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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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Killer Sweets: Baking Vegan Desserts and Serving the Communities

Valeria+Simon+and+Samantha+Castle+at+their+booth.+%28Signal+Photo%2FGabriela+Muro%29

Valeria Simon and Samantha Castle at their booth. (Signal Photo/Gabriela Muro)


You might have heard of vegan and gluten free sweets, but it’s rare to find a baker who specializes in it. Meet Valeria Simon. She and her baking partner Samantha Castle began Killer Sweets in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, many businesses were asked to close due to CDC regulations. Killer Sweets continued as they were home-based and certain communities relied on them.
With the help of social media and word of mouth, their business continued to grow. 
“Well, I mean quite honestly, we are very very thankful even till this day, thankful for word of mouth, our friends, friends and family,” Simon said, “Like they really helped us out. We started out at Preservation Coffee. People were like, ‘Oh my gosh gluten free and vegan? Ok!’ So that was really cool and I think that’s kind of what held us right above water you know, because it was unfortunate that so many businesses were, you know, kind of dropping out. I think because of our specialty that’s what barely held us up. We were kind of meeting people all masked up, meeting people selling goodies.” 
Starting her business took a lot of trial and error and learning but Simon had Castle right there with her along the way.
“So she showed me a lot,” Simon said, “Very very thankful for that and then, as far as the vegan stuff went, that was kind of just trial and error. So we combined the two and I was like, you know there’s maybe one other business off the top of my head that has that sort of specialty otherwise it was just kind of us. Or even if going into the bay area that’s where it’s all at you know, and not all of us are fortunate to be able to be like ok let’s jump in the car and drive two, three hours from here and yeah, we’re super thankful and glad to serve the community.”
The community Killer Sweets serves is not just the local vegan and gluten free community. They use their platform as an opportunity to post about the importance of supporting several causes.
During Women’s History month, Simon collects bras and feminine hygiene donations and works with local organizations, like I Support the Girls, every year who receive them. 
“I Support the Girls, they are a huge umbrella where they have affiliates all over the world. We have one in Central Valley, and she services, right now she’s servicing Tulare and she’ll even drive out to even like Merced or come up closer,” said Simon. 
As they wait for their affiliate to make her way toward the Central Valley, Simon collects the donations and oftentimes they fill her living room. A large donation awaits its new home. 
“We’re just kind of the little guys helping out someone else to help other people. So it’s really fun, it’s really, it’s amazing,” she says.
This project of care has also made Simon realize something many girls and women go through every month in the United States.
The National Institutes of Health estimates 16.9 menstruating women in the United States live in poverty and two thirds cannot afford basic menstrual products. According to an editorial on The National Library of Medicine, college students are among those affected as well.
“One national survey among college students found that 14.2% of respondents reported experiencing period poverty in the year preceding the survey, while an additional 10% experienced it every month.” mentioned the article.
“Honestly, like you don’t think about those things like period poverty. I didn’t. No idea. But that’s been a really big thing,” said Simon. 
Due to the awareness she creates through Killer Sweets, people realize the importance of helping out. 
“So, actually, I had a really good friend donate and she brought six boxes of items. So my living room is a little crazy right now,” she said. 
Simon seems to have no problem with it, as she giggles and happily continues to express her love for this project. 
“That’s my favorite time of the year besides Halloween,” said Simon with a smile. She also likes to reward those who help her out. 
“Anyone that donates, they’ll be put into a raffle to say, either win like a cheesecake or if they don’t want to do a cheesecake then they’re welcome to do, like, a gift certificate,” she said.
Other than being known for their dietary specialty and fundraisers, creativity is also something Killer Sweets is known for. Whatever it is a client asks for, they try their best to make it happen and you can see it on their social media pages. Simon says their chocolate cake is coffee-based and delicious.
Simon had a thought about customization requests that made her laugh.
“I think everyone kind of stays into the safe zone but I do get a lot more interesting design requests and those could be umm, say Rick and Morty or they could be more on the adult side,” she said, “I get a lot of interesting requests and I, you know, I try my best and I’m usually very honest. Say if I’m not familiar with working, say with modeling chocolate or something, I’ll let them know but most of the time I’m ready to, you know, take it on.”
All this creativity Simon talks about happens in her very own home kitchen where no one but herself can tell her how to run her business. An article that talked about entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic was published right around the time Simon and her partner Castle started Killer Sweets.
Published through the National Bureau of Economic Research, it states the U.S. Census Bureau had a drop in new business applications at the beginning of the pandemic but then they spiked during the second half of 2020. 
“The pace of applications since mid-2020 is the highest on record (earliest data available is 2004). The large increase in applications is for both likely new employers and nonemployers. These patterns contrast sharply with those in the Great Recession when applications for likely new employer businesses and in turn actual startups of employer businesses declined sharply and persistently,” the article also mentions. 
When asked what it is to work out of the comfort of her own home, Simon talked about how well it’s worked out for her.
“It’s honestly amazing because I, for as long as I remember I’ve always been a caretaker for my family.” she said. “Both of my parents had cancer in the past and I took care of both of them. My grandmother, you know, she’s up in age, I take care of her and then with my brother having autism as well, i’ve been taking care of him. So it’s nice to be in the comfort of my own home where I can, you know, set my own schedule, do my appointments with them, come back home, bake, you know have my time in the kitchen and, it’s honestly, really really nice so just to be here all the time and be my own boss. I have no one else to get mad at but myself.” 
The love and hustle for baking doesn’t end there. Simon plans to grow her business and work alongside more coffee shops in the near future.
“Hopefully more coffee shops. That’s the goal,” she said. “I kind of like the idea of having a brick and mortar, but the business of that, the overhead is crazy it’s almost too expensive. I come from a background of always having a family business. So, my dad had a welding business, and being behind the scenes of that, it was just very frustrating because it’s you know like, legalities. It’s very expensive, you know.” 
Regardless, Simon maintains hope for the future of Killer Sweets.
“I mean, anything and everything can happen and you have to be prepared for that and not a lot of people are able to have a backup plan and so, I think it’s just the over heads part scares me but I mean, like I said, I have a home where I can be able to provide all the sweet stuff and you know, maybe eventually one day like be able to open up my yard to like people and come and hang out and just have a sweet here and there. My dad had expanded the house once before and so maybe that could be in the future where I expand. I could have like a bakery here. Full bakery. That would be awesome,” said Simon. 
The recipes Simon uses to make the popular desserts she talks about and would love to share with more people have a long history, tracing back generations within her family. 
As she took a deep breath, she said, “Umm, well there’s a lot of, alot have been from over the years, things that I’ve kind of played with, you know, Sam has shared a lot of her little secrets with me. But a lot of it is just, you know, stuff that you think you would like regular items and just being able to transfer into, transfer over into gluten free and vegan. Surprisingly pretty easy but there are some you know, tricks in there that you gotta work out.”
“So I mean, surprisingly I mean, I’ve learned a lot,”‘ she continued, “So a lot, lots of trial and error and there are some recipes that actually have been passed down from my great grandma. So we, I definitely come from a line of a lot of bakers. So, my great grandmother, which I actually have her whisk, I actually have that tattooed right there. That whisk has been in the family for I don’t even know. It’s definitely older than me and then my grandma here, she taught me how to bake, and yeah. So I hope to carry that on.” 
If you’d like to place an order and as the Killer Sweets tagline states, “hold over those killer cravings,” you may visit their Instagram page, @killer_sweets or visit their website for more information.

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Killer Sweets: Baking Vegan Desserts and Serving the Communities