In celebration of Stefania Rivero’s 8th birthday, her mother baked a themed cake. Wide-eyed and observing every effortless technique was young Rivero, mesmerized not only by her mother’s final creation, but also by the creative process. Little did the duo expect that those moments would guide the trajectory of Rivero’s life.
Today, Rivero is a hospitality management major who runs her own home baked dessert catering company, Stef’s Sweet Events. She will be serving her treats at 2019 North Miami BrewFest, a one-day festival marrying the best of locally brewed craft beers with gourmet culinary creations. Patrons of the Festival will have the opportunity to taste Rivero’s new cupcake flavor and dessert shooter made from a blend of beer and batter.
“Getting to collaborate with FIU Brew to launch two new [treats] was only possible because I used the connections available to me,” Rivero says of her involvement at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Torurism Management. “The fact that I get to represent the Chaplin School and use my connections to help me grow my business is very rewarding.”
As a student entrepreneur, Rivero credits much of her professional development to her time at FIU. She’s learned new culinary skills and management tactics that she’s been able to transfer into her business, which has seen steady growth over the last few years. Rivero has gone from baking once a week for special events to baking every day after work and school to complete her clients’ orders.
Stef’s Sweet Events earns much of its business from catering large scale events at the Chaplin School as well as campus events for the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®). Her orders range from requests for only 200 cupcakes to as many as 1,200 desserts. The young business owner ascribes much of her success to taking advantage of the opportunities at FIU to cultivate healthy relationships with her advisor, professors, faculty members and fellow students.
“If it were not for Sanjay my business would never have been in the place that it is today,” Rivero says. Sanjay Dhawan is Rivero’s academic advisor. “He has become a close ally and mentor, consistently motivating me to do more than I think I can and sharing new business opportunities with me.”
It was during one of Rivero’s catering events when managers at the SOBEWFF® Volunteer Program, Gipsy Velez and Mari Trelles Costa, indulged in her chocolate mini-cupcakes and suggested that she takes her business to the next level by catering a large-scale event. Velez made a few calls that resulted in Rivero's treats being showcased at BrewFest.
Michael Cheng, interim dean of the Chaplin School, says student participants and volunteers at BrewFest gain real-world experience in planning, managing and executing a large scale event. “[It] provides invaluable networking opportunities that help student entrepreneurs like Stefania Rivero. Several of our graduates are now working or have worked with the largest craft breweries in Miami, such as Wynwood Brewery, Funky Buddha, MIA and Tank."
Proceeds from North Miami BrewFest support the Chaplin School and its brewing science program.
Cheng adds: "We are extremely thankful to the City of North Miami for their continued support."
The Festival will take place at MOCA Plaza on Nov. 16. Tickets are already on sale. To try Rivero's sweet treats, get yours here! The university community can save using the code FIUFAMILY for 20 percent off both VIP and general admission at checkout.