Meet Lauren Cortesi, an interior architect turned pastry and baking expert. Her culinary background led her to start her own independent food business, but her daughter’s food allergies drove her to focus on making allergen-friendly (as well as regular) desserts.
What did you do before starting Bella’s Desserts?
Lauren received a degree in Interior and Environmental Design and worked in the industry on and off for 16 years. When she moved to Seattle in the 90s, there were no jobs — so she started cooking in restaurants instead.
Her entrance into the culinary arts world began in the 1990s, where she created desserts and was a line cook at the now defunct Oceanside restaurant in Oregon. She moved to Seattle, where she learned the basics of pastry arts at the only four-star restaurant in the area, The Painted Table.
What is the Bella’s Desserts origin story? Why did you decide to take the leap and start it?
A decade later, Lauren moved to the Philadelphia area, where she worked as an interior architect. She decided to start a family, and didn’t want to spend an hour and a half commuting any more. She left the design business behind and started a home-based dessert catering company in 2002 that also allowed her to be a stay at home mom.
Her daughter was born with food allergies and for her first birthday, Lauren realized there were no bakeries where she could buy a birthday cake. After doing some research, she made her daughter an allergen-friendly cake — and came to a realization in the process: no child with food allergies could safely have a birthday cake unless their parents knew how to bake.
This was the beginning of Lauren’s allergen-free dessert business, Bee’s Delights, named after her daughter, Bella. After a year, she decided to turn her passion project into a business and started making allergen-free and regular desserts for family and friends. When Bella started school in 2006, Lauren got legal and built a website. Today, she sells gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and classic wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other confections as Bella’s Desserts.
How would you describe your products in one sentence?
“Delicious, beautiful and unique to our area.”
What's your favorite way to enjoy your products?
“With your partner, your kids, or a large event, everyone loves dessert!”
Who is another food entrepreneur that you follow and support? What do you love about their business?
“Liz Marek of Sugar Geek Show and Angela Niño of The Painted Box. Liz is my cake guru and Angela is my cookie guru!” Lauren said. “They are amazing teachers, and I have been following and learning from them for years.”
What's the best thing about this job?
“I got to stay home and raise my daughter who is almost 20,” Lauren said. “I make my own hours, I work for myself, and the instant gratification from my customers is my favorite part, because in my previous career, it would take years to build out a design.”
What's your best piece of advice to share with food entrepreneurs who are getting started?
Always do your research.
“When I started, there was no Facebook or Instagram or much of anything on the internet, so I had to do a tremendous amount of research on how to start a business, working from home, food laws in my state,” Lauren said. “Not to mention the countless classes I took to learn how to create unique desserts.”
“Working from home is so hard for many reasons: You have to have money to buy equipment, be disciplined, you need to have an entrepreneurial spirit, you need to know how to market which is difficult because you don’t have a storefront, you have to learn how to price correctly so you can actually make money at what you love. Research is at the core of that.”