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Meet Melissa Gray of Pandawinks Diaper Cakery in West Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Gray.

Melissa, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Look, I just want to play with glitter!!

I am an Oncology Nurse, Health Coach and the proud owner of Pandawinks Diaper Cakery!

I am the eldest of six children. We were the first generation in America and raised by our single, Filipino mother. Growing up, we had limited resources and my mom showed us the value of hard work, always having multiple jobs to provide for our family. My mom held my siblings and I to very high standards and insisted that we strive for excellence.

When I was 8 years old, I came home with $5 I made from selling my Halloween candy at school. My grandma heard this and told me about how she was a business woman in the Philippines and always encouraged me to pursue my entrepreneurial adventures. To this day, I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m her favorite grandchild!

I always knew I wanted to help people so in May 2010, I received my Bachelors of Science in Nursing, and went on to pursue a career in Oncology Nursing. Shortly after, in September 2010, I made my first diaper cake as a gift for my cousin, Emelyn.  I REALLY loved making her cake – not only did I get to play with glitter, but I also got to utilize my creativity in the external design as well as strategically tucking away gifts within the cakes. Emelyn wasn’t the only one who loved her cake. When I posted the diaper cake on Facebook, all of my co-workers and friends started asking me about it and people started placing orders. I started to think about potentially doing this as a business so I made a Craigslist ad to see what would happen.

I received a call from a woman who could not afford to have a baby shower so, instead, her husband said that she could order a diaper cake. When I delivered her purple Princess themed diaper cake, the expression of happiness and utter excitement from this woman was absolutely priceless! The joy each Pandawinks Diaper Cake brings to my clients is what motivates me to keep going.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Being a one-woman show is full of difficult endeavors, especially around my full-time job as a nurse. Instead of relaxing, much of my time off has been spent building my empire!

One day, I had a booth at a craft show. I arrived early, and tried to set up my tent – in case you were wondering, the “EZ Up” Canopy is not easy for one person to put up! I was at that show for 12 hours and I didn’t sell anything! I sat at my booth thinking of my friends having brunch and hitting the beach while I was out there trying to sell diaper cakes. Talk about #FOMO!

At one point, I was given an opportunity to be featured in a children’s boutique. The owner gave me a contract I needed to sign and get notarized. I took that stack of papers to a notary, whom I knew as a social worker, and asked her, “Before we sign this contract, can you read it to me…as if you were reading it to a 3rd grader?” That document was filled with all kinds of legal terminology that that was completely foreign to me and I felt like I was in way over my head!

In order to make my diaper cake vision a reality, I am very hands on with my business education.  In addition to designing and constructing each product, I am learning how to create a business plan, track inventory, market and advertise, manage my bookkeeping and taxes.  Fortunately, there are so many mentors out there who are excited to teach us how to succeed– from SCORE LA, YouTube content creators, Pinterest and Google to name a few.  My Uncle Bill has been instrumental in my one-on-one mentorship, teaching me about booking keeping and taxes for the past 7 years.

There has and will always be lots of hurdles to jump over and I believe everything is happening exactly the way it’s supposed to. All I wanted to do was play with glitter and now I am so excited to learn new ways to grow my business!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Pandawinks Diaper Cakery – what should we know?
I’ve always been known for my eccentric, and eclectic, personality – both of which get to shine through in each Pandawinks product. Pandawinks products serve to celebrate and welcome tiny bundles of joy! Pandawinks motto is “Have your cake and use it, too!” Each cake is filled with gifts and baby toiletries that will be sure to come in handy for new parents. Cakes are customized to match parent’s personality, interests, hobbies, career, baby’s room or shower theme.  What I’m most proud of is how I’m able to go from a brainstorming session with my clients, discussing their expecting loved ones, and turning their vision into a fun reality. Many Pandawinks clients come back year after year because they are in love the with the unique personality, and practicality, that comes with each product.

When many people saw my work, they suggested I branch out and make other types of cakes – for weddings, birthdays, etc. I branched out, all right, I even made a cake for a cat’s 19th birthday! After attempting other types of cakes, I learned that I find the most fulfillment making diaper cakes. I have spent years perfecting the recipe for my diaper cakes and that is what I want my brand’s focus to be moving forward. I am excited to share Pandawinks Diaper Cakes with the world!

