Marisel Fernandez started her single-item dessert company with a surge of sentimentality and a booth at the farmers’ market. Quite the savvy businesswoman, she has since expanded her enterprise so much that her humble Spanish-style sweets can now be found throughout Florida at Sedano’s, ABC Wine & Spirits, Bravo Supermarkets, and (coming soon) Whole Foods Market.
Based in Altamonte Springs, Heavenly Flan began with a recipe adapted from the one Fernandez’s mother used back in Puerto Rico. When her mother died in 2010, Fernandez quit the Marriott sales job she’d held for 25 years and set out to “carry on her legacy,” says the warm, bustling go-getter. She perfected the recipe, then named the company Heavenly Flan. “My mother was going to heaven,” she explains. The logo includes an angel wing. “That’s her guiding me,” she says. “I devoted my entire life at that point to starting this business.”
Clueless as to how to start or run an artisan food company, Fernandez took action. “I surrounded myself with people who knew what I needed to know,” she recalls. “I asked them, ‘Where do I go? What do I get? Where do I get it?’” Ultimately, Fernandez rented kitchen space, produced a single flavor of flan, set it into single-serve disposable aluminum tins and headed to market.
That didn’t last long. Six years later, Heavenly Flan offers a cornucopia of flavors sold in airtight packaging that keeps the product fresh for 60 days without preservatives. In addition to the original cheese variety, made with cream cheese, the line includes coffee, coconut, amaretto, chocolate, passion fruit, guava, and vanilla (picutred at right), plus seasonal flavors like strawberry and sweet potato as well as a sugar-free version. Nearly all the flan ingredients are natural, organic and/or locally sourced, including free-range eggs and organic vanilla bean and sugar. “We don’t use flavorings or preservatives,” Fernandez emphasizes. “We use real ingredients.”
As Fernandez methodically adds layer upon layer to her business, she continuously thinks of her mother, often touching the wing on the Heavenly Flan logo. “She looks over me,” the entrepreneur says wistfully. “She was my best friend.”