We had the good fortune of connecting with Toni Gary and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toni, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I can’t really say, there was an actual thought process behind starting my business. I feel like it was more so gifted to me. No to say, there was no thought that has gone into my business. But when I started Sweets by Toni. I was working at Los Angeles Unified School District as a school bus driver. Our office gave a potluck and I was thinking of the cheapest way to contribute. So I made some chocolate chip cookies. After that moment, it seemed like the ball just kept rolling. I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t have a business name. NOTHING! But as I continued in my new found gift. I just learned along the way. That’s why I don’t believe, you have to have all your ducks in a row to start a goal. Just do it. Start! The rest will come. The information I needed to operate my business properly eventually came. I would ask certain people about things I didn’t know, and if they didn’t know. They would at least try to point me in the right direction. So if I would say, what thought process I used to start my business. It would be, just go, and do it. Learn along the way.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I do consider my self an artist. I believe it takes a certain type of person to be a good baker. And I say “good”, because anyone can mix up some ingredients and stick them in the oven . But it’s what comes out that counts. Being able to tell when there is too much of one ingredient, or not enough of another. Tweaking the recipe to your liking. That takes skill. When I’m decorating a cake, it is my canvas. It is my job to take your vision and put it on that cake, with a little touch of me. What would I say sets me apart from other bakers…I want to be apart of your precious moments. I want my dessert’s to create a feel good feeling. When you taste my brown sugar buttercream, I want it to leave a lasting impression. So later on, when you think about it, it gives you that feel good feeling again. How did I get to where I am today? CONSISTENCY! You have to stick to your plan. Whatever you have your heart set on, do it, go get it. Once Sweets began to grow. I came up with a 10 year plan. At 10 years, I had planned to leave my job as a bus driver. Take part of my 401k and invest in me and my business. Well, the 10 year mark came up, and I stuck to my plan. There were a few curve balls. But I adjusted, and stayed the course. It’s definitely not easy. I’ve stated before, it’s more the emotional struggle that was hard for me. Still can be till this day. Your mind can play some terrible tricks on you. That’s why it’s so important to have a game plan. Write things down, have a vision board. It’ll help you stay focused. Even in your moments of weakness. Have your moment, and keep going. That is the best lesson I ever learned. Adjust and keep going. I want the world to know, that home made is back and Sweets by Toni is where to get it.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’m from Long Beach, the city by the sea. Where there is plenty to do. I don’t think a week would be enough time to even see half of what my city has to offer. But for starters I would go downtown Long Beach, on Pine. Pine has a whole host of restaurants and clubs. But if I had to pick one for starters it would be Taco Beach. Mexican food. They have great chicken nachos. The atmosphere is like a game bar. Very welcoming. Then I would work our way down Pine, which would lead us to the Pike. In the Pike, you have the movie theater, more restaurants, clothing stores. You have the Aquarium of the Pacific. Then we would go to shoreline village. It’s more of a carnival feel. There you have Tequila Jack’s. That’s the place to be for happy hour. There is Louisiana Charlie’s. They have great Gumbo and seafood. I forgot to mention, by the Pike and shoreline village you can book boat tours. After all the food and drinks, I would take us to 2nd Street for more clothes shopping and eateries. There is a great bakery down there called Sweets Jill’s. Their Giant cinnamon rolls are amazing. From 2nd Street, I would come back up Ocean Blvd and visit Cherry Beach. Who doesn’t love the water. On the last day of this week long endeavor, I would book us a boat ride on the Catalina Express to the island of Catalina. Catalina is a beautiful island with many tours and excursions to go on. It’s only about a hour boat ride and it’s about $45 round trip. Can’t beat that.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many people who I owe tons of credit to. My mother Jacqueline. She has encouraged me every step of the way. She is a boss in her own right, as a nail tech and entrepreneur. She pretty much laid out the blue print for me. By being a living example. I also would like to give credit to my mentor Kelvin Bellamy and his wife. I met them through a mentor program at Zoe Christian Fellowship. They both welcomed me with open arms. Now we’re like family. My son, is my constant motivation. He is why I go so hard. I’m establishing generational wealth for him and any other children I may have. My grandmother Anna, who in the early stages of my baking provided me with any recipe I needed. My best friend LaTesha Mclucas that cracks the whip on me when I’m losing focus. The list goes on and on.