In our latest edition of Military Spouse Small Business, meet Vanessa, the owner and baker behind Little Book Bakes! This Groton-based submarine spouse took her passionate hobby of baking for family and friends and turned it into a thriving business. To learn more, read on!
Name: Vanessa Spinaio
Hometown: San Gabriel, CA
Branch of Military: Navy
Current Duty Station: Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut
Q: Tell us about your business.
In 2019 I started a small batch baking company called, Little Book Bakes. I specialize in decorated sugar cookies but also make a variety of other gourmet cookies, cupcakes, and macarons.
Q: What made you choose this type of business?
My business was born out of my family’s love of throwing a party and my love of baking. My mom, sister and I would often have very elaborate dessert tables and since I was the one that loved baking, I would be in charge of making all the treats.
Q: What motivated you to start your business?
After doing dessert table after dessert table for birthdays, baby showers, and anniversaries all for family, I thought I should sell these treats to other people but never followed through. But then decorated sugar cookies came along and I fell in love with making them. I put all the other treats to the side and learned all I could about decorating cookies. That’s when I finally got the courage to apply for my licensing and permits to sell to other people than my family.
Q: How do you manage the work/life balance as a military spouse?
This is a work in progress! And someone else’s work/life balance may not look the same as mine and that’s ok! Here are a few things I do:
- Set boundaries with your business, for me this is only answering emails Monday-Friday at 6am before the kids get up. Another thing that has been helpful is to plan ahead, as much as I can, meaning I write in those days off or vacations.
- Learning to say no. This is probably one of the hardest things to do! I want to take on all the cute and creative themes my clients come up with but can’t. Although my husband helps me a lot, I am the only one that decorates. If I didn’t say no, I would definitely miss out on time with my family, and it would no doubt lead to burnout. I enjoy what I do too much to let myself get burned out.
- Use a calendar! This is where I put all those things, the kids’ activities, work schedule, that day trip to the winery. It helps keep me organized and sane!
- Lastly, take the help where you can. It was difficult for me, more than anything, to let go of some things that I did because I wanted them to be just the way I did them. But I have taught my husband to make many of my recipes. All of them actually and he is amazing at it! If you have ever had one of my cookies there is a high chance that my husband is the one who made the dough, cut, and probably baked it. Can your partner or kids put labels on packaging or assemble boxes for you? Let them, it’ll be ok!
Q: Any advice for fellow milspouses who want to start their own business?
There is a saying “You’re not starting from scratch; you’re starting from experience.” This was my biggest worry when starting my business and being a military spouse, knowing that I would have to move at some point and “start over”. But I kept that saying in mind constantly and did it scared anyway! Even if you are starting from scratch or from experience, do it scared! I’m so glad I did, my time here in Connecticut has been nothing but amazing!
Last, make friends with people in your industry or other small businesses. Owning a business can feel lonely at times. Your family and friends may not understand why you’re going to another vendor event when you just went to one last week or why even you price your items the way you do (that’s another conversation). Having someone to talk to about the ups and downs of owning a business is invaluable.
Q: Favorite thing(s) to do in your current duty station?
My family is born and raised in Southern California and to be able to experience all the seasons has been truly our favorite part of being here. We love when it snows and getting out to go sledding or throw snowballs. This side of the coast has so much history! One of my sons loves all things that have to do with the American Revolution, so it has been great to see some historic sites.
Q: Where can we support and learn more about your business?
Special shout-out to Vanessa. I was searching for somewhere creative to get cookies made for my daughter’s first birthday and decided to search on the Groton Navy Spouses FB page. I found many recommendations for Little Book Bakes and decided to reach out. I am so happy I did! The ordering process was very easy and pick-up was a breeze. Even more impressive was the sheer creative genius that went into the cookie decorating. She truly brought our Alice in Wonderland theme to life. Not only were the cookies beautifully designed, but they were also delicious! I’ve honestly never had a cookie that looked like a piece of artwork and also tasted so amazing. I 100% recommend Little Book Bakes for any and all occasions.