Bootstrapping a custom cake business in W.H.


When Sydney Perry was a college student, baking was her passion — so much so that she needed to give away most of what she made. Little did she know she was launching a marketing campaign for what ultimately became Sydney’s Sweets — a custom bakery in West Hempstead specializing in elaborate cakes and baked goods that have been seen on the “Bridezilla” reality show, in wedding magazines and elsewhere.

“People would just come back and ask, ‘Do you think you could make me a cake? I’ll pay for it!’” Perry recalled of her start in business 13 years ago. “At the time, I was 21, and that sounded really good!”

Over the years, her customer base increased, and the requests became more elaborate. With the popularity of such food cable shows as “Cake Boss” and “Cupcake Wars,” her clients not only wanted tasty treats, but they also sought the sophisticated designs similar to those seen on TV. “People started asking, ‘Oh, could you make my cake look like this picture?’” Perry recounted. “And, between practice, and YouTube and just honing in on my skills, I realized I became good at cake decorating.”

Her husband, Jermaine Perry, was hooked on Sydney’s baking early on. On their second date, she baked him a pineapple upside down cake and brought it to his house. He was immediately smitten.

Jermaine soon became involved in helping Sydney expand her business, and eventually became involved in it full time. “He suggested that we should do a holiday menu — like for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said, which “generated tons and tons of orders.” Four years ago, the couple — who were working out of commercial kitchens to keep up with the pace of orders — decided it was time for a place of their own, and found one in West Hempstead.

Neither Sydney nor Jermaine had ever met anyone in the baking business. “We knew how to bake cakes and make them look awesome,” Sydney said, but the couple had no entrepreneurial experience. “When we found this place, we found out it used to be a deli, and that was another reason we took it, because it already had equipment that was mandated.”

The couple gutted the place and started from scratch, calling on family and friends to help them paint and decorate. In the midst of doing all that, their son Cameron was born. “Anticipation of his arrival was the final courage we needed to take the leap of faith to invest all of our savings into opening the store,” said Jermaine, who also eschewed his engineering degree for the bakery business. Sydney also left her accounting career to devote herself to the business full time.

Soon after, the couple had an opportunity to have one of their cakes featured on “Bridezillas.” A friend of Sydney’s had a connection to the show, which gave the couple the opportunity to bake a cake for a contest in Manhattan where a group of brides had to eat a wedding cake with their hands behind their backs.

Then came a profile of the couple’s business in Essence magazine, which documented their entrepreneurial leap.

Some time later, they received a request to have one of their cakes photographed as part of a bridal spread in the magazine Inside Weddings: An edible, dramatic copper-and-white wedding cake with detailed, handmade sugar flowers “That cake probably takes three to four hours just to decorate, and then there are the flowers,” said Sydney. “You have to do those in advance. Each one takes 15 to 20 minutes because there are many steps involved.”

The couple said they also get plenty of orders for simple frosted cakes, which they can have decorated and out the door in 15 minutes. All cakes need to be ordered in advance.

Though their Hempstead Avenue location has limited foot traffic, their online presence keeps them busy. “We do a lot on Instagram and Facebook and other social media, and we’ve gotten a good amount on reviews on Yelp, so a lot of people find us that way,” Sydney said. “It’s amazing.”

Their store’s location also gave them the opportunity to learn how to manage a bakery business. “In the future, we do plan on being more retail-focused and will open up more locations,” she said.