Immigrant Entrepreneur Sees A Dream Come True

Martha Patricia Muñoz Avila, showing the different material she carries in her store for decorating cakes. Business owner of Sweet Art Cake Decorating Supplies.

After dreaming of starting her own cake decorating business on Albuquerque’s west side, Sweet Art Cake Decorating Supplies, Martha Patricia Muñoz Avila since December has been teaching clients the art of beautiful deserts.

Avila was a laboratory technician in Mexico; she did blood analysis in a public clinic for many years. She started taking cake-decorating classes in Cuauhtémoc,  Chihuahua, Mexico 22 years ago, and she became passionate about it.

“I liked it, I loved it,” she said. She then began teaching cake-decorating classes herself, “I loved helping other people, and seeing them advance in life.”

Avila is part of a growing trend of immigrant entrepreneurs. The Wall Street Journal last spring reported that immigrants in 2014 launched 28.5 percent of new businesses, an increase from 25.9 percent a year earlier, and up from 13.3 percent in 1996, according to an annual startup index by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Avila came to New Mexico 20 years ago to reunite with her family after leaving her home in Anahuac Chihuahua, Mexico.

“It was very difficult for me to come to the U.S because I had my entire life formed in Mexico, but when I was left on my own out there, I had no other choice but to come meet my family out here,” she said.

Once Avila came to the United States, she no longer had a career and immediately began looking for something to occupy herself. She started by cleaning houses and taking care of her mother and then eventually began selling cakes for a living. After meeting new people and making new friends, Avila said she decided to start teaching cake-decorating classes in her home.

“I started giving cake-decorating classes in my house about five years ago in my living room, I would buy material for my students, I would call it my little store.”

Sweet Art Cake Decorating Supplies store. 3296 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM
Sweet Art Cake Decorating Supplies store. 3296 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM

Starting in the living room

Avila began setting up her living room with tables and chairs to teach each cake-decorating class that held around 10-12 students per session. After filling her home with many students each class, she knew she could no longer keep giving classes in her house.

“It got to the point where we all didn’t fit and people started requesting more and more stuff,” Avila said. Adding she knew at that point, she remembers thinking she needed something bigger.

Avila said she did not know where to begin looking for a place until she was invited to take classes at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, teaching individuals how to start their own business.

Prior to taking the classes, Avila said, “I wasn’t  getting encouraged to open my own business because I didn’t know anything, not even how to start or anything.”

But after taking the classes, Avila decided to give it a try.

“They started giving us classes and telling us the steps we had to follow, that we had to do this and this, and that’s how we started, by following their steps,” she said.

Avila also received support from the organization of WESST Enterprise Center, which is a business development and training organization. Group employees are currently advising her on how to run her business and have also helped her financially.

Course one magazine, for cake decorating classes. The first magazine Avila gives her students when the classes begin.
Course one magazine, for cake decorating classes. The first magazine Avila gives her students when the classes begin.

Family support   

Avila opened her business, Sweet Art Cake Decorating Supplies, in December 2015. Her business consists of teaching cake decorating classes and selling supplies to decorate cakes. Her classes range from beginner to experienced courses, and each $40 course has five classes, once a week.  Her business is located on Coors Boulevard NW.

Avila says she promotes her business through word of mouth, handing out cards, and a Facebook business page to let people know she recently opened her store. With a new business ad in a magazine, Avila hopes it will attract more customers to her shop.  Although she is not fluent in English, she says that it has not stopped her from  clearly communicating with her customers.

“I understand most of them, and they mostly understand everything I say,” Avila said.  In cases where she can’t help her customers due to the language barrier, Avila says she always has a family member to help out who also assist her with running Sweet Art.

With her sister, son, and daughter-in-law supporting Avila’s business since the beginning, she says she never has problems because she has them to help her run the store while she teaches her classes.

‘My dream is still not over, I’m still building it’

 Now, Avila is looking forward to expanding her business.

“I have a lot of plans and a lot of dreams, this was my dream from many years ago and my dream is still not over, I’m still building it.”

Avila says she wants to expand in order to have more rooms where she can teach classes since she the current room she works with only fits around 15 students per class. She  said she would also like to be to hire people to help her teach her classes.

“My classroom is becoming too small, and so is my store, I would like to own my own place and for it to be bigger with at least four rooms to teach my classes,” she said.

Escucha nuestra entrevista con Martha Patricia Muñoz Avila aqui:


Follow Viri on Twitter.Name: Martha Patricia Muñoz Avila

Age: 55

Title: Owner of Sweet Art Cake Decorating Supplies

Background: Taught cake-decorating classes more than 20 years ago, both in Mexico and New Mexico, opened her cake decorating business December 2015.

What do you think is the most interesting part of the innovation economy in ABQ?:

“ I think the most interesting part is that I have seen a lot of small businesses that are owned by Hispanics, I have a lot of pride and a lot of joy because we find Hispanics stores everywhere, we are growing.”

If you weren’t doing this job what would you be doing?: “ I would probably still be cleaning houses and teaching my classes at my house.”