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Today we’d like to introduce you to Francesca Morello.
Francesca is the founder and culinary genius behind CraveClean. A Miami native and fitness fanatic, Francesca struggled with finding delicious yet guilt-free healthy snacks that would help her reach her fitness goals and get rid of the stubborn pooch most women struggle with. “I was working out six days a week and turning to protein bars that had a bunch of sugar and ingredients I didn’t understand. They had a long shelf life that I knew wasn’t good for my body.” From these experiences, CraveClean was born. Now, Francesca turns to her moist, tasty treats with wholesome nutritional macros. “The idea is that every ingredient I put in would be beneficial to your body in some way and would be easily digested. I truly just wanted everyone to have their cake and eat it too – eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard, it’s pushing past the mentality of following what we are “told” to be healthy instead of what we KNOW to be healthy. CraveClean was made to be for everyone, to help all diet restrictions, to provide delicious alternatives to help everyone’s diet. CraveCLean provides guilt-less sweets that anyone who may suffer from diabetes, celiac disease, or just looking for a healthier alternative; no one should have to sacrifice flavor and cravings over a healthy lifestyle!”
CraveClean began when Francesca started seriously exercising and “dieting” yet didn’t see all the results she wanted. She found a need in the industry for snacks to refuel the body – made from ingredients that would be beneficial, easy to digest and still delicious. She couldn’t find any. So she was determined to make her own. Francesca came from not baking background, no business background, but sheer determination to create a snack for herself that she looked forward to eating and amidst the trials and tribulations she faced, she pushed forward.
At first, with no formal culinary experience, she experimented endlessly – there were countless trials and errors in the early days. Baking with whey protein and under strict nutritional parameters (low calories, low fat, low carb, high protein, and no refined sugars) was extremely challenging early on. Early products were too “eggy” and wouldn’t rise. She looked to the Internet for guidance and tips on baking with whey without success. None of the recipes worked and the final product was not to her standards. She didn’t quit despite these early failures and all the naysayers who did not believe in her vision. She interviewed trainers and nutritionists, gathered insights from public and private sources and delved into research about what fuels the body to build muscle, stay healthy and process a variety of ingredients. After passing out countless samples to anyone willing to taste them, Francesca had her eureka moment and it was clear that there would be a future for her clean, healthy treats.
After she settled on the recipes, finalized ingredient lists and macro numbers, she moved to a commercial kitchen to bake her creations. Following a full morning of baking, Francesca would set off on her delivery route to share her tasty treats with the public. With help from family, Francesca opened her first retail store in Miami. She taught herself about construction, how to source machinery and create a thriving retail location. Francesca experienced a series of personal challenges during these early days of the business, but she found a calling in her baking and pushed forward even harder.
Eventually, Francesca added staff to bake in order to bake larger batches. In the early days, the store was slow since many couldn’t believe her creations could be healthy AND so tasty. She launched a community outreach program to introduce the market to her innovative products. After going through typical personnel and start-up challenges, her business began to thrive. Francesca learned to trust in Gods plan for her, starting with trusting herself regardless of what everyone else may think, being patient with herself to learn the necessary things to become a fair, kind and driven business owner, delegate tasks and projects to others with more developed skill sets and her success resulted in the opening of a second retail location. Her early failures, she realized, were just a stepping stone to her eventual success.
CraveClean has become more than just a bakery; it’s a movement that helps you live better by providing healthier alternatives to everyday needs. Francesca is proud to have created products like a brownie that has close to the same nutritional value as a chicken breast or that her cupcakes are a better snack than having an apple, or even that a cake pop and donut can be made healthy and good for you! CraveClean bakes are both gluten free and sweetened with Stevia to also help those with diabetes and celiac disease. Now, kids who can’t have sugar will still be able to get their Dinosaur Birthday Cake!
Francesca enjoys dispelling her customers’ misconceptions that baked goods are “bad for you” and that you can’t enjoy a cupcake not as treat, but as a part of your daily lifestyle. Her innovative products are baked with beneficial ingredients so customers can enjoy them as part of their healthy diet daily.
