The Famous Strawberry Squares that started it all...
I met Alex Llaneza's mother at Hardcore Gallery, on N. Miami Ave., and she beamed when she told me the tale of his 'secret recipe' cakes. I thought, in honor of Mother's Day (and if you need to do some last minute cake-buying), I would share Alex's story, in his own words.
"Growing up in a family where eating well and often was of utmost importance, and most family members are food connoisseurs (going all the way back to my great-grandmother, Oportuna Cueto, looking to an old family recipe when I wanted to make some extra money was intuitive.
It all started my sophomore year of high school when I noticed guys making decent money selling sandwiches. Realizing that specific market was saturated, I decided to try selling dessert. Coincidently, there was this amazing cake my great-aunt, Tia Berta Llaneza, would make at family lunches (recipe was handed down by my great-grandmother) which not only did I love, but I found it to be pretty addictive. From a business standpoint I thought it was perfect!
I presented the idea to my mom, Rochi Llaneza, and she quickly jumped aboard for the production. We cut the cake into 24 pieces and packaged them in individual zip-loc bags. The next day I came home with $26…selling them at a dollar a piece, I had to auction off the last two. The cakes were a hit!
But things quickly got a little more complicated. I went to an all boys high school, Christopher Columbus, and what I was doing was technically not “legal.” Initially, I had the support of certain teachers, like Mr. Lightfoot, who allowed me to sell during the first few minutes of class, but eventually I got caught. After a week of detention and some advice from teachers and friends, I brought a couple guys on the team and gave them a percentage of sales. This went on until I graduated, and I made more money my senior year of high school than my first year in college working at a bank.
As friends went away for school I continued getting requests so I set up a small website. In the mean time, I've pursued another family business and hobby, and opened a cigar store, Puros Fine Cigars, with my cousin Alejandro Alcorta. Ultimately, my experiences have led me to conclude that working at something you are truly passionate about will almost certainly lead to success."
Happy Mother's Day...