Passion for Baking Leads to SBA Honors for South Florida Young Entrepreneur
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Mari Rubio moved to Miami in 2009 so she could turn her passion for cooking into a reality. After completing a six-month internship in Southern Italy and graduating from Johnson & Wales University Miami in 2012, she returned home to Santo Domingo to spend the holidays with her family. Struggling with idle hands and time, she began experimenting with a pecan pie recipe. This experience proved life changing as the recipe was so well received by her friends and family.
After returning to Miami determined to create the same buzz as she did back home, Rubio eventually took the remaining $50 from her weekly allowance to purchase all the ingredients needed to bake her first batch of pecan pies. In less than a year, Rubio found herself, along with her mom and aunt, looking for a company name and kitchen space. Thus, Casa Gioia, which translates to “house of joy” in Italian, was born.
Mari needed help in growing her business, so she contacted the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at Florida International University. FSBDC at FIU College of Business Consultant Nile Kirec assisted Rubio in building a strategic plan to create brand awareness leveraging the resources she had at the time. The center also worked to help her gain access to a commercial kitchen to help increase her capacity and staff, as well as to improve her marketing and financial management efforts.
In 2018, Rubio closed out the year with approximately $70,000 in revenues and now employs a staff of five. In 2019, her passion for baking, community stewardship, and determination led to her being named U.S. Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the State of Florida and South Florida District. "For a girl who started her business selling to friends and family, the SBA Young Entrepreneur Award is a huge accomplishment! I hope to pay it forward by inspiring other chefs and entrepreneurs, just as those who came before me inspired me to turn desserts into a successful business."