gold, delicious and unique.