Today we’d like to introduce you to Brandi Diggs.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a child, my family and I would always move around about every three years. Meeting new people and gaining new experiences became normal for me. Even through all of the moving, one thing always remained consistent… Travel. My mom would send me on trips around the country to visit relatives and by the age of 14, I had already traveled to 9 different states and outside the country. Through these travels, I had gained so many enriching experiences. I remember this one trip in particular, my family and I went on a skiing road trip and along the way, I saw purple mountains for the 1st time. It was a great experience to witness. Especially after singing America the Beautiful every morning in kindergarten. Seeing those beautiful majestic mountains brought the song to life. My mother was big on exposing me to musicals, plays, and museums. She felt like these experiences would enrich my life and mold me into a well-rounded individual.
I grew up with family members that were working within the airline industry. Like my grandfather who was an airplane mechanic, my aunt who was a reservation agent and an uncle who is a flight attendant. Travel was a big part of my family lives and being front and center of their travel benefits inspired me to want the same for myself. So naturally, I became a flight attendant. This opportunity would allow me to explore the world, discover new places, and meet new people.
At a very young age, I would watch my grandfather cook up his famous enchiladas and salsa and my mother baked her famous pound cakes in the kitchen. I distinctly remember going outside and replicating everything they did. I remember wanting to be just like them and dreamt of the days of attending culinary school. That dream became reality. No sooner after I graduated from high school, I enrolled into California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. My grandfather also inspired the entrepreneur side in me. I remember on Sunday’s during his retirement era he would go out and sell hot dogs and hamburgers for the local park baseball league. I remember how he conducted business and how he handled his money. All of these memories and experiences stayed with me.
Needless to say, I have a passion for baking and HUGE love for travel. For a while, I attempted at starting a cheesecake company and my goal was to eventually use the capital from my business and start my true love, a non-profit organization to help youth travel and see the world. But over time, I couldn’t get things off the ground and things weren’t working for me. Slowly my passion began to fade. I realized I was doing it for all the wrong reasons; to make money. So I gave up.
I began reflecting over my life and thinking of what was my true purpose. During this reflection, I began reading books about social enterprise and social change. These books talked about caring for people, doing what is right for humanity and the world we live in and not about the mighty dollar. I started to realize that I wanted to do more than just make money. I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life. I wanted to go back to my grandfather’s era when employers cared about people over profit. A time when you knew what was in your food. A time when businesses could be trusted. A time when quality was better than quantity.
Back in high school, a classmate of mine got a graduation gift to New York City to see a broadway musical. I thought that was the best gift ever. I wanted to experience something like that too. A few years after becoming a flight attendant, I blessed my younger sisters with that same gift that I so wanted for myself, a trip to New York to see a broadway musical. It was fascinating to hear my youngest sister’s classmates think her high school gift was the best by far. Even better than having a graduation party, receiving cash or even a car for that matter. This opened my eyes to what the gift of travel really meant and how people value and thought so highly of it. Two years later 2016, my 13 years old nephew graduated from middle school. By this time he had only traveled to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. I wanted to expose him to so much more. That summer after his middle school graduation he came along with my family and I to New York City. To add a cherry on top, my husband and I bought him a 1st class ticket for our return flight to Los Angeles. After seeing how much fun he had, I finally realized that I wanted to give youth the same opportunities that I had growing up.
Being an inner-city Los Angeles native, I was shocked by the percentage of youth living in the same area who had never traveled outside of a 4-5 mile radius. Taking a 20 to 90 minute drive to the local beaches, deserts or mountains were unheard of. There are a lot of travel programs for youth, however these children lack the resources or funds to take advantage of these programs. My goal is to bridge the gap and give them the same opportunities that those in affluent areas have and give them a more level playing field. I’ve noticed over the years how public schools have cut out field trips to museums, science centers, and theaters which helps enrich children’s education, as well as adds another dimension to learning. These experiences bring to life what is learned in their schoolbooks.
After reading “Starting Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms, God gave me a vision to help youth who are aging out of group homes and social services. I’ve learned that more than 50% of youth who age out of these systems end up homeless due to education, employment, lack of life and social skills. To help this problem, my dream is to develop a social conscience cheesecake company that will give a portion of our proceeds to assist these youth with job training, travel, and cultural awareness.
