In seven years, Hope Looney has seen her cake business skyrocket. In her first year Looney made 30 wedding cakes. This year, she will make 425.
Looney is the owner of JCakes, a gourmet custom-order bakery in North Branford, CT. Being a business owner comes with numerous challenges, says Looney, but being Latino has never been one of them. In fact, she says, she finds her diverse background incredibly beneficial. “Having different cultures has helped me be a well-rounded person,” says Looney. “I think that helps me run my business better, and be able to perceive different experiences different cultural parties that people have. I’ve been exposed to a lots of religions. Everybody throws their parties different and has different traditions and customs that they like to follow.”
One party that Looney was recently invited to, where her Louis Vuitton style purse cake took center stage, was Adamari Lopez’s. Lopez’s fiancé, Tony Costa, had discovered Looney’s creations via a mutual friend. He then insisted she escort her impeccable edible art all the way to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for his birthday and engagement party.
“It was an honor to be asked to create a cake for Adamari,” says Looney. “I couldn’t say no. But of course the next question was . . . ‘How am I going to carry a cake on the plane all the way to the Dominican Republic?’ I was a nervous wreck.”
Being the savvy business woman that she is, she figured it out. And after a three and a half hour flight Looney emerged, cake in hand, to Lopez’s party.
The event landed JCakes in the July issue of People Magazine Español. One of the many accolades JCakes has received as of late.
Looney says her background has lent her great insight and understanding of various types of occasions and parties.
“Me knowing about Spanish culture has been helpful,” explains Looney. “I’ve been to Spain, I’ve traveled to Mexico, I’ve been to Puerto Rico, and attended quinceañeras. So when someone comes in and wants a quinceañera cake I’m very familiar with that. So that’s been helpful. But it’s about knowing all kinds of cultures not just Spanish ones. It definitely helps me relate to people; it helps me form a better relationship with my customer.
“Having Spanish as a second language is also helpful for people who only speak Spanish and want to order a cake, especially for quinceañera,” adds Looney.
Looney says not only has her background been greatly beneficial but says she couldn’t have accomplished as much as she has without the support of her family.
“Both sides of my family are really hard working,” she says. “I think I’ve also gotten that from my family.”
Looney says that owning her own bakery was always something she dreamed of, and an idea she and her college roommate considered a great deal. However, she veered into healthcare. After a minor detour, at 27, Looney decided it was time to chase down her longtime dream.
She decided to purchase JCakes, formerly Jessica’s Cakes in North Haven, and the former owner, Jessica Kimball (Trombetta), “taught [her] everything [she] knows” and the rest, as they say, is history.
“You can’t be afraid to fail,” Looney advises other aspiring business owners. “You have to accept that things will go wrong and then that’s how you get better. You have to be prepared to work every single day for a while. Your support groups have to be aware of what you are about to take on — because you really need their support to be happy. So just being clear with everybody what you’re about to take on and how you might need help in your personal life to be at your business all the time.”