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Life is definitely ramping up for Jeffrey and Susie Ryan. Already busy raising three children, in the last month they moved from St. Joseph to White Heath, were named the grant winner of the most recent City of Monticello business bootcamp, and are looking for downtown spaces in which to open a bakery, hopefully by October.
“We were actually going to move to the community before we even started bootcamp, and were looking to open the bakery there,” said Jeffrey Ryan. “Then I stumbled upon the bootcamp and everything lined up to when we needed to move.”
They relocated to White Heath in early April, and are looking forward to starting their business opportunity.
It’s a dream come true for Susie, who learned cooking from her grandmother, the “Lu” in the future bakery’s name, Susie Lu’s Cakes & Pastries.
“She cooked and baked, so I watched her and fell in love with cooking. I love to cook, I’ve always wanted to have my own restaurant,” she said. “Then I started baking for my kids and people started asking to buy cakes and one thing led to another and here we are.”
The bootcamp allows participants to apply for a $5,000 grant to help with initial rent/mortgage and utility payments if they open a business in Monticello’s downtown business district. But the Ryans say the five-week training (one evening per week) did much more than give them seed money for Susie Lu’s.
“I think marketing and accounting are the biggest things we learned, especially when I got going on the business plan and trying to come up with projections of cash flow and income statement projections. I basically created my own Quick Books in Excel, ” said Jeffrey Ryan, a materials engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers Research Lab in Champaign.
The couple is already searching for space to sell cupcakes, designer cakes, and French and Italian pastries. No matter where they locate, they say customers will walk into a French style establishment with plenty of pink, along with vintage uniforms for staff.
“The entire store and atmosphere of the store will be very decorated and detailed. It’s going to create an environment,” said Mr. Ryan.
Mrs. Ryan is currently a stay at home mom, but has 19 years of experience in food service. Her husband has family in Monticello, so she is familiar with the community – and impressed.
“We’ve always really liked it here. Every time we come to visit, there’s Allerton Park, the stores, and people always seem to be friendly. There’s just an attraction to it,” she said.
She has operated a bakery out of her home in recent years, and the new business will get a jump start by selling cupcakes at a quarter auction April 30 at the Community Building in Monticello, where proceeds will go to the CU Autism Network.
Bootcamp grants are funded by private businesses and individuals. The most recent session was the fourth round of bootcamp, with the fifth scheduled for September. Registration will open on Aug. 1.