FREDERICTON – Combining her entrepreneurial aspirations with her passion for healthy eating, Melissa PeÃ±a started selling healthy desserts during the pandemic.
MelWho is a No Sugar Added Bakery, specializing in gluten, keto and lactose free products. PeÃ±a wants to provide more options for people who are trying to eat healthier.
âStarting with the desserts, starting with the snacks, it’s amazing because you adapt small steps to have real healthy habits,â said PeÃ±a.
She started selling last summer with her business partner and boyfriend Martin Carvajal. The name âMelQuiâ combines PeÃ±a’s nickname with Martin’s hometown of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
PeÃ±a moved from Ecuador to Canada for school two years ago. At home, she used to eat mostly healthy, homemade foods.
âWhen I arrived here in Canada, the food culture shocked me a lot,â said PeÃ±a.
PeÃ±a has a big sweet tooth. But when looking for healthier options in Canada, she saw that products advertised as healthy still had a lot of added sugar. She started doing her own research by taking online classes and reading blogs.
During her forties, when her sweet tooth got stuck again, she started cooking.
âThe first cake I made tasted totally different from what I can make today,â said PeÃ±a.
âI like to say this because I think mistakes are part of the process,â said PeÃ±a. “I’m not ashamed to say it because that’s how I started and started to progress.”
For the first three months, she used customer feedback to change her product. She tested recipes and tried different ingredients to see which had the best nutritional value and taste.
She ended up with 20 different items on the menu, from carrot cake to brownies. In her menu, she tries to give variety to her customers and can change things up with a product based on an allergy or restriction.
In addition to owning a business, PeÃ±a is also a student. She is in her fourth year at St. Thomas University studying Economics and Business. She admits that balancing school and running a business has been a challenge.
âMy priorities are my studies, but also a priority that I add to my life is my business. So it’s like sharing my time, so it’s sacrificing things, in my case maybe it’s sacrificing time with my friends or going out sometimes, âsaid PeÃ±a.
âIf you want more, you have to give more,â said PeÃ±a. âIt’s a rule that I applied a lot.
She describes her first year of running a business in Canada as a learning journey.
âStarting a business in a country that is not yours means learning new laws, getting in touch with different people,â said PeÃ±a. âIt teaches a lot about the legal process, licensing, so much. “
She has a selection of products available at 900 Hanwell, where she shares the kitchen area with Scottage cheese.
For its full menu, customers can order through Instagram or Facebook. PeÃ±a hopes to venture into the farmer’s market scene and plans to launch the MelQui website later this year.
âEven though we didn’t win, we won a lot,â said PeÃ±a. âLike the connections and the people who contact us asking how we’re doing, what we need, what our plans are. “
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Rachel Smith is an intern at Huddle. Send him story suggestions:[emailÂ protected].