Friday, Nov 28, 2014
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Shandi’s Sugar Shack a sweet alternative for working mom


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Shandi Schuler knew she needed to start her own business when issues with her special needs daughter started requiring more focus. And as many in her position do, Schuler looked at her creative hobbies to help her pave an independent path.

Baking was something Schuler did well. She also found it provided an escape that helped her center herself when things became stressful. She turned to it even more after her life drifted into single parenting a special needs child and two younger children.

She was already a creative person and Schuler found the more she experimented with unusual ideas, the more her creativity blossomed. Her “research” turned into amazing cakes, cookies, and other bakery items that her family, friends and acquaintances embraced with enthusiasm.

So when she found herself at a crossroads with her daughter, Hailey, whose behavior challenges were becoming more difficult to handle outside of the home, Schuler looked for solutions.

Shandi’s Sugar Shack became her lifeline, allowing the Hernando High graduate, who took her first cake decorating class while in high school, to work from home and provide an income for herself and her three children. And it served a double purpose since baking was still a refuge for balancing her daily stress.

Schuler’s creations are captured in whimsical cake themes, from super heroes to princesses to any suggestion from a potential client. And she has broadened her menu items to include cake balls, cookies, and a “Rice cream” delight she learned from her high school catering teacher.

It isn’t all cake batter and icing though. Many of Schuler’s finished products require time to plan and execute. And she goes at it with the same focus on detail that was required when working in other jobs.

Sometimes, she engages the entire family which includes Hailey, 8, Cloe, 7, and Brody, 5.

“They might help me role fondant,” Schuler said. And of course, they are available as taste testers.

The three children have adapted to the transformation of their kitchen into an artist’s studio on any given day. To them, it’s just normal. Their interests are peaked when Schuler attempts a new idea they can relate to. Cloe’s favorite is a Zebra cake. Hailey speaks fondly of fondant.

“I do love fondant,” she said.

Tara Dorta, who picked up a Superman cake for a friend’s party, said the final product was beyond expectations.

“Perfect,” Dorta said.

The layer cake was encased in fondant, with crafty cutouts and a Superman logo along the top. Ordered for the husband of a friend, Dorta volunteered to pick it up.

“He will love it,” she said.

Many of Schuler’s cakes are covered in homemade fondant, which allows more creativity with design. She also crafts all her cake flavors and icings from scratch. And she is open to suggestions for different flavors and concoctions.

Peanut butter and chocolate remain classic flavors.

Schuler left a full-time position at a local business to focus on her daughter’s needs. While she misses the security of working for an established company, her flexibility allows her to provide the best options for Hailey, who was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism, as well as her other children.

Schuler’s entrepreneurial spirit has helped her build a foundation for her business. She isn’t afraid to try new things to attract a following, including offering a Treat of the Week promotion. Each week, she introduces another special item, like cake balls or her infamous rice-cream sandwiches, which have become a huge hit.

Schuler boxes the Treat of the Week and sells them for about $10. Customers place their orders by Wednesday for a Friday delivery.

Schuler has been successful in blending her passions into a workable business she is proud of. “I’ve never delivered a cake I wasn’t happy with,” she said.

Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at damewrites@yahoo.com.

Biz at a Glance

Name: Shandi’s Sugar Shack

Phone: (352) 345-9275

Like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shandissugarshack

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