Danielle Poux is the founder and owner of Danielle’s Desserts–dessert cafés located in McLean, Virginia, and in Washington, DC. The pastry-focused enterprise opened in April of 2010 and offers an array of “home-baked” Southern-style desserts, including cakes, pies, cookies, bars, cupcakes, and other specialty desserts.
Poux’s baking career began in the early 1980s while working full time. She filled orders from individuals, caterers, and even several area restaurants. In 2009, Poux resigned her position as a senior human resources professional to launch Danielle’s Desserts.
Danielle’s Desserts has been featured on WJLA Channel 7, WUSA Channel 9, The Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Fairfax County Times, The McLean Patch, Hot 99.5 FM, and WTOP 103.5 FM.
Black Enterprise caught up with Poux to learn more about her pastry enterprise and discuss her “sweet” transition into entrepreneurship.
What motivated you to start your own pastry shop, Danielle’s Desserts?
My primary motivation for starting Danielle’s Desserts was my daughter, who is now in her mid-30s and the mother of two wonderful sons. I wanted to develop something unique and special—a legacy of sorts—that I could leave to her and to my grandsons one day. When in my 30s, I also became motivated by the desire to have my own business. I developed the concept for Danielle’s Desserts, but it was not until I was in my 50s that I took the leap to make it happen. Interestingly, the desire to have a business won over the fear of taking risks.
There are numerous other dessert shops in the DC area. How did you successfully distinguish yourself in the marketplace?
Danielle’s Desserts is the only establishment in the DC metro area that exclusively offers retro American, Southern-style desserts. Our menu includes cakes, pies, cookies, bars, cupcakes, and a variety of specialty desserts. Everything is made from scratch on-site, and we don’t scrimp on the good stuff! We use fresh butter, eggs, cream…nothing artificial. I like to say our desserts are the type you would’ve had at your Grandmama’s house back in the day. Our desserts are an indulgence — rich and buttery.
What was your biggest challenge as a new business owner and how did you overcome it?
Seeking out funding was my biggest challenge as a new business owner. My business plan involved building out a space for a dessert cafe in downtown DC, and I went shopping for financing at a time when banks were not loaning out money, especially to startups. They all turned me down. When I discovered that I was going to have to carry out my plans with very little capital, I started thinking outside the box. I explored every idea from having a kiosk in a mall to having a food truck. It was during this exploration period that an opportunity to have my shop at Tysons Galleria Mall in McLean, Virginia, fell into my lap. I grabbed the opportunity and eight years later, I’ve just opened my second shop, finally in downtown Washington, DC.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur interested in becoming a pastry chef, or starting any new enterprise, for that matter?
If you know in your heart (and, of course, if others have told you) that you have a skill that would allow you to create a product or provide a service for which there is a demand, go for it! Pursue that dream of yours. However, be sure to reflect on what will set you apart from others out there. Do your homework. Talk with family, friends, prospective customers, and other owners of businesses that are similar to the one you’d like to have. Listen and learn.
Also, develop a realistic budget. Always budget more than you think you’ll need. Something will always pop up that you did not anticipate. As you progress through your journey, take responsibility for the successes, mistakes, accomplishments, and failures that are yours. By embracing them you’ll learn from them and you’ll grow. Finally, when you encounter a disappointment, (and you will!) do not give up. Take a little downtime (even if it is a few hours) to regroup. Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.
There is nothing more gratifying that owning your own business! If you’re willing to take the risks and put in the hard work, I believe you’ll find the experience to be incredibly rewarding!