When Marcel and Brittany Maldonado were laid off from their respective jobs several years ago, they turned their passion for baking into a full-time business venture.
They visited small bakeries in New York City, taught themselves how to bake in bulk and got a food truck. They called their business Milk + Sugar.
Now they specialize in serving up banana pudding, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, pound cakes and pies.
“Our biggest goal for all of our baked goods is really to find the best texture, to use the best products and simple ingredients just so that everything really has that fresh, authentic taste,” said Brittany Maldonado, a 32-year-old graduate of Mount Holyoke College.
Their efforts have paid off, and the South Philadelphia natives are planning to grow their business by opening a café in January.
The 850-square-foot site at 1501 S. 5th St. will serve as a place where the mother-daughter duo can serve up their baked goods, hold baking and decorating classes for families, and host pop-up events in their South Philadelphia neighborhood.
“After looking at spaces across the city, we landed back on our block,” Brittany Maldonado said.
“We want to be an anchor for our community, not just a place for customers to come and have a cupcake and coffee, but a place to meet and gather.”
The Maldonados are among the few African Americans who have ventured into Philadelphia’s competitive food truck sector.
“At the time, the food truck scene was really hot, so we thought let’s get a food truck versus brick and mortar,” Marcel Maldonado said of their 2013 business launch.
“In hindsight, I would have gotten the brick and mortar first. We thought that the food truck was the easier route because neither one of us had any experience in owning our own business.”
The 56-year-old former Bank of America employee invested more than $20,000 from her retirement fund into buying the truck and upgrading it for food service usage.
After they got the truck on the road, the women encountered mobile food vendors who were not willing to share information about upcoming events and the best parking locations.
“Our first thing when we came in was that we are going to make so many friends and people are going to show us how to do things and it’s not that way at all,” Brittany Maldonado said. “It was really hard to try to break into that group of people. It’s very much a clique.”
The Maldonados started out by parking their truck near Drexel and Temple universities and later found a lucrative location at 4th and Spring Garden streets.
Throughout the years, they also sold their baked goods in short stints at locations such as Love Park, the Navy Yard, the Porch at 30th Street and the Oval.
The businesswomen stopped street vending two years ago to focus on providing lunch service for offices and catering for special events such as birthday parties, barbecues and weddings.
When they decided they wanted their own storefront, the Maldonados turned to Entrepreneur Works, an nonprofit organization that focuses on growing small businesses, for assistance.
Entrepreneur Works advisers helped the Maldonados secure a Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program loan of $10,000. The loans are an investment by Bank of America through a partnership with the Tory Burch Foundation that aims to increase the number and size of businesses owned and led by women.