Beth Lukens’s idea for a confection business began during her senior year at USF Sarasota-Manatee disguised as a sweet classroom project. She created a business plan for a fictitious food service establishment complete with menus, interviews with real world businesses and a cost analysis. “I created Cloud 9 Confections and told myself someday it’d be more than just a school project,” said the hospitality management graduate.
Today, Cloud 9 Confections is a custom “bake to order” enterprise in South Tampa, where Lukens fulfills special requests from customers through her website: www.cloud-9-confections.com.
Lukens always had a passion for food and hoped she could one day incorporate her baking skills into her professional life. After seeing one too many shows on the Food Network and thinking “I could do that,” she decided to make her dream a reality. Cloud 9 Confections offers not only cupcakes, but cookies, toffee, chocolate bark, chocolate dipped pretzels and other seasonal items. Lukens prides herself on making confections in small batches to guarantee quality every time, catering mainly to holiday parties, baby and bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, teacher gifts, corporate give-a-ways, tailgate parties and lunch box treats.
In addition to catering and selling an assortment of confections, she offers classes at The Epicurean Hotel in Tampa as well as hosting themed parties for her clients. “I not only sell cupcakes, I show others how to make them for themselves,” Lukens commented. These parties are derived from the show Cupcake Wars which airs on the Food Network. Party attendees are divided into teams that compete to make and display themed cupcakes. “Everyone has lots of fun and learns about baking in the process,” said Lukens.
But when it comes to the success of her small business, Lukens credits USFSM for its fundamental education and real-world benefits. “I use skills learned at USFSM every day,” said Lukens. “From the basics like accounting and cost control to the less tangible ones like people skills and marketing.” She believes her experience with the university’s professors helped shape who she is today and the smaller classes helped cultivate an ideal environment for learning.
“USFSM is a great environment to learn and foster a passion for hospitality, while being immersed in a community that truly embraces the culture,” said Lukens.
The entrepreneur also appreciated having small classes and “many opportunities to visit various hospitality operations in the community.” She considers Sarasota a perfect location for a degree based in tourism. “There are endless resources and the community support is great.”