Andrea Lacy believes some challenges are blessings in disguise. Case in point: Her brownie recipe.
During her first semester at San Jose State University, she was baking a thank-you gift for a friend and noticed that the dough was thicker than usual. She baked the batch anyway, and they were a big hit. But when she revisited the brownie recipe later, after she was diagnosed with dyslexia, she realized she had transposed some numbers.
A few years later, in 1996, while working at Hewlett-Packard, Andrea launched her Luv’s Brownies — the first internet-only bakery, she says. Thanks to that recipe and her SEO skills, the venture was an immediate mail order/delivery and catering success. In the years since she was first featured in this newspaper, she’s been written up in Ebony, Essence, Black Enterprise, Today’s Black Woman and Every Day with Rachael Ray magazines and garnered awards for both her baking and her resilience in the face of dyslexia.
With the busy Valentine’s Day holiday approaching, we talked with Andrea (pronounced Aundrea) about the wheels she bought for the bakery’s 25th anniversary, her new line of sweet treats and how she’s helping young people overcome their personal challenges.
Q: How did you manage your dyslexia and become a successful entrepreneur?
A: Dyslexia doesn’t slow me down. SJSU gave me the tools to be successful. They provided guidance on how to organize myself. Over the years, I have developed a toolbox of strategies, learned to make accommodations.
Q: Whose kitchen expertise inspired you?
A: My father was an outstanding cook. He was a magician, and we never had the same meal twice. He taught me the value of cooking and freezing. I’m frugal; nothing ever goes to waste.
Q: Do you still use that transposed recipe? And what great quality did it give to your brownies?
A: Yes. It’s double the chocolate, and customers can tell. Our brownies are best served warm. The ones off the truck are served warm; at home, 5 to 10 seconds in the microwave.
Q: Why the heart shape instead of a traditional square?
A: I named my business after my childhood doll. Her name is LUV. I still have her.
Q: You hand out Grit Award scholarships. Who are they intended to honor and help?
A: The Grit Award is for students who have shown tenacity in overcoming challenges and who now wish to build on their success by pursuing higher education or vocational training.
Applicants should have a track record of community service as well as demonstrated financial need. The scholarship may be used for a four-year university, junior college or vocational school.
A portion of every Luv’s Brownies purchase goes toward the Grit Award. The scholarship foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Q: Why, at year 25, did you decide to buy a new set of wheels?
A: I was not sure how to roll out my product offerings. So I interviewed two food truck manufacturers. One company found a used, gutted truck. That is when I knew I was on the right path. I saved and scraped together the money for production and the Luv’s Brownies “wrap.” Before my eyes, I had a new menu and a new line of business.
Q: What goodies are you selling from the dessert truck?
A: We’re serving fresh-baked brownies as Luv Bites, Luv Pops on a stick, ice cream sandwiches, brownie cones and house-made waffle cone sundaes with brownies and house-made caramel. And Cafe Cubano coffee drinks (my birth mother is Cuban) and Chocolate Caliente with heart-shaped marshmallows.
Q: What other brownie flavors or specialties do you offer for delivery or mail order?
A: On the FAQ on our website we list 14 flavors, including coconut-caramel, peanut butter, rocky road, s’mores, sugar-free and gluten-free.
Q: Who are some of your biggest clients?
A: I have been blessed to sell brownies at the San Jose Giants baseball stadium for 10 seasons.
Q: What’s the craziest order you’ve ever received?
A: Men used to give me special items to put in the gift basket with the brownies. I’ll let your imagination take it from there!
Details: Luv’s Brownies may be purchased online at www.luvsbrownies.com or from the dessert truck, which is parked at two of the West Coast Farmers Market Association markets. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Rose Garden market, 577 Dana St., and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at the Cupertino market’s new location, Cupertino Memorial Park, Senior Center parking lot, 21121 Stevens Creek Blvd. The truck is also available for events.