Local entrepreneur finds life mission through baking

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 7, 2015

 Local baking entrepreneur Monica Martin was the first home-based business to have her product featured at a kiosk at Lakeside Mall, in Sterling Heights, in 2014.

Local baking entrepreneur Monica Martin was the first home-based business to have her product featured at a kiosk at Lakeside Mall, in Sterling Heights, in 2014.

Photo provided by Monica Martin

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — When you look at the ingredients that create one box of Yumbitz, you’ll notice that the first ingredient is “LOVE.”


That is the mission maintained by Monica Martin, the Clinton Township-based owner of a growing cookie company.


Yumbitz comes in resealable white packages that give individuals a glimpse of the deliciousness waiting inside, and since the business officially took off, success has taken Martin by storm.


The longtime baker wasn’t always an entrepreneur, though. She jumped hurdles and changed careers, had personal setbacks and gained a new lease on life through others’ eyes.


Originally from Warren, Martin earned a degree in early childhood development and became a preschool teacher. She lived in Chicago for 10 years and had an in-home daycare.


But the realities of living in an expensive city like Chicago and not making enough income propelled her to work for various distributors. That’s when things started to change.


While on a business trip in Mexico, she saw poverty through her own eyes — it’s a place where the rich are rich and the poor are poor, she said.


When she returned to the states she became more involved in helping others who are less fortunate, volunteering at a food pantry.


One month after her daughter, Karly, was born, Monica’s husband lost his job. The family had no income for nine months.


Martin called that period of time “incredibly scary” because she had just had a child and did not know how she and her husband would support her.


It was a humbling experience, she said, going from consistent paychecks to absolutely nothing. She even received help from the pantry where she volunteered, saying it was difficult to accept “handouts” for food and diapers.


“I realized people go to pantries because they have to,” she said. “I got to see it on the other side. To be on that side (and) to think that your whole value is based on what you do. But it’s really not; it’s who you are. I want people to know that it’s who you are that matters the most.”


In 2009, she had the original idea for Yumbitz after her lifelong love of baking, though it wasn’t until late 2013 when she officially rolled out her cookies for the masses — at least as a precursor to her future success.


She received a baking license, and through a series of random encounters, became involved with St. Luke Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, where the church invited her to bake in its empty kitchen. They even bought new ovens for her, which she uses when she is not spending time at home with her child.


“It was almost like serendipity. You run into people who run into people who know people who can help you, and there was always someone along the way who could give you guidance,” Martin said.


She worked with a coach at MSU Extension who walked her through the process of becoming a small-business owner, including how to start an original food program, conduct online research, and connect with other entrepreneurs to promote positive thinking and relationships.


In 2014, she started at mom-to-mom sales and success became more authentic in the form of a kiosk at Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights. She said that Yumbitz was the first home-based business to ever sell at the mall, drawing big crowds over a three-week period.


As for the name, it was created to convey a message that the journey of life is sweet and that it should be indulged in. Martin said that people often put sweets in negative categories.


“I don’t think it was ever meant to be that way,” she said. “I think everything in life needs to be indulged in, so to enjoy the journey is like a constant reminder to kind of live in the moment. It’s OK, be free.”


Her first official delivery did not take place until February of this year, when the Bread Basket Deli in Clinton Township wanted her product in its store.


Right now, there are three kinds of cookies in the Yumbitz brand, and they each have their own “call to action”: Chocolate chip refers to the savory experience Martin hopes people appreciate with the food and in life; double chocolate fudge tells the consumer to indulge and do it twice; and white chocolate macadamia represents a “tropical getaway” meant for people to unwind.


Every sale of Yumbitz goes to feed the hungry.


Each bag comes with seven cookies and sells for $3, and 10 percent of every sale feeds those in need through the Hope Center and Gleaner’s Community Food Bank of southeastern Michigan.


Martin does everything for the brand: bakes, sells, packages, labels, runs social media accounts, does in-store appearances, creates the brand designs and more. She has learned everything from beginning to end.


“Right now I’m small, but I want people to look at me like I’m huge, you know?” she said.


Now her product can be found at 18 different locations, from the Gourmet Deli at Detroit’s Renaissance Center, to Eastern Market, to the Coffee Beanery in Wixom. She has a website, as well as vital Instagram and Facebook accounts that connect to new cookie lovers every day.


Her personal experiences, from different careers to a point of regret, led her out of uncertainty to a place of solace: the kitchen.


“It was me holding me back because I was scared of failure,” Martin said. “You’re throwing yourself out there, you’re building a brand and you’re excited about it, but is everybody else? You start talking yourself out of it. You’re selling cookies. How many other cookies are on the market? You’re feeding kids; so is everybody else. You try to think about it, and the more you think about is all the reasons you shouldn’t do it. So, I had to get out of that.


“There’s a lot of negativity out there; there’s too much,” she continued. “And we all want to dream, and we all have hopes and aspirations. And it’s nice to find somebody else who’s doing that and (think), ‘If she can do it, I can do that’ because I’m not anyone special.”


For more information, visit www.yumbitz.com.

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