Join us as we introduce you to the members of 1909
Today we’d like to introduce 1909 member Milka Gordillo. As a small business owner, entrepreneur, and mother of 3 children she is living proof that you really can do it all. Milka owns and runs Sweets by Milka. Her DreaMallows (homemade stuffed marshmallows, yum!) take innovation to the next level. All of her sweets are made with local ingredients that are both delicious and healthy.
Throughout her life Milka has struggled with mental health related issues such as anxiety and depression. Baking became her free therapy; bringing her so much joy she decided to make it her full time career.
What in your life has helped shape you into the person and entrepreneur you are today?
Growing up I had a lot of panic attacks and struggles with anxiety. My mother was a single mom with six kids. We moved from Venezuela to the United States. There was a struggle of not knowing if we were going to eat or not at times. There was also a constant fear of whether or not my siblings and I would be separated into different houses because there were so many of us.
Sometimes my younger brother’s Dad would show up and surprise us with a bag of candy. I remember the joy we would have from that little bag of candy. Now I realize that marshmallows tie back to the feeling of excitement that I had growing up. When you bite into a marshmallow, for one second all your worries and anxiety fade away. That is exactly the feeling I want to provide for people with my food.
I think that my childhood pushed me to want to make sure that I am not just financially stable, but spiritually stable. I wanted to have a good support system around me. I’d always had a goal of educating myself and to always be learning. I think the more you know, the more power you have.
I didn’t meet my dad until I was 29 years old and that affected me obviously as well. I actually reached out to him and went to meet him. I think that changed my life, meeting him and learning about where I came from. A lot of times I felt lost or like I don’t belong in my family. When I met him I finally understood why I was the way I am and where I came from. Meeting a parent you never knew can change your business and shape your brand. It can shape what you’re going to do in your local community and even globally.
I suffered from a lot of anxiety and stuff when I was growing up. But now I’m finally like thank God that everything happened how it happened because it has given me so much gratitude for life and for being able to use my hands in the kitchen. It is my passion and I just want to pass it forward.
What was your journey into starting your own business?
When I started college I wanted to do something that would give me some kind of financial security. But I knew that baking was definitely not it. When I went to school I knew that I had a passion for the kitchen and for creating but I also knew that I wanted to be financially stable.
I originally went to school for Business Administration and International Business. I did a double major and went to school even on Saturdays all while I was working full-time at Florida International University.
During that time I used to bake a lot for fundraising events at the school. I was always the baker. I was always creating things to sell and just coming up with different items to sell. Everything I baked would always sell. I didn’t have any plans to turn baking into a full time career.
Then, after graduation I said I’m going to go and take some baking classes at the community college for fun. I started taking the classes and then I started selling cakes to everyone I knew from my corporate job. I would make cakes for baby showers, birthdays, etc. I would bake and bake nonstop. I did that for like three years.
It made me fall even more in love with baking. I would decorate cakes for hours. I decided I wanted to quit corporate and just pursue a baking career and move to Paris. However things didn’t go as planned…
Soon after deciding I wanted to pursue a career in baking, I ended up reconnecting with my now husband. At the time he was living in Colorado. I didn’t have anything holding me back so I moved to Colorado. I thought what the hell am I going to do in Colorado? It’s cold as hell. I was trying to figure out what to do so I started researching baking schools.
I found Johnson and Wales University. The timing of classes starting was perfect, I felt like God had put me in the perfect place at the right time. I moved to Colorado in October and they were starting classes that following fall. The classes were on Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. I fell in love with baking all over again.
I took the classes and graduated. I didn’t learn how to make marshmallows. Instead I learned to bake things that I would never in my mind think that I could even bake. So obviously I fell in love with baking even more. I was hating corporate life more and more just because I knew that I had found my passion and that I could do it for a living. I knew my lifestyle was going to have to change but that I could do it for a living.
But then we ended up moving back to Florida. Within a couple of months of moving back I was pregnant. Around three months more or less, I lost the baby. I went into this major depression and I spent a whole year drinking and doing other unhealthy things. I was like, okay I have to fix myself and I have to let this go.
So what did I do? I went into the kitchen and started baking again. I started finding things to do and I found marshmallows. I hated marshmallows. I wanted to create them into something I could enjoy.
I just kind of went into it and I started creating for fun and messing around with recipes. It got me out of my depression.
The name I came up with was dreaMallows. I had this dream of helping myself. Baking was my free therapy. I thought this is what I am going to do, even if I have to do it on the side, then fuck it i’m going for it.
There’s nothing… I swear to God there is nothing in this world that calms me more than that. Find whatever that is for you. And if you can make money out of it then great, and if you can’t it doesn’t matter but just find it because it does exist for every single one of us.
How did you transition from the Corporate World to running your own business?
