Ernestina Flores has always loved to bake.
When she was a teenager, she used to watch cooking shows on PBS and try to copy what she saw. Her mom indulged her and bought all the ingredients she needed to practice baking.
Her passion for baking extended into her early adulthood, so she decided to go to culinary art school in her hometown of Dallas, Texas. Her mentor at the three-year apprenticeship program was a pastry chef who was committed to teaching Ernestina all about baking.
After Ernestina, who goes by Ernie, got married and had her son, she decided to stop baking. The stability of her 9-5 job at a local hospital gave her more time to spend with her family. She kept baking on the side, though, making wedding and birthday cakes for community members.
In 2016, Ernie’s husband suffered a stroke, which caused Ernie to reconsider her life—and her job.
She started baking again, just once or twice a month, while still working at the hospital, and realized that baking was her real passion. By 2018, she was hosting bakery popups a few times a month.
Even though the popups were derailed by the pandemic, Ernie realized that she had “a desire to put baking back in the forefront” of her professional life.
So, in November of 2021, she left her hospital job.
“It was kind of scary,” she admitted, “but I decided to bake full time. And then in December, I got information about the CO.STARTERS cohort that Watermark CDC was doing.”
Ernie had been praying for more direction about business basics, so when she got an email about Watermark Church’s CO.STARTERS program, she applied for the program and was accepted for their first CO.STARTERS cohort.
“I really liked it because it touched on a lot of things that entrepreneurs don’t want to face in their businesses, like if you’re really making a profit, or who your target customer is. CO.STARTERS made me self-reflect so much on the little things—working on your pricing, your marketing, and really the reason why you’re doing this.”
During the program, coaches and mentors worked with Ernie to iron out some of the snags she’d run into as she developed Flores Bakehaus, including pricing issues.
Ernie’s cohort still keeps in touch—they gather monthly for alumni meetings to hear about each other’s businesses and help their fellow entrepreneurs problem solve and strategize. Even though the cohort was varied, with participants ranging from plumbers to bakers, they’ve been able to offer encouragement and advice to each other.
Today, Flores Bakehaus is a successful popup bakery. Ernie bakes from a commercial kitchen where she rents space, and offers a preorder and wholesale menu with fan favorites like banana bread, seasonal items like Panque de Calabaza (Pumpkin Spice Bread), and baked goods like Pan de Nopal (cactus bread) that celebrate her Mexican-American heritage.
And it’s a group effort! Because Ernie’s husband Roberto couldn’t go back to work as a forklift driver after his stroke, he helps her with Flores Bakehaus.
Flores Bakehaus has come full circle—she’s now the pastry supplier for Watermark Church’s coffee shop. They were thrilled with her menu presentation and tasting. She brings them over 200 units of baked goods every week.
One of Ernie’s biggest takeaways from her entrepreneurial journey is that you have to be open to everything—even changing your business plans.
“Sometimes as an entrepreneur, your business is your baby, which can give you tunnel vision. But if you’re going to do a business program, you have to be open to everything. You’ll see different points of view and think ‘I could never imagine trying to run my business this way.’ But being open to that new information will open so many doors for you.”