Article by Starlight Communication’s author published in Katy Lifestyles and Home Magazine, April 2011
Being young and lost is a common experience for many in their twenties. However, two young sisters from Katy have not only realized their passion, but have also become entrepreneurs along the way at a very young age.
Sisters Vanessa O’Donnell and Casi Newbill each own their own businesses in the Katy area. Vanessa went to the Art Institute of Houston to pursue her love of baking and came out with a degree in culinary arts. Casi followed Vanessa’s footsteps to the Art Institute and pursued a degree in interior design.
“We always used to joke about having a store together and we were going to call it Two Sisters,” says Casi. Things turned out a bit differently, though. A few years down the line, both sisters run their own stores in their respected fields of passion.
Casi is the owner and interior designer at Cobblestone Cottage, while Vanessa is the owner and pastry chef at Ooh LaLa — the Dessert Boutique.
Designing spaces was always a passion for Casi, but was running a business also a goal? “Everyone wants to have something of their own, so it was definitely a goal,” says Casi. “The opportunity arose and I decided that it was a good time and offer, so I said, why not?”
Managing a business may seem ideal for those working nine-to-five jobs, but the grass always seems greener from the other side. “It does get tiring and sometimes even frustrating because you are doing it all the time,” says Casi. “But when you own your own business, you are getting to do what you love every day — there is just a little more to it because now you have to manage everything.”
Being a young business owner also comes with a unique set of challenges. “It’s hard to be so young and give directions to people,” says Casi. “Also, I don’t get to do a lot of things that most kids my age are doing, but that’s something you have to sacrifice — your social life and your time.” But not to discourage other budding entrepreneurs, Casi says, “It’s hard, but it’s possible. If you have the opportunity to do it, you should do it.”
Cobblestone Cottage is a small home decor and gift shop that has something for everyone. Casi tries to offer affordable prices while maintaining quality products. Her strategy is to spread out the prices, so everyone can find something in her store.
On the other hand, Vanessa is having equally as much fun baking cupcakes and pastries at her dessert boutique — Ooh LaLa. “I fell in love with baking early on in my childhood,” says Vanessa. “Dolores Balusek, a family friend who took care of my sister and me after school, taught me my love for baking. The smells and tastes of those long afternoons — I still keep close to my heart.”
Vanessa says that one of her biggest challenges is to step back and look at the big picture. “You can’t always get caught up in the daily grind of business,” she says. A management tip that guides Vanessa is not thinking of herself as the owner all of the time. “You have to put yourself in the shoes of your employees,” she says. “I won’t make my employees do something that I haven’t done or won’t do.”
Vanessa owns two locations of Ooh LaLa and getting involved with the business aspect vs. actually baking seems inevitable. “It’s a balancing act,” she says. “I balance my time between production and business and interact with my kitchen staff on a daily basis.”
Ooh LaLa offers desserts that are classic and comforting. A large family can come in and everyone can find their favorite dessert, from oatmeal raisin cookies to Snickers pie and even cupcake truffles. “Looking back on what have been our best sellers, it is the classic homemade desserts that everyone can relate to from their childhood that are the most successful,” says Vanessa.
Turning passion into a business has its up side and down side, but how can anyone go wrong when doing something they love? As Vanessa says, “My inspiration comes from knowing everyday when I get up that I am going to a job that I absolutely love.”
Cobblestone Cottage is located at 23701 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Suite 150, Katy; 281-693-4080.
Ooh La La — the Dessert Boutique is located at 23920 Westheimer Parkway, Katy; 281-391-2253.
Location 2 is at 20155 Park Row, Katy; 281-492-6166.