Sometimes, life throws us curveballs. This month, we chat with Noëlle Boesenberg, a budding entrepreneur in San Jose, California, to talk about how 2020’s curveballs opened a path that led her to focus on her true passion.
Tell us about who you are and a little bit about your background?
Where do I start…? I was born the youngest of three girls in Manila, Philippines. My sisters and I loved singing together for our parents as home entertainment. My mom insists that every time we had visitors; I would cry until I got the chance to sing Madonna songs to them. When I was five, my family came to the US and settled in San Jose, California. I grew up attending magnet schools with a performing arts focus. From 2nd grade through 8th grade, I played the violin. In high school, I made a switch to vocal performance and theatre. I was very ambitious in high school and, threw myself in all the major choirs and theatre groups, as well as being involved in student government.
In my junior year, our English teacher submitted all our fiction writing assignments to a statewide competition hosted by the University of California, Santa Barbara, College of Creative Studies. To my surprise, my C-grade paper placed 2nd in the competition. I was shocked! My 17-year old self did not identify as a writer. I was a musician, an actor… definitely not a writer. I ended up turning down the prize: a full scholarship to USCB. I had been so focused on music and theatre, that I didn’t see beyond that. I didn’t see the opportunities I was passing up. I think when you’re 17, you put yourself into a box… Actually, I don’t think it’s was just my 17-year-old self… I can think of many instances throughout my life when I limited myself and turned down opportunities based on my own ideas of what I can or can’t do.
Instead of going to UCSB, I stayed home and received a vocal performance scholarship at San Jose State University where I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Charlene Archibeque. I was accepted into her world-renowned chamber choir, the Choraliers, and made incredible music in some of the oldest churches and cathedrals in Europe. What’s amazing about making music is that there really is no duplicating that very moment. The bond that’s created through making music is like no other – it forged lifelong friendships with people who knew me before I even knew myself. I’m so grateful to still be connected with Dr. A and my Chorliers friends. They are more than friends – they’re family. Thinking back, I have no regrets about staying home instead of going to UCSB. It goes to show that, no matter what opportunities you think passed you by, Life will always connect you to where you are supposed to be.
Being a vocal performance major, I was on track to be an artist or an educator. That all changed when I got bit by the hospitality bug working the front desk of a historic boutique hotel in Downtown San Jose. Working at the front desk was the perfect fit as I needed a job that worked around my school schedule. Additionally, my aunt, who had worked in hotels in New York back in Leona Helmsley’s pre-felony days, had always made the hotel industry sound so glamorous. She enticed me with stories of limo rides to sales calls, entertaining fancy clients when she worked in hotels in Singapore, Manila, and of course, New York. Eventually, as I got better at my job and opportunities to work more hours opened up, I started prioritizing work and focusing on my new family. Little did I know that it would be the start of a twenty-year career in hospitality and the meetings industry.
As I look back at my life, I had always thought I knew what I was doing and where I was headed. The truth is, I think what Life has in store for us is always much greater than what we dream up on our own. We can only see what’s around us through the filters we view the world with. It’s those filters that can limit our perception and hinder us from taking opportunities as they present themselves.
Tell us about your business. What services do you offer?
Ah… my business! (Laughing) It’s still weird to say that. It’s all so new! What is my business…? Making people smile…? Whatever it is I do; I want to do something that brings joy to others and myself.
When the quarantine began earlier this year, like everyone else, I had a lot of extra time on my hands. Extra time and extra stress led me to bake more and more. Baking had always been therapeutic for me. I had always called the act “Therapy Baking”, and I suppose I needed a lot of “therapy” in 2020! Before I knew it, I had an excess of baked goods in my house, and I invited friends to come to pick some up. (Laughing) I figured it was probably “therapeutic” for them to dig into the comfort of some freshly baked cinnamon rolls, too! Then, when people started offering to pay for my baked goods, I was so hesitant to even consider this as an actual business venture. I mean, I’m not a professional. I have no real training. I’m just basically playing around in my kitchen, and people want to pay for my stuff?? It was crazy! So, I rolled out a “pay-what-you-can” model, and the business evolved from there.