Around late September 2019 things began to take shape. I found this large shelter that assisted homeless young adults that I wanted to partner with. I met with them and everything went well. They offered the use of one of their kitchen facilities and food supplies. We discussed creating a travel program that would also teach the young adults how to bake and sell our products. The profits from the baked goods would aid in their future trips. This was a dream come true. Everything I needed and more was being offered. Due to miscommunications between myself and one of the coordinators things fell through. However, prior to this meeting my sister -in- law (Tanisha Burrus) the co-founder of University Bound Consulting, a college consulting company which assists high school students with scholarships, ACT & SAT prep, and college applications, had reached out to myself and a few ladies to sponsor a student (Marilynn) for her college workshop series. Marilynn was dealing with many challenges, but determined to be successful and further her education. After reading this my husband and I offered to pay for the workshop in full. A few weeks later, Marilynn sends my husband and I a “thank you” text for our contribution.
Immediately, after reading the text, I wanted to take her to New York and carry on the tradition I had started with my younger sisters on my own dime. Since the plans with the shelter didn’t work out as expected, I was now looking for youth in foster care, group homes or shelters for my company to sponsor. I became frustrated because I had high hopes for the shelter and was lost on how I was going to find youth to assist. One day my husband suggested I start small and work with the student we had sponsored for the college workshop. I was reluctant at first. Based on what “I presumed” she didn’t fit the criteria of who I was looking to assist. At the time, I thought it would have been a lie to sponsor her. Despite my strong feelings to say No. I did it anyway. A few days later, I told Tanisha that my soon to be company was going to sponsor Marilynn for a trip to New York. After hearing this, she reveals to me that the young lady is a foster child. I was so elated. But realized that I had made an assumption of her without knowing anything about her. So November 9th, 2019 I announced on Instagram and Facebook the start of Mile High Cheesecakes.
Has it been a smooth road?
No, at all. I had to first get over the fear of failing, get out of my own comfort zone and believe that I had everything in me to fulfill my dream. It took about 3 1/2 years to actually build up enough confidence and get over some of my self-doubt. I had kept telling myself that since I couldn’t think of a ratio number of cheesecakes sold to help assist travel that I couldn’t get started. But ultimately, I realized that it was just fear of the unknown that was holding me back. It took for me to connect with Marilynn in order for me to take action. I didn’t care anymore about what I didn’t know. My desire to help her overshadowed that. It’s crazy the purpose of my business is to assist youth out of their comfort zone. If it wasn’t for Marilynn I wouldn’t have left my own.
Once I started things became interesting. I had to learn about marketing and branding and what that meant to be a CEO of an enterprise. I found myself spending more time marketing the business, then actually baking. The struggles of building a social enterprise business from the ground up is overwhelming. I have no blueprint to follow other than looking to companies like Toms and Warby Parker. When I initially started, I was totally opposed to starting two separate entities, a non-profit and for-profit. But after doing some research, I realize I will be doing myself and my Mile High Achievers a disservice. By starting a nonprofit, I would be opening up an avenue to collaborate with larger businesses and supporters to donate services and or funds to provide more for these youth such as computers, scholarships, assistants with college prep programs just to name a few.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Mile High Cheesecakes story. Tell us more about the business.
Our mission is to offer delicious elegant cheesecakes that inspire our guests to take part in our vision while delivering an innovative traveling experience with every purchase.
Our vision is to create a memorable traveling experience for unprivileged youth that will change their mindset of how they view themselves and the world they live in. Ultimately elevating these youth to be productive members of their community adds value to the world.
We are an online delivery service bakery that creates a traveling experience for each one of our guests who purchased any of our monthly destinations (flavors). These destinations (flavors) change monthly based on what’s in season, except for New York (original flavor) which is offered every month. Each cheesecake is named after a destination I have visited or would like to visit with my sponsored youth. Every month we allow our guests to take part in a voting process to select the destinations (flavors) they would like to visit for the following month. We offer a unique travel experience from the time of a reservation to the day of arrival. Creating this airline experience with each purchase. Our goal is to offer exceptional customer service that meets and exceeds our guests expectations.
We create a traveling experience for our guests as well as the youth we desire to help, which I believe sets us apart from any other bakery.
We are proud that we are making a difference in youth lives by simply showing them that travel isn’t just a luxury for those with money. It’s for anyone who dares to believe they can have the same for themselves no matter their circumstances. That belief will lead to dreaming and exploring outside one’s comfort zone which will help them discover a world that can change the way they see themselves and the world they live in.
- $35/Dozen Mini Cheesecakes
- $60 Whole Cheesecakes
- $10 4oz mason jar
- Phone: 562-448-CAKE(2253)
- Email: MileHighCheesecakes@gmail.com
Cheesecakes: Matted Vision; My self and Marilynn Flores (Mile High Achiever): Jasmine Benson