Many students are unaware of FAMU’s Small Business Development Center, but for graduate Jonathan Arias and former student Patrick McKeithen this connection allowed them to start their own successful cheesecake business.
As a 2008 food science graduate, Arias is now the director of sales and marketing of Le Gateau au Fromage, which is owned and operated by him and McKeithen. LGF specializes in a variety of cheesecakes and was started on FAMU’s campus, Valentine’s Day 2007.
“Patrick first started making cheesecake for close friends and family until I had the idea to sell them,” Arias said.
Arias, who handles the business and marketing aspect of LGF convinced a doubtful
McKeithen into the cheesecake production industry.
Arias said they received support from students and staff all over campus, but best friend
John Williams gave the business a huge leap by purchasing whole cheesecakes just to give them away for free.
“After giving them away, people immediately began placing orders,” Williams said. “Even after a purchase, many would leave large tips.”
According to Arias, FAMU has a “hidden little secret” called the small business development center that gave him the recourses, training and connections he needed to begin a legitimate business. Now, every time Arias has a business plan, marketing strategy or even pricing trouble, he sets up a conference with Chris Workman at the SBDC to go over his tactics.
Workman is a certified business analyst at SBDC and has over 20 years of experience as a small business owner. He declares that this “hidden little secret” known as the SBDC has free services and has been around for about 20 years.
“This ‘hidden little secret’ is what got my foot in the door and taught me to utilize all my resources and contacts, which is the most important part of starting a business,” Arias said.
The two Christian men pride themselves on supporting the black community. They donate 10 percent of all funds to local churches.
They also cater to community events like the Pink Tie Ball with the Student Government Association, Boys and Girls club events, cancer walk-a-thons and even hospice gatherings.
With clients like Black Dog Café, Red Eyes Café, Belle Belle, Your Secret Pantry, and occasionally, Café Caberet, Arias and McKeithen are on their way to success.
It has been two years since Le Gateau Au Fromage has been in business and has made an estimate of $70,000 within the first year. Although this money was not a profit to Arias and McKeithen, it did give them the necessary funding to keep their business going and enabled them to purchasing a store on Lake Bradford Road where all food preparations are made.
Even though Le Gateau Au Fromage is not an actual storefront business, orders can be placed at www.lgfcheesecakes.com or by calling 850-391-0736.
“Right now, we only sell cheesecakes,” McKeithen said. “In the future, we do hope to expand our menu to other desserts and sweets.”
While Arias Heads off to business school at Harvard University in aspirations of earning is Ph. D, McKeithan works two jobs in hopes of getting back in school.
These are two men who are true entrepreneurs who were not afraid to take a leap on faith, utilized their resources and got the necessary connections in order to run the new and successful, Le Gateau au Fromage.