Jason Walker was selling cars when a craving for cheesecake turned into a passion for baking. He took one of his initial cheesecake creations to work to get some opinions on his recipe, and was told that cars probably weren’t his calling – he needed to start a cheesecake business.
He had never started a business before, and he didn’t have culinary experience. But Walker recalls, “I knew I needed two things: It needed to taste good, and my presentation had to be off the chain.” He would work 14-hour days at the car lot, then come home and watch videos to learn how to decorate cakes.
Walker started listing his cakes on Facebook just to see if anyone would bite. He got two dozen orders, and started looking into cottage food laws to make sure he could bake out of his home. (Cheesecake actually wasn’t covered under the cottage law, and Walker had to pause his baking for a while.)
With refined recipes and signs of a potential customer base, Walker decided to get help developing a business plan.
Cheesecake Nation established a retail location with a family-friendly atmosphere. Walker continues to test new recipes, including gluten-free desserts, and offers a variety of bite-sized versions perfect for events.
Walker recalls wearing his best clothes to his first SCORE meeting, and being nervous not knowing what to expect. But “This was the meeting that changed everything,” he says. Mentor Greg Kalina tried his product and encouraged Walker to think bigger than the idea he had come in with, to launch a food truck.
“I never had anyone really take me under their wing as more of a father figure like Greg Kalina did,” Walker says. “Growing up my family worked long days, and that’s really where I learned cooking because when I was hungry I went into the kitchen and learned how to cook for myself.”
Walker also attended online workshops about business planning and tax preparation, and he talks to Kalina frequently even though the two only meet in person quarterly.