Sweet success for young First Nations cake artist
Alyssa Meekis was just 17 when she discovered a talent for cake-making and entrepreneurship
A 25-year-old baker from Deer Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario is turning heads, and filling plenty of orders for her beautifully decorated sweet treats.
Alyssa Meekis is the owner of Indigenous Sweets, a business she began building when she was a teenager.
“I was just about to graduate high school, and found out that I was going to have my first son and I wanted him to be well taken care of because I didn’t have a job at the time and was only in school,” she said.
Meekis began planning a business as part of an entrepreneurship class, and was soon making cakes for neighbours in her community.
As her skills developed, word about her cakes began to spread to other northern communities as well.
“From people sharing pictures online with mutual friends on Facebook, a lot of people noticed that these cakes were nice and they wanted to know where they got it from. And they were kind of surprised when they said it was from someone in the area that makes the cake.”
Deer Lake is a fly-in community, so sending cakes to neighbouring communities involved sending them by air. That’s meant a lot of careful planning and packing, said Meekis, who explained she’s also come to know the local airline schedules well.
Meekis, who has also honed her skills through culinary school, said that as her business has grown, she’s learned plenty of lessons along the way. For example, she knows to always expect the unexpected.
“For instance, you can have everything ready for a cake, but you never know if you’re going to drop a cake,” she said, laughing. “And it happens. And then you have to start all over again.”
Recently, Meekis has been busy setting up shop in a new location after moving from Deer Lake to Fort William First Nation, next to Thunder Bay, Ont.
She said one advantage is certain ingredients, such as fresh fruit, are more readily available and affordable than in the Far North, allowing her to experiment with some new recipes.
However, she said she’s still getting lots of orders from home, and that support from her community is something she continues to be grateful for.
“It’s really nice because actually they’re the ones that helped lift [me up] to keep going and doing bigger things.”