By Maria Kelly
Antoinette Sanchez, a Renaissance Business Planning class graduate, is the owner of Endless Summer Sweets, a scrumptious kettle corn and funnel cake company. Antoinette continues to use Renaissance’s business consulting and support resources. In 2015, she received Renaissance’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award in recognition of her business success. We asked Antoinette a few questions about her journey and advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to launch a business? How did you start?
I was at Six Flags with my family when I noticed long lines at the funnel cake stand. People who had paid to get into the park were willing to spend more time and money just to get a funnel cake. I saw a business opportunity.
Since I didn’t have a special family recipe, I had to develop my own. I practiced in my home kitchen. My family and friends became my first critics, and I used their feedback to tweak the recipe until I got it just right. I knew I had nailed it when our funnel cake was a smash hit at the SF Street Food Festival in August 2009. That’s also when I figured out the right toppings and proportions. We’ve kept the same recipe since then.
What’s the latest with your business?
We are opening our very first store in 2016 on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley! Even though there was a lot of unexpected work dealing with permits, we learned so much throughout the process. A storefront will provide more credibility and brand recognition. We’ll continue to grow our corporate catering.
What are five things entrepreneurs should be ready for when starting a business?
- The need for a lot of support. Garner as much positive, nurturing support from family and friends as you can.
- Hard work. Get ready for nonexistent weekends.
- Wearing many hats.
- Work/life balance. You’ll have to decide when to take a break. I have a husband and two daughters, and I often struggle between taking business opportunities and spending time with my family.
- Continuous learning.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Define your niche—what’s unique about you or how you do something differently from others in the same industry.
- Understand that the business shouldn’t be running you. It’s especially difficult when you’re growing the business. I’m still learning. We once returned from our long-coveted Hawaii trip a day early because I got a catering job at a big corporation. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get on a vendor list with them.
- Be open to any feedback or criticism. Take it all in, digest it, and see if it makes sense to you. If different customers tell you the same thing over and over again, you have to listen, even if it’s not something you agree with. Take criticism as a way to learn.
What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
I’m my own boss. There’s a sense of fulfillment of knowing ‘I did this,’ especially after a difficult job. For example, when we served thousands of people at Outside Lands we built a restaurant in a day and then took it down.
What advice do you have for women who are starting businesses?
Have a lot of support and knowledge. Knowledge is power. Don’t be scared to take your place in the room.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
Nothing. I learned so much from my mistakes or challenges that I don’t think I’d have known better without the experience. Everything you do is a learning experience that helps you grow.
Where do you see your business in five years?
Endless Summer Sweets will be a well-known brand with lots of big corporate clients. We will have two or three lo- cations. I want to outgrow ‘small’ business, while keeping the values of a small family-owned business.
What was your experience with Renaissance?
Renaissance gave me a great foundation and a starting point. Renaissance was also a great connector, which is so important when starting or growing your business. I was so inspired by other entrepreneurs in my Renaissance classes and the wealth of information.