Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Denise Gaines

GG Bakes

Rochester, New York

“I didn’t think I would receive the loan, so I was really pleasantly surprised.” –Denise Gaines

Three’s Company

When Denise and her sister were both laid off from their office jobs in 2012, they saw the timeliness as an opportunity to create something they were passionate about together. “We’ve always baked and we got that from my grandmother. We saw that a lot of local bakeries weren’t making products from scratch, or that people were just going to the grocery stores. We wanted to give people homemade, from-scratch baked goods made with the care and attention they would have gotten from their own mothers or grandmothers.” Denise, her sister, and her mother converted the bottom of their house into a bakery and together they founded GG Bakes. “My mom raised us as a single parent. It was just the three of us. That’s where GG Bakes comes from – “Gaines girls.””

An Unexpected Fall

Soon enough, GG Bakes became a beloved fixture in the community, offering a range of sweets for every kind of celebration. “We have couples where we’ve catered their weddings and then when their first child is born.” However, in March 2020, when schools and businesses closed and celebrations were cancelled due to COVID-19, Denise and her family found themselves facing unprecedented challenges. “We had been providing products to a local college that closed in March. That was 75% of our business. 15% of our business was delivering to other local small businesses and they all closed. We also had our orders for anniversaries and weddings cancelled. You kept thinking things would get better, but it only seemed to get worse.”

A New Model

Yet gradually, Denise found her footing. “I knew we would have to change our business model. We had to do more farmer’s markets because those were still allowed to happen, so we wanted to ramp up our presence at these markets, to get a better tent and signage to let folks know who we are and what we’re doing. At the time, we were just keeping up with our monthly bills and I thought, ‘we’re going to need some money to do this properly.’ That’s when I applied for the loan.” Denise received a loan through Ascendus and the New York Forward Loan Fund, which she plans to use for a new set up for farmer’s markets, including a new tent. “I didn’t think I would receive the loan, so I was really pleasantly surprised.”

Family and Freedom

As Denise and her family begin to navigate their business through a new entrepreneurial landscape, Denise continues to appreciate the opportunities small business ownership has given her. “It’s a certain amount of freedom. The hours I work now are for me. I’m not just another cog in the wheel and I feel like I have more control over my destiny.” She also continues to remain grateful for her business partners, especially during times of uncertainty and challenge. “I couldn’t think of two other people that I’d rather have a business with.”

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