Currently, TherapyBaking has a weekly menu, featuring cinnamon rolls, specialty rolls, and cupcakes. I also take special orders for celebration cakes. Those are super fun. Again, I’m not at all an expert but I’m loving the challenge of creating new delicious sweets every day. I love knowing that what I’m doing spreads joy to people during this time of uncertainty. I am still somewhat in denial that I’m an entrepreneur, however, there’s no denying this is a growing business for me.
When did you decide to start your own business and why?
Well, do you want the real answer…? To be honest – I decided to legitimize the business so I would not be sued! (Laughing hysterically) I mean, I’m feeding people baked goods in the middle of a global pandemic! I didn’t have a business plan in mind - I just didn’t want the State to come knocking on my door with “Oh, you’re making these amazing cinnamon rolls, young lady? And where’s your permit?” So, I had to legitimize myself with a legal business. I formed an LLC in July and finally got the proper permits in place for my home kitchen in September. What’s incredible about it is, TherapyBaking is growing more and more, so I’ve secured a commercial kitchen to keep up with the demand. I guess I should really start working on that business plan!
In all seriousness, TherapyBaking has given me a way to separate myself from who I was in the corporate world. Like my 17-year-old self, I put myself in a box. I spent the last 20 years pounding the pavement, shaking hands, drafting contracts, closing deals. I didn’t know it, but I was tired of doing something that doesn’t inspire happiness in others. It’s time to get out of that box.
TherapyBaking has also given me a vehicle to contribute to charitable organizations during this time of civil unrest. When protests arose back in May, my kids and I wanted to do something to help a friend whose café in San Francisco was severely damaged by looting. However, I was just furloughed in April and I didn’t have a lot of extra finances to donate. Instead, I was able to use TherapyBaking as a means to raise funds to help restore her café. Since then, TherapyBaking has donated over $2,000 to grassroots organizations in the Bay Area. My hope is to continue to use TherapyBaking as a vehicle to support underserved, unhoused, and marginalized communities in our area.
’m excited to see where TherapyBaking goes in the next few months. You will find TherapyBaking on Instagram and Facebook under TherapyBaking408. Also, by the time this is published, the website, www.therapybaking.com will be launched. Crossing fingers.
What would you say is the secret to a successful business?
I would say one of the most important skills to have is the ability to focus on the “why.” Get really clear on the reasons why you’re in business in the first place. There will always be aspects of a business that are no fun. For me, the administrative work, like data entry, is tedious and boring, and all I want to do is get back to being creative. When I get into a funk, I remember my “why” and it helps me get through it: Reconnecting with people is my “why”! Spreading joy is my “why”! Being able to give and contribute to the community is my “why!” I want to build my own world, that’s “why!”
Also, I have to keep telling myself, “Remember and know you are enough” Say that again: “I am enough. I have everything I need already inside of me. No matter how creative I need to be, I have resources. I have skills. I can do this.” Stop questioning whether or not are you good enough. It’s super important to not be afraid of failing. I know I’m going to have failures. What’s important is how you react to failure: learn from it and make the necessary adjustments. Failing only puts you closer to the path of success.
I think it’s all just a mindset: “You have all the keys necessary to make something happen. You just have to open the door.” You can harness what’s inside of you and create something. And that something is going to be incredible.
Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up?
Um... yes - of course! Several jobs ago, the economy was in a lull and I was having a hard time closing business, so I started looking for jobs online. I was feeling desperate and started looking for any type of job. Ironically, I never was hired for any of those jobs because I was overqualified! It was so frustrating. My intention behind applying for these jobs wasn’t in the right place, and I was selling myself short. The more I pushed, the faster doors closed on me. What helped me get past this chapter was coming to the realization and acceptance that everything comes in divine timing. I simply had to have faith and trust that the lull was temporary. What is for me would come in due time, and I didn’t need to push. Being patient is a lot easier said than done, but sometimes being still is the only action you can do. Being still allows things to flow your way.
What was the biggest challenge that you have experienced owning your own business?
