With one daughter and two stepdaughters, Janelle Copeland, of Covina, California, knew she had to make nice with her husband’s ex, Fabiola Gomez, for the sake of their kids, but she never imagined she’d start a business with her and form a beautiful friendship. The duo launched a booming bakery venture, scored a win on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and still managed to put family first.
by Janelle Copeland
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin
I met my husband, Edward, in 2003 when I started working for Best Buy. We were both store managers and had a great working relationship. We got married in 2005 and our daughter Jordan was born shortly after.
At first, Edward’s ex, Fabiola, took some time to get used to. Since I wasn’t the cause of their breakup, Fabiola and I never had real conflict with each other. But we didn’t have a great friendship. We just behaved as adults and put our children first.
A special mix
In 2009, Edward and I were both working at Circuit City (my background is in retail management) when the company collapsed and we were both left jobless. That’s when my relationship with Fabiola developed. We realized that when we worked together raising the kids, everyone was happy.
My husband is father to two of Fabiola’s daughters, Jasmyn and Kaylah, and together he and I have Jordan. With three children, Fabiola and I always had our hands full. We were parenting through my husband who was playing the “middle man.” Fabiola would tell Eddie when she was picking up the girls, I would have him tell her when I was getting them from school — everything went through my husband and it was oftentimes lost in translation. I soon realized that it was silly not to communicate directly with Fabiola. So I cut out the middle man! Fabiola and I became friends and we realized we made a great team.
In April 2009, while still jobless, I dreamt one night that my family and I were running a bakery. The girls were a big part of it, helping us decorate the cupcakes and run the shop.
I told the girls about my dream and they were so excited about the idea of a bakery. It made sense to partner with Fabiola, since she had a history of working in a bakery. The girls came up with the name, too — they thought since Fabiola and I were both their mamas, and we’d be making cakes, we’d be The Cake Mamas.
The business was a quick success. We opened our first bakery in 2010, soon expanded to a second location and we became Food Network’s Cupcake Wars winners! We didn’t start our business with tons of money; we just had a great vision, a good product, and wanted to make a difference in our community. The Cake Mamas didn’t open in the ideal location, but we knew we wouldn’t need the retail foot traffic if we could find loyal followers online. After some trial and error, we finally used the website builder wix.com to create a professional looking site at minimal cost.
We live a few miles away from Fabiola, so it’s easy to pick up and drop off the kids whenever we need to. Fabiola and I alternate days off so that one of us is available to get the kids from school, do homework with them, run them around to their many activities. We share holidays together, celebrate special achievements like when the girls win an award at school, and we work together to raise them in a balanced, healthy environment.
When I worked in retail management, I often worked 10-12 hour days. I missed my daughter rolling over for the first time, her first words, her first steps, and lots of other firsts. It literally tore me up and I spent a lot of time crying in my office on those days. I still have to put in long hours sometimes, but working for myself and being able to leave in the middle of the day to run something to the school is truly awesome and something I appreciate greatly.
The Cake Mamas have always revolved around female empowerment and advocacy for children. I hope our girls grow to be strong, inspired women who use their lives to give back and make a difference in the world.
I truly believe when one door shuts, another door opens. You just have to be ready (and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to give the doors a little push). When it comes to getting back in the game after losing a job, it seems like a tough road. But with the right tools, you don’t need a lot of money. What’s important is that you develop goals and stay true to your values. With the web, anyone can get up and running doing what they love.
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