We recently spent an afternoon with Clara Polito of Clara Cakes. Having been vegan for years I watched from the front-lines as more and more vegan and health food businesses popped up all over the West Coast. When I heard about Clara I was interested how someone so young could build such a successful word-of-mouth business when the market was already so saturated with vegan desserts and snacks. Naturally, I was curious about her background.
Clara comes from a working class family. Her mother is a massage therapist and her father does tile and plaster work. She says she grew up with “hard-working parents who, although they wouldn’t classify themselves as entrepreneurs, did technically run their own businesses.” She was raised as a vegetarian and around 7th grade became vegan, on her own. She cites both animal welfare issues and wanting to better the environment as reasons she made the switch.
After making the transition, Clara started baking to satisfy her own sweet tooth. “Ever since I started baking I haven’t stopped at all,” she laughs. “I was just like, this is my thing.”
Word quickly spread throughout her family and friend’s circles about her baked goods, and the next thing she knew her brother, a musician, had asked Clara to make some treats for one of his events at an underage music hall in downtown LA. From there, her business took off and now Clara is an inspiration for young girls to not wait to follow their dreams, but to start right now.
What is interesting about Clara is that she doesn’t feel the need to market her products as particularly health food or vegan. “I just want them to enjoy it,” she says. “I feel like they compete with non-vegan things.” In addition, the different types of snacks and flavors she offers are completely unique from both the health snacks on the market as well as your typical bakery treat.
Although Clara has turned into quite the girl boss and businesswoman with her success, you can still find her baking her growing orders on her own– in a commercial kitchen, no less. Clients include Pizzanista! and Cruzer Pizza where she hand delivers them orders twice a week.
Her recent book, Clara Cakes: Delicious and Simple Vegan Desserts for Everyone, is a reflection of her hard work and unique aesthetic that stems from her musical inspirations. Hers is a story of how a close-knit family influenced, supported and empowered a young woman to come into her own and craft out a life filled with passion, purpose and play. Thanks Clara for inspiring us to be ourselves and showing us where that can lead!