A small business counselor told founder Andrea Lacy her concept wouldn’t work. Decades later, she’s using the lessons she’s learned to fuel aspiring entrepreneurs.
Luv’s Brownies was an online-based food business in the internet’s early days, offering brownies for mail deliveries to some of Silicon Valley’s early online companies. Founder Andrea Lacy has since reinvented her brownie business with a dessert truck that highlights her Hispanic heritage.
As a college student at San Jose State University decades ago, Lacy had just landed a dream job at Hewlett Packard and decided to bake some brownies to say thank you to her friend for helping her. She had grown up in San Francisco and San Bruno, attending Mills High School in Millbrae before moving to San Jose to attend college there.
The batter was a bit weird, she recalled in a recent interview, but the brownies were a hit.
As she continued to work her way through college, Lacy faced difficulties. She failed one math class five times. Eventually, a college counselor advised her to get tested for dyslexia, and test results confirmed she had it. But it didn’t keep her from finishing college, and over time, she decided to build up her brownie business, naming it after a doll she’d had as a child.
One key feature of her business was offering her products for sale online to be delivered via shipping, which in 1996 was a relatively new business approach. She moved forward with the plan even after a small business counselor told her that it wouldn’t work.
Today, it’s a message she’s eager to pass on to the student entrepreneurs she speaks to at San Jose State.
“Be careful who you listen to,” she said. “There are a lot of dream crushers out there. Protect your dream. Not everyone has the best intentions for you.”
Over the years, Lacy’s online bakery business began to thrive. She later realized that she had accidentally transposed some of the ingredients from her initial batch of brownies due to her dyslexia, but the altered recipe continued to be the foundational recipe for her products – and she expanded her offerings to include brownie cakes, wedding favors, corporate gifts and more.
In her 30s, Lacy received another piece of information that shaped her identity: She learned that she had been adopted and had Hispanic roots on her biological side.
“It took some years to understand and digest that,” she explained. “Once I connected with my biological family, I felt more comfortable with who I was.”
Today, she’s incorporated that piece of her identity into the offerings from her new dessert truck. The menu includes the original heart-shaped brownies, brownies on a stick, brownie s’mores, whipped cafe Cubano espresso over ice cream, brownie sundaes, brownie milkshakes and cold drinks, including strawberry lemonade, a lemon-lime spritz and a mocktail mojito.
Just before COVID hit, Lacy started making plans to launch the dessert truck. But the pandemic resulted in long delays and added costs to getting her food truck outfitted and permitted, she said.
After the truck was ready and her team began to pivot to direct sales from the truck, there were growing pains, she explained. Operating out of a dessert truck instead of an online-delivery business model meant having to figure out how much stock to prepare and when, along with things like when to fill the generator between events to make sure they had power.
“All of that was hard to figure out the first year,” she said.
Today, the truck is a regular fixture at local farmers markets in Cupertino and San Jose. It travels to events throughout Santa Clara County and can be booked for private events. And it comes prepared to set a festive atmosphere, announcing its arrival with the song “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” by Celia Cruz.
To support local high school students who are pursuing higher education or vocational training, Lacy has created a “Grit Award” scholarship program. A portion of every purchase goes toward the scholarship fund.
“No challenge can stop you from making your dreams a reality,” she said. “The universe will make way for your dream, but you can’t stand and wish for things. You have to work for them.”
Catch the Luv’s Brownies dessert truck at the weekly farmers markets at De Anza College in Cupertino Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. People can also order brownies for by-mail delivery.