Ramona Thomas is the founder and Chief Sweets Officer of Tushiya Sweets & Treats, a business that grew out of her love for desserts (especially chocolate!) and many years of baking for her family, friends and colleagues. When I first came in contact with Ramona a few months ago, I was inspired by her drive and determination to launch this new endeavor. She talked about the vision of her business with such passion, I knew at that moment that one day Tushiya Sweets & Treats would become an household name. After working in education and philanthropy for 18 years, she took a leap of faith to start her business after a good friend helped her realize that what she thought was a passion for baking was really a gift, one that she had to share with the world. This insight led to the creation of Tushiya Sweets & Treats.
Ramona Thomas is the founder and Chief Sweets Officer of Tushiya Sweets & Treats and the Savvy Sistah in the Spotlight!
What inspired you to become a pastry chef and start Tushiya Sweets & Treats?
I have always loved sweets, even as a child, and I love to bake. I have been baking from scratch for about 20 years for family and friends. I have a BS in Applied Math and a doctorate in education, and I worked in education for 18 years before starting Tushiya. I took an introductory to French pastries course at the French Pastry School and it opened up a whole new world for me. Although it was my first time in a commercial kitchen, I felt so at home. My spirit was happy and I thought to myself: I have to figure out how to spend more time here. A few months later I started writing a business plan for a bakery business and I began working on the bakery full time in January 2011. For the record, while I have taken classes, I have not completed an official pastry program, so I am reluctant to call myself a pastry chef out of respect for trained pastry chefs. I am a baker and I have, however, completed a professional chocolatier program, and am an up-and-coming Chocolatier. 🙂
How did you come up with the name Tushiya and what does it mean?
Tushiya means sound wisdom in Hebrew. The name was given to me by a teacher/friend. It was a compliment based on his observations of how I manage my business affairs and personal relationships. We talked about the importance of choosing a good name and building a business on important, foundational principles. But the name is also very aspirational in that anything I do, especially with Tushiya, has to be grounded in sound wisdom. It is a key principle that guides everything we do from our ingredients, to our finished products, to our customer service. Tushiya’s niche is that our back-to-basics approach brings sound wisdom to the dessert marketplace. We make everything from scratch using all-natural and organic ingredients. We never use any artificial ingredients, preservatives, colorings, corn syrups, or hydrogenated oils. We never ever use box mixes and we pride ourselves on using ingredients that people know and recognize. We do not believe you should have to look up what you are eating in Wikipedia.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge is time! Everything always takes longer than you expect it to. I keep telling myself I just need to be more efficient but I have recently come to accept the fact that I often try to fit more into one day than is humanly possible. I like completion (having too many incomplete tasks bugs me), so I have gone many nights without sleep just trying to get things done. Honestly, I am still working on this so it remains a big challenge for me.
What sets Tushiya Sweets & Treats apart from other dessert & chocolate businesses?
The primary thing that sets Tushiya apart from other dessert and chocolate businesses is the quality of our baked goods and chocolates. Part of this stems from our commitment and focus on making all-natural products from scratch. I personally pay close attention to the ingredients we purchase. We often pay more for some ingredients because of the quality. For example, we only use imported Belgian chocolate, unbleached flour, and there are some ingredients that we will only use organic like milk and cream (right now that list also includes organic honey and peanut butter). For non-organic dairy ingredients, I make sure they come from animals not treated with the rBST growth hormone. I also only use all-natural coloring, when needed. While many other sweets businesses may make their desserts from scratch and with “all-natural” ingredients, most still use artificial food coloring, corn syrup, colored sprinkles, and/or processed candies and cookie toppings. Tushiya does not.
The other thing that differentiates Tushiya from other sweets businesses is our customer service. Because we’re still small, it is important that customers know that their order is custom made just for them. I want people to feel like they have received outstanding service in terms of price, quality products, and timely delivery, but also that the entire service process is very personalized towards their needs.
Where do you see Tushiya Sweets & Treats in five years?
In five years, Tushiya will be a nationally-known bakery/chocolate business with a beautiful brick-and-mortar building.
What advice would you give to a Savvy Sistah who wanted to start her own dessert & chocolate
My advice to a savvy sistah who wants to start her own business is to believe in what you are doing and your products, surround yourself with supporters (but always be aware of the naysayers because they help you stay sharp), plan, and do it, even if that means starting small.
Why are you a Savvy Sistah?
I am an ambitious, hard-working sistah and I define my own success. I don’t like failure and I don’t like losing. I am incredibly thankful for my family and friends, and so many other people who have touched and added so much to my life. I am also eternally grateful for the countless amazing experiences in my life. Founding and running Tushiya Sweets & Treats is one of them.