Saturday Success Story #19: Rowena Sy-Santos

By Alpha Miguel-Sanford

Rowena Sy-Santos, founder and the chief baker of Kéyks shop in Massachusetts has been passionate about baking since she was young. Prior to establishing Kéyks, she was an information technlogy worker for fifteen years! However, when her son was born she wanted to spend more time with him and decided to follow her passion: baking.  So, she decided to study pastry making in Newbury College  in Brookline, MA with the hope of having more time with her son. Although she didn’t complete her pastry-making course, she self-taught herself and established an informal baking service out of their home in Waltham, MA and has since began taking orders from her online website. In March 2011, she opened her bakery shop in Chelmsford, MA where she continues to fulfill cakes, cupcakes of any shapes and sizes, exotic desserts, Filipino pastries and Filipino bread such pan de sal pan de coco, spanish rolls, cheese roll, ensaymada, sans rival and empanada.

This is her story:

AMS: I have always admired your cake creations and in fact I saw a press release about Kéyks on Boston Parents Magazine. Tell us about yourself. Your education, training and about Kéyks.

Rowena: I’ve been in the US for 10 years now.   How time flies!   My undergrad  is in Computer Science back in the Philippines.  I’ve been in
corporate since graduating from school, and moving here.  Cakes and
sweets are something I’ve been doing on the side since I was in school.

AMS: When did you start Kéyks? Prior to starting Kéyks, where were you?

Rowena: The doors of Kéyks opened March 29, 2011.  Before Kéyks, I worked in high-tech.

AMS: Growing up, did you always dream of becoming a baker and an entrepreneur?

Rowena: As a kid, I dreamed of opening my own bake shop.  But this dream  disappeared in my 20s.  What remained was my desire to have my own  business.    It made sense to go into the cake business and open a
shop since I was already entrenched in it at home.

AMS: Who or what inspired you to start Kéyks? Why Kéyks?

Rowena: My son inspired me to open Kéyks.  I thought I would have more time to  spend with him.  I quickly learned this is not the case. Why Kéyks?  “keyk” is how we spell “cake” in the Philippines.  I wanted to bring in my roots into the business,  as this is a big part  of me and the products we offer.

AMS: Could you please tell us what are the products and the mission of Kéyks?

Rowena: Kéyks strives to provide beautiful and delicious products.  We offer  custom creative cakes,  and cupcakes, cakes, Filipino products for
walk-ins.

AMS: What are some of the greatest achievement that you’ve had with Kéyks?

Rowena: Getting the shop up and operational with regular introduction of new  flavors and products, building relationships with clients and bringing great people on board.

AMS: In building Kéyks, who were your support system? Who are/were your motivators?

Rowena: My husband and family are my biggest supporters and motivators. Knowing that they’re rooting for me against all odds is a tremendous up-er.

AMS: If, you were to tell us what are the most important skills that  you need in order to be successful (in general) in life- what are  they?

Rowena: Be a realistic optimist.  Be resilient.  Pray daily and be thankful for small blessings.

AMS: Can you share some of your tips in starting and building your own business?

Rowena: Very cliché, but “Keep going even when the going gets tough.” The struggle gets easier, and you will eventually see the light at the end
of the tunnel.

AMS: What are your next goals for Kéyks? for yourself?

Rowena: I’d like to continue adding to our product line, and continue
improving on the operational efficiencies of the shop.

AMS: I’ve seen on your Facebook Page your Bike Ride, what is it all about and how is it connected to your bakery?

Rowena: My husband is an avid cyclist.    He goes on weekend rides with different groups, and had the idea of a Cake Ride that starts at Kéyks.

AMS: How many cakes and Filipino pastries do you bake in a day?

Rowena: It varies.

AMS: How do you manage to stay slim despite tasting and baking goodies each day?

Rowena: We’re literally on our feet all day, and moving.  This is the work-out I get.

AMS: What is your favorite Filipino pastry – would you sell that in your bakery as well?

Rowena: Sans Rival.  Yes, we sell this at the shop.

AMS:  Finally, what is your definition of success.

Rowena: Being content and happy.

Follow her on Facebook or visit her bakery shop on 333 Acton Road Chelmsford, Massachusetts. You can always call her shop to order Filipino pastries and custom-made cakes/cupcakes at (617) 855-KEYK (5395).

To read other inspiring Success Stories, click here.