I loved corporate work for a while, because it gave me that security. Corporate allowed me to travel and paid for my education, so it gave me a lot of things. But some days I would be crying because I didn’t want to come back to work. It was like, oh my God, I don’t want to sit in this stupid desk anymore and just do nothing.
I could do my work in two hours and then just be sitting there wasting my life. If my ex-boss knew this he would kill me, but I would bake during work hours. I would have a full-blown little business going on the side. Sometimes I would be like okay, today I’m going to arrange my meetings and I’m going to do everything in the morning and then I am going to bake.
I arranged my corporate and side hustle together. I was learning and kept on growing, once I discovered the marshmallow obsession and I went through the whole depression and I lost the baby, I realized it was all related to where I was in my life.
Stress level business-wise, I wasn’t happy. I thought where am I going to go from here? What am I going to do? What can I do to actually make a difference in the world. How can I change someone’s life, even if it’s just one person. So that was my constant struggle every day.
One day someone just told me about the West Palm Beach Green Market. I applied and got accepted and I literally just cried and cried and prayed.
I told my husband I was going to do it. I just felt in peace in my heart and knew that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. When you get that marshmallow and when you actually bite into it… I hope you know that as a customer that it’s made with so much love. I feel like I’m transferring all my positive energy and all this love and transporting them into an anxiety free world.
What are some challenges you have had to overcome while running your business?
It is definitely a challenge to try to balance family and business and being pregnant all at the same time.
The same day I opened the Green Market I found out I was pregnant again. At the time I was like i don’t know where to turn to, it’s like holy crap, where do I go? One of the biggest struggles was not having a community.
At least now I can go shout my crazy ideas at 1909 and get feedback. I know that somebody will say something or tell me that I am crazy. 1909 is the only one place where I felt no one was trying to use me or had ulterior motives. I felt like they were there truly there to help others and to help the community.
It is a struggle finding the tools and people that actually want to help you. That’s not to say that we don’t have amazing local business owners that have me tons of opportunity. So I don’t want to make it sound likeI I haven’t because I have had tons of opportunities, but just kind of like financial tools and marketing tools, things that help you with the big picture.
The accelerator program helped me with those challenges.
It opened my brain to tons of things, that I had no idea where even ahead of me. I personally got more than I was expecting out of it. Honesty, even if it wasn’t money wise, you know, but I got more than I would expect from the 1909 accelerator program.
How does being a mother affect who you are as an entrepreneur?
Everything, it affects absolutely everything, especially the age they are right now. It affects how much time I can actually invest in them. It also pushes me every single day because I want to make sure that they see me being able to run a business and be at home. I tell them you need to be able to do everything.
Yes, it’s hard as hell running a business with three kids, especially the little one but it’s also showing them they can set their mind to anything they want to do. Being a mom also motivates me and pushes me to do better. I have no choice, I have to succeed and be able to provide for my family. I have to make it happen or else I’m going back to go to corporate and I don’t want to go to corporate life!
What do you believe makes your sweets stand apart from your competition?
My knowledge of food and my love for quality ingredients. My overall passion for sharing that with others. I think that that’s what makes it special. I only use three main ingredients for my marshmallows.
I use organic agave instead of corn syrup, which is what a lot of people use and we all know that it’s horrible for you. I also use organic cane sugar and kosher gelatin.Another ingredient I use is Madagascar vanilla, which is vanilla bean paste which is extremely expensive. Those are the main ingredients.
The stuffing in the marshmallows I make myself. I make all my stuffing from raw ingredients. I make my own salted caramel with the same organic ingredients that are sourced locally. Everything I use is made from scratch
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you to the universe for allowing me to find myself again.
Thank you to the 1909 accelerator and every crazy brain over there that is willing to motivate me and help guide me. Thank you to every single local business that has given me the opportunity to showcase my product. I’m not even going to name all of them. Thank you to every customer that has believed in me.
Thank you to Kelly because she has helped me tremendously for free with photos and videos and logo and everything and I have not given her anything other than marshmallows.
I’ve been blessed just to be part of Palm Beach County. That has given me a lot of confidence and a lot of help from that local community. I say grow within your local community and freaking just throw yourself out there man! Just try to make a difference in your local community instead of thinking about how that can actually make a global impact.
Where can people connect with you?
People can reach me at sweetsbymilka.com
I am extremely active on Instagram as well my handle is @sweetsbymilka
1909 is a non-profit organization dedicated to the holistic growth of entrepreneurs in Palm Beach County, offering members access to a community, workspace, accelerator program, and mentorship platform.
Palm Beach County was founded on April 30, 1909 — and over 100 years later, revolutionary ideas and creative projects are still being founded here every day. 1909’s mission is to uplift and support the innovators and creators bringing these ideas to life.
Our manifesto: We are a collective of creators who believe that, if we work together, our ideas, projects, and innovations will better our community. We are unapologetically experimenting. We are a place for the process, the mess, the imperfection. We are a place for the unknown to become known. We are 1909.