For one of my recent cakes, my co-worker told me that her sister was expecting and throughout the duration of her pregnancy, her sister had been referring to her baby as her “little lime.” She had since found out that she was expecting a baby girl and when I made her cake, it read, “This little lime of mine, I’m gonna let her shine!” To say she was ecstatic about her cake would be an absolute under statement! (Little Lime Cake Production & Reveal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVtz0Ct9eWY&list=PLOd2M37wUztvQU5yr5TaaTB-0PKOkfI2p)

One of my latest creations is sushi made out of socks and washcloths.  I was inspired by a good friend of mine, Arli, who grew up in Japan.  I wanted to do something a little different for him and his wife at their baby shower.  I even joined one of my friends at the sushi bar he worked at to study the art of making sushi just so I could put a realistic touch into my own sushi platter.  After translating into a non-edible form, Pandawinks Sushi was born!

Pandawinks has participated in a variety of trade/craft shows and has been featured in children’s boutiques. Pandawinks continues to grow as a family business as we venture into the world of e-commerce. I’m currently learning about the art of digital and social media marketing in order to expand traffic through Pandawinks.com, Instagram, Yelp and Facebook Pages. I’ve recently launched a YouTube channel, Caking with Melissa, featuring cake production and reveals! Pandawinks products are available through our website and you can find Pandawinks Sushi at Petals-N-Wax, a fun and unique gift shop located in Marina Del Rey, CA.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Pandawinks would not be where it is today if not for the role many of my family and friends played in helping me get here. Back when I started, I named my business BEBECKX. My friend, Yazmine, was the one who pointed out that my name wasn’t readable or memorable, not to mention, how do you even pronounce that? So she dived into research with me, helped to come up with Pandawinks Diaper Cakery, inspired by the stuffed panda topper from my first cake, and panda logo, which Yazmine created from scratch. We were going for a memorable logo inspired by cute, simplistic, Japanese art and Yazmine made it happen perfectly! My grandma, mom, sister and many of my friends would come out to my shows, not only to visit, but to also help with set up, interacting with clients, and keep me company. You can even find my friends (and sometimes, dates) helping me roll diapers, hundreds of them. I’m truly blessed and so thankful to have such a strong support system, they are definitely a HUGE part of Pandawinks!

When I moved to California from Florida in 2013, I decided that if I had an opportunity to meet new people or try something new, I would be a “yes!” I met my friend, Anthony, at a supermarket and he invited me down to a beach workout. I was introduced to Herbalife and the healthy, positive community through which I’ve been able to learn how to set my own health as a priority and I’m blessed to be able to pay that forward. This community has been vital in my growth in every aspect of my life – personal development, nutrition, relationships, the list goes on! By being a health coach, I’m able to interact with other entrepreneurs and mentors through whom I’ve been able to exponentially increase my knowledge and understanding of how to run a business.

I am so thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met and friendships I’ve been able to make. My great friend, Irene, has become family to me and she happened to introduce me to Evelyn, of Petals N Wax. I was also able to meet my mentor, Monika Zands and her husband, Jan. It’s impossible to put into words all the ways they support me but in their role as my life and business mentors, they inspire me to expand my vision and how to be more intentional in my day to day operations in order to obtain my goals. I could go on about all the amazing, ambitious people I’ve met through the Herbalife community but you’ll have to wait for my memoir to learn more!

Pricing:

  • $20 – Small Sushi Platter – 2 pairs of socks, 4 washcloths
  • $50 – Medium Sushi Platter (12in tray) – 4 pairs of socks and 16 washcloths
  • $150 – Large Sushi Platter (18in tray): 12 pairs socks and 28 washcloths
  • $75 – 3 Tier Cake Basic – 45 Size 1 Diapers, 1 8oz Bottle, 1 Package Baby Wipes
  • $125 – 3 Tier Cake (Most Popular): 45 Size 1 Diapers, Baby Wipes, 8oz Bottle, 2 pairs of socks, 4 washcloths, 1 blanket, Baby lotion/soap/body wash/powder and diaper rash cream
  • $200 – 4 Tier cake: 75 Size 1 Diapers, Baby Wipes, 8oz Bottle, 4 pairs of socks, 8 washcloths, 2 blankets, Baby lotion/soap/body wash/powder and diaper rash cream

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Personal Photo: Mylinh Nguyen

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