For one, I’ve never owned my own business. So, truthfully, this is a huge learning curve for me. Why don’t I know everything already? (Laughing) I may have a business degree, but they didn’t teach me how to set up a cottage food operation in my home; or what the difference is between an LLC and a Corporation, and why you should pick one over the other. It all seems so daunting to make sure that everything is legit. It’s a huge challenge for me to accept that I don’t know everything, and I need to be open to setbacks and mistakes. Flexibility hasn’t always been a strong suit for this perfectionist! Another challenge is just keeping focused! I am still struggling with recognizing this opportunity as the main focus. Between the kids going back to school remotely and me managing my time, so…” it’s” easy for the day to just slip away. Being a single parent, it’s tough being the only adult in the household. Add to that the stress of being in the middle of a global pandemic! It’s pretty nuts. I’m grateful that baking is therapeutic for me, therefore the business hasn’t been stressful. It’s grown so organically. In a way, it’s unfamiliar for me not to be so stressed out about a project. However, maintaining the momentum of building the business and not getting distracted with Life is an ongoing challenge. Part of me feels maybe I should be more aggressive with TherapyBaking’s growth. Yet, I trust everything comes in divine timing.
Have you ever experienced negativity from those closest to you? Family or friends? How would you encourage those who are experiencing negativity to power through?
For the most part, my family and friends have been super supportive. I actually had some people express they were excited to finally be able to try my baking after seeing it on social media for so many years. However, it was a surprise when I received negative feedback from one of my closest friends for donating to the grassroots organizations I mentioned earlier. Her feedback brought up our differences in systemic racism. It was painful to go through the realization that not everyone is going to perceive what I feel is doing good as doing good. I wanted to feel seen, to feel justified. I wanted her to understand my intention, and to have her validate my “why.” The big lesson for me was that I don’t need her, or anyone else, to validate my “why.” My “why” is good enough as it is.
This goes back to being very clear on your “why” and knowing you are enough. The only validation you need is already in you. People will interpret your actions based on the lens they see Life through. However, if you’re clear on who you are, you can consider what others say, but their opinions won’t sway you from your why. We don’t have time to please everyone.
Starting a business makes you so vulnerable. It’s hard to separate myself from the people I love the most and, of course, their opinions are important to me. Yet, I would hope the people closest to me know my heart and understand the causes I stand for are personal and aligned with my beliefs.
What are your future goals regarding your business?
Ugh, Sam!! Don’t make me say it!! (Laughing) I don’t wanna say it because if I say it, you will hold me accountable! I know this sounds bad, but I’m kind of I’m scared of dreaming aloud. I’ve dreamt a lot and through Life’s disappointments, I feel like I’ve learned to hold my dreams close. To me, it’s a very personal thing to say, “This is my dream” and “This is my goal” because once it’s out there, it’s out there. So, sharing my dreams is somewhat scary to me. It’s weird because I’m not scared of failing. Mostly, I’m just scared of disappointing people. I’m scared of proving the naysayers right. I probably don’t even have naysayers. If I do, they’re probably all in my head! (Laughing) But, okay, seriously, yes. Yes, I would like to see TherapyBaking continue to do some good in the community. I would love to see TherapyBaking in some local coffee shops, farmer's markets, and food stores. It would be incredible to see my baked goods distributed by a major retailer. These are just some of my short- and long-term goals. Honestly, it would just be so awesome to keep spreading love through this venture. Oh, and making money from it would be nice, too.
What advice would you give new business owners?
I don’t feel qualified to give advice! (Laughing) Remember, I’m brand new in not depending on a major conglomerate for income! Hmmm… I think my biggest piece of advice that I haven’t already given is to be open to mentorship. Connect with other small business owners and ask if they are willing to chat for a few minutes. From my experience, people are enthusiastic to share knowledge and help others. They remember starting out and, 9 times out of 10, are willing to help a newbie out. What’s crazy is, just by starting TherapyBaking, I naturally was put in the path of people who are willing to help and guide. For that, I’m so grateful.
So, to recap: Be clear on your “why.” Remember and know you are enough and finally, be open to guidance and mentorship. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
Are there any success quotes you’ve adapted that you now live by that you want to share to encourage others?
One of my high school choir directors, Anne-Marie Katemopoulos, had these two quotes up on her classroom wall, and it’s resonated with me throughout my life:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a Habit.”– Aristotle.
“Surround yourself with Excellence.”- AMK