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Meet Marta Guzman
by Bernadette Noll

Twelve years ago, when I first met Marta Guzman I was working as a waitress at Magnolia Café. Oftentimes I would hear her before I would see her, laughing and talking; her lilting Puerto Rican tone carrying over the multitudinous sounds of the café. Her deliveries included boxes of delicious flan and a surge of joyful spirit; she always seemed happy to be where she was, doing what she was doing. Fifteen years into it a lot has changed for Marta: Marta’s Flan has since become Marta’s Desserts -- expanding to include her new line of meringues, her home cooking is now done in a 6000 square foot industrial kitchen operating from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., she has nine full-time employees and a support group of countless others -- but her desserts and her spirit remain as sweet as ever.

Marta Guzman came to Austin in the late-seventies to attend the Architecture school at the University of Texas. As many do, Marta fell in love with Austin and never left. In 1988, Marta started her business with less than a couple hundred dollars, a very supportive family and her mom’s heirloom recipe for flan. Though it was her nanny Lulu from whose apron strings she learned to cook, it was her mom that made the delicious flan. From both of her parents, who worked together running a toy company in Puerto Rico, Marta learned quite a bit about hard work, dedication, running a business and about keeping family strong. 

Marta’s Desserts can now be found in six different states in Whole Foods Markets, all over Texas in every Central Market and nationwide via her website and several stints on the Food Network (which garnered her much attention and many phone calls). This month she has a meeting in Denver with Marriott Corporation that would get her product into Marriotts all over Colorado. In the beginning though it was not uncommon for her to be writing a check for ingredients, running home to bake, going on deliveries, collecting her money and then running back to the store for more ingredients. She laughs that sometimes her last stop was making necessary deposits at the bank instead of the store. 

Marta’s family has always been a big part of the business. Her husband Carlos is now a full-time partner, though in the beginning it was his job that supported the family and provided the much needed benefits. For many years, her two older children, Jessica and David, often accompanied her on the after- school deliveries -- riding in the back of the minivan doing homework while Marta ran in to the local restaurants to deliver the goods. Her seven-year-old son Gabby, a “late” arrival to the family, often comes to the industrial kitchen after school and is as much at home playing and working there as he is at his own table. 

The children often help out packing boxes or answering phones, as sixteen-year-old David does during Marta's busy times, and she says they are her best demo people, accompanying her to various food shows. Her nineteen- year-old daughter Jessica, a premed student at UT, still rides to shows with Marta and now brings her college homework along -- going over anatomy or biology with her mom on the long drives. Jessica worked hard for a full scholarship at UT and Marta believes she earned it through the values and perseverance she learned working and watching the business grow.

Marta’s Desserts now include a variety of meringue flavors such as coconut and amaretto and seven different flavors of flan, including a low-fat vanilla. Marta’s position now is mostly product development and marketing, though in busy times, she still straps on her apron and dives in to the work at hand -- such as the time they had an order for 800 cases of meringue kisses to produce. 

To keep her hands in the pot, Marta has also started teaching at the cooking school at Central Market where she uses many of her mom’s and Lulu’s recipes in her Puerto Rican cuisine class. (Next class June 10th) 

While Marta has appreciated watching the business grow in the way of size and product lines, her long-term goal is that it all remains pure and true. With the positive attitude Marta exudes, that seems a given. To meet her is to smile, and to taste her desserts is to truly taste bliss.

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

Here's a little more from Marta Guzman:

Who inspired you when you were growing up and why? 

My grandmother who taught me that I could be strong and still love. She worked very hard, side by side with my grandfather when most women were staying at home, survived the loss of her only son on his first birthday and still has a lot of love to give. She still inspires me today, at age 92, surviving and recuperating beautifully from a stroke!

My father who with very hard work, almost no monetary resources, a brilliant business mind and a strong belief in himself created a large business. He has always believed in me and taught me that if I worked hard, worked creatively and stayed ethical I could make my business happen just like he did. Even now, at his old age with Alzheimer's, I can some days still talk business with him and get wonderful advice. 

My husband whom I met when we were teenagers and taught me about unconditional love.

My mother who taught me that letting your kids grow up, make their own mistakes and just be there not to judge them but to support them when they failed, would make them much more prepared to face the world.

My mother-in-law is somebody that I have learned a lot from. I guess we can say I was still growing up since I met her when I was 17-years-old. She has three main laws of motherhood: Letting motherly instincts be your primary guide, really listening to your kids and allowing yourself to learn about life and yourself from your kids. I have learned that she is right in all three counts. These laws have guided me since the day I became pregnant with my first child and they have never let me down.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

Believe in yourself even when other's don't.

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers faced with today?

It's hard for me to choose which is the biggest contradiction for mothers today. For me I will say it has been several:

Teaching kids that good values are more important, while living in a materialistic society.

Having to choose between working hard to provide for my family and spending more time with them

Teaching my kids to be independent (which they need to be to make something of themselves) while in my heart I just want to protect them and make things easier for them.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

Learning when to give and when to stop giving. I feel all relationships should involve respect so I watch myself so not to allow others to think they can take advantage of me because of my desire to give. That would then tip the balance of respect.

What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?

The hope that I am making some difference not only today but far into the future. I think the best thing I am giving the world is raising kids that will keep on giving to the world by being good people and who will hopefully pass this legacy to their descendants.

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?

Julia Child and Vincent Giordano (president of the National Fast Food Association). Patch Adams and Donald A. Young MD (president of The Health Insurance Association of America) 

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?

A direct line to their motherly instincts, flashbacks of their childhood (remembering when we were there always helps), a good night’s sleep and a ton of peace of mind.

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Thanks Marta!  For more info on Marta Guzman's products, visit www.martasdesserts.com

 

 

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