Aymee Rodriguez-VanDyke was wiped out during the recession. In 2008 she lost all her money to her divorce, her mother died, and despite her best efforts, her personal coaching business didn’t thrive. Born in Miami, Florida, to Cuban immigrants, Aymee is a resourceful and resilient Latina, but even she was discouraged for a bit. “It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, everything was stagnated, and I was just incredibly frustrated with my financial situation,” she says now.
She was living with her boyfriend (now husband) at the time, and to top it all off, he lost a very good-paying job in the corporate aviation field.
“My initial reaction, believe it or not, was to bake cookies,” she reminisces. “I thought, Oh I will sell cookies! Looking back, I don’t know if it was because I come from a family of restaurateurs on my mom’s side and have been baking since I was three, but I guess I just followed my gut.”
Aymee started baking samples in her Bonita Springs, Florida, home and sending boxes of cookies to her girlfriends in Miami. “I basically started spreading the word and giving cookies to anyone who would be willing to taste them,” she recalls.
One day she received a huge order from an ex-senator’s wife for a charity event, and that’s when The Wacky Cookie Company was born. She now operates her home-based business from Washington D.C. where she lives with her husband and her eight-year-old son.
Aymee’s biggest challenges:
“Starting out with very little capital, and I do mean very little—about $800 to $1000—to be exact. There are a few fundamentals I have learned as an entrepreneur. In order for a business to grow, you need to invest energy, time, and money. The less money you have, the more time and energy you will use. One minute I’m thinking up a target audience and marketing strategy, the next minute I am focusing on perfecting a cookie recipe that is perfect for my icing, and the next I am quoting potential customers. That can get to be exhausting!”
Her best rewards:
“I do what I love and feel passionate about! I get to see my business grow and have hired a part-time employee to work with me, also a Latina who is a mom and trying to carve out a better life for herself and her family in this country. It gives me great pleasure to be able to help someone else, while living my dream and helping myself.”
How she promotes her business:
“Since I opened a business on ETSY, The Candied Flower, my business exploded! But mostly I promote myself on the Wacky Cookies Facebook page , and I donate a lot of my work to worthwhile charities. That is a win-win, as I do something wonderful for others and it helps my business at the same time.”
How being Latina has influenced her business:
“Being Latina has influenced my business in every way, without a doubt. Being a woman of Hispanic heritage, I have certain values that I cannot extricate myself from. I conduct my business as I conduct my life: with love and passion for what I do and for those involved in it. Being the descendant of Cuban parents who came to this country and worked hard to rebuild their lives after the Cuban government ripped everything away from them has taught me to be flexible in hard times, to be resilient. If my parents and thousands of other Cuban Exiles came here with nothing and have built multimillion-dollar businesses, I can do it too. Success is a formula and once you learn it, it really doesn’t matter how many times you fall. You will always be able to rebuild. You can take that to the bank, literally!”
How she balances being a mom with being an entrepreneur:
“I don’t, really. I honestly think I spend a huge amount of time focused on my business. Maybe that is not the politically correct answer, or one many women want to hear, but it’s true. My son is as involved in my business as possible for an eight-year-old. I have made him the ‘Chairman Emeritus’ of The Wacky Cookie Company and often get him involved in little advertising campaigns. He loves the camera and the camera loves him, so that is my way of spending time together and showing him that even though Mommy works so hard, he is important to me. He is one of the most compelling reasons why I am doing this.”
Her future plans for her business:
“I would love to grow The Wacky Cookie Company into a successful, mostly minority, women-owned franchise someday.” We have already started expanding it in The Candied Flower on Etsy, where my Cuban Mojito Lollipops have become a major hit. I want to continue to develop my lollipop brand, and make it a household brand name!
Her words of encouragement for other mompreneurs:
“Go for it! Don’t box yourself in; shed all ideas of who you think you are and follow your bliss.”