Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernice López.
Bernice, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The moment Lucía and I met is one to be cherished forever. Lucía was my rescue beagle, the runt of her litter, who served as my muse and inspiration throughout my journey as an activist, advocate, community leader and eventually hobby baker. I rescued Lucía while I was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside and our connection was beyond this earth.
For me, there was not a vast difference between a cow and Lucía- this insight served as the inspiration for adapting a vegan lifestyle and diet after being vegetarian for five years. Shortly after, I learned about animal testing and the fact beagles are the primary breed exploited for research in the United States and felt compelled to take my advocacy to the next level. Lucía’s beauty and essence is captured in my business logo that was crafted by my talented family member David.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Linguistics, I joined the highly competitive national teacher corps, Teach for America, and was assigned to teach in Watts, one of most marginalized communities in Los Angeles. While in the classroom, I founded a student-led on-campus group, Students four Animal Rights Education & Advocacy where my students participated in animal welfare community service opportunities, humane education sessions, and fundraising opportunities.
My students and I baked cupcakes to sell at school and later donated the funds collected to a variety of animal welfare non-profit organizations. This was the initial birthplace of my passion for baking! I later joined the second school in Huntington Park and started a new chapter of the group there with the help of The Pollination Project after receiving a distinguished recognition and grant, Humane Educator Award.
While in the classroom, I was recruited by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to launch and implement a community engagement program in collaboration with the County of Los Angeles to help keep people and pets together while providing supportive services such as subsidized spay/ neuter, emergency veterinary care and so much more. It was such an honor to have been a part of such an incredible and innovative shift in animal welfare, where solutions were being created for families who are struggling financially and are mostly people of color.
I stepped down from my role as Senior Manager at the ASPCA a few weeks prior to undergoing major brain surgery due to a neurological condition. Shortly after my recovery, the County of Los Angeles Animal Care and Control recruited me to launch and assist with the implementation of a restorative justice program at a youth detention center in Santa Clarita. At Pawsitive Steps Academy we encourage and guide the detained youth to temporarily foster homeless kittens while learning animal care skills as well as practice compassion, teamwork, responsibility and commitment.
While playing lead roles in the opportunities outlined above, I was actively baking for friends, family and colleagues until one day my husband suggested I begin to sell my delicious desserts. I started an Instagram page and began to share my cake art with followers. Shortly after I joined other vendors offering plant-based options at popup events and continued to build a rapport with the community. Vegan Latina Bakes flourished in a few months due to word to of mouth and I am overwhelmed with the number of requests I receive for my baked goods on a daily basis.
Lucía has played an integral role in my development as a vegan hobby baker by serving as my esteemed muse and creating delicious baked goods without using animal products. In essence, my precious beagle along with her brothers Marty and Frida, who are also rescue beagles, have served as motivation. Unfortunately, Lucía’s health was recently in jeopardy and I was faced with a difficult decision and on her 12th birthday while surrounded by her family and long-term veterinarian, we put her to rest in our home.
Although Lucía is no longer physically present with me, she continues to serve as the inspiration for my advocacy and her legacy will live through me. Lucía’s name is symbolic, it derives from Italian meaning ‘light,’ and that is precisely her legacy- she is the light of my life. Lucía’s influence and unmatched love has fueled me inspire those around me.
Has it been a smooth road?
With every new endeavor in life, there will always be challenges and it is how we approach them that determines our growth. Juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously takes so much strength, commitment and requires an unlimited amount of passion. Due to the rapid growth of my business, I am unable to keep up with the demand of my baked goods.
Also, I currently run the business on my own and at times, that can become overwhelming. However, I am fortunate that my husband has been extremely supportive in the growth and development of my business as a solid support system is also essential. Most importantly, my gratitude goes out to my supporters who are essentially community members who have served as my advertisement by trusting me to bake for them and their families. Lastly, my supporters (both vegan and non-vegans alike) have served as my advertising by sharing their unbiased rave reviews after indulging in my delicious cakes and cupcakes.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Vegan Latina Bakes offers delicious Latinx inspired baked goods and was developed in order to share one of my passions with others and to demonstrate there is no need to utilize animal products and exploit animals in order to enjoy delicious sweets! In particular, I specialize in custom organic baked goods and utilize only the finest organic ingredients you can taste. In addition, I use fair-trade chocolate, as human rights are just as significant to me as animal rights. Not only do I craft my creations from scratch with the best organic ingredients I can find, but every item is baked with so much love and passion or “baked con amor” as I like to express.
I am extremely proud of the fact I am a Latina woman baking for my community. Offering some of the most delicious organic baked goods is something I truly enjoy and most of my supporters are not vegan- to me, this is a testament to the quality and taste of my baked goods. I would say that another aspect unique aspect about me are the leadership roles where I have strived to create access and build bridges for my community, people of color and the poor. I am proud to share I was accepted to various top academic institutions in the county, including the Ivy League, to pursue my Master of Social Work.
I gladly accepted admission at the University of California, Los Angeles and recently embarked on my new journey to continue to challenge systems and strive for social and economic justice. Although I will be a full-time graduate student, Vegan Latina Bakes will continue to operate and offer delicious options to the community on a limited basis. Vegan Latina Bakes is more than just a woman of color operated business; it is an additional branch of my advocacy to be the voice for all animals and not just our beloved pets.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
When I went vegan almost seven years ago, there were not as many delicious vegan options available to enjoy as there are today. With the growth of more Angelinos adapting a plant-based diet, the demand for options has created a spike in the number of vendors offering plant-based options.
Los Angeles is a great place for businesses to offer plant-based food, as there is so much potential for personal and professional growth, exploring creativity, building community and activism. This is also a great time for vendors offering plant-based options to be supportive of one another and focus on genuinely building each other up if we want to strive to promote compassion for all living beings- it starts with us.
I would recommend to someone starting a similar business to focus on the positive aspects and learn to be their own cheerleader when it feels challenging as well as to lean on their supporters for additional support. Most importantly, it is crucial to walk with confidence, act with integrity and stay true to themselves and their mission especially when it seems most challenging because that is when growth happens.
- Address: Norwalk
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @veganlatinabakes
I took these pictures 🙂