Francesca hopes her story inspires others to push through their obstacles and live healthy and happy lives. CraveClean is not just a bakery, it is a lifestyle.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road to where CraveClean is now has been nothing close to a smooth road. There have been some aspects that have been smoother than others but I am not sure you could find any entrepreneur who has had it easy. From the moment I started playing with the idea of baking with protein just for my own personal use, I faced so many personal struggles. At the time, when I started, I was engaged, I was shortly out of graduating from college who was lacking in self-confidence and faith in herself, and was basically a stay at home wife whose days consisted of taking care of the household, pets, and planning a wedding. As you can imagine, things quickly took a turn, not because I ever planned on starting a business, but because my passion and drive to get a protein-based baked good to work was greater than me. Looking back, I can see how all things happen for a reason and how my life has unfolded the way it should have but at the time I couldn’t understand. To paint the picture for you, I went from being a person who was waiting on everyone else and taking care of everyone to finally taking care of me.
At the time, when I started baking and experimenting, there was no-one baking with protein so it was something impossible to find understanding for or which ingredients worked well together or anything so trials took way longer than any other baked good. I was constantly taking notes on the number of teaspoons or measurements I was using, kept taking photos to remember why things didn’t work or what I could do better to test out the next batch, it was like a real science experiment! And it was the sheer desperation to get something, anything to rise and taste good that had me so focused day in and out. I remember feeling the switch in my mind, hear and body where I was not so concerned with everything around me but was solely focused on my craft. I know now that at this moment God had a bigger plan for me that I knew. This whole process helped me find myself, feel like I had finally had a purpose like I could prove that I was more than just a stay at home wife to be but I could do something great.
After month and months of long nights and endless trials at home, I finally got a cupcake to rise the way, I wanted and this was HUGE (to me), another struggle was getting family and friends to even realize how big this was for me lol. I then started having dreams and ideas would fly into my brain and I would start getting more and more to work and so the story goes. But, I struggle a lot with growing up, with going against what people thought and following my own gut.
At the time of opening my first store, it was demanding of me, I was just going through a divorce which my family didn’t understand how I let my relationship go for a passion, so was practically on my own, opening the doors to a business I didn’t even know if I was ready for and remember building even the desk for the office on the floor with a few friends but no family. It was a struggle to feel like you are doing something you are so proud of yourself for yet no-one else thinks so. This year, changed my life. I realized that sometimes, you may not know why things happen, but you just have to have faith and keep pushing forward. trusting in yourself and your gut and knowing that there is a greater purpose to it all.
Eventually, my family came around and it all got better and the support now is amazing! But then I struggled with just simply being a business owner. I struggled with confidence in my craft. I had to bake and work my first bakery and it was exhausting. I remember I would sit waiting for customers to walk in and I would cry and cry because no-one would come for days. I felt like all the struggles to get to where I was wasn’t even worth it. But like always god provides, and just not letting those negative thoughts get the best of me but being productive about the issue helped me break past it. I eventually hired a baker and that too was a struggle, the time she told me she was going to leave. I thought that’s it, I have to close my shop, I can’t go back to doing this alone. I started to doubt myself, let fear take over again and my mom had to grab me and remind me that started this all alone, that I can up with these recipes that I am the baker and I can train someone new and that its ok for staff to leave and new ones will come. I struggled so much with that, I struggled with learning to not be a pushover, learning to be a good balanced boss. it was such a struggle.
I feel like today there are still so many lessons I am still constantly learning, but one thing I know is, that when you choose to live with love in your heart and you show your staff that you are there working right alongside them, pushing harder for your dreams than anyone, that whatever you ask of them you are willing to do yourself, that you are family is everything. I had a huge struggle with taking on the boss role. I went from being someone who had an idea, to one baker, to a baker and an employee, so on and so on. And to me, it was a blessing that people wanted to work for me, someone who didn’t have any idea what she was doing but willing to learn with her.
And yes along the way, it didn’t always pan out but in the end, I am the boss I want to be. I struggled because I am overly kind, generous, loving, patient, understanding and give second third fourth chances and yes you’ll come across people that take advantage of that and that was more the case than not at first so I was constantly recommended to be a more direct boss. But it’s not who I am, so as much as I tried it didn’t work. I can say that in life you don’t have to change who you are, you don’t have to have all the answers and you definitely do not need to be perfect. You can be yourself and let everyone else accept you.
You are going to face struggles always, its a matter of how you learn from them. We had an amazing store in the grove that I even had to learn how I am not in control of anything. that although I wish I had 3 stores today, I know that they demolished the store in the grove for new construction which sucks. =( But, for a reason, you just have to keep pushing forward.
Today, I can say, I am surrounded by the greatest team in the world, I have two amazing bakeries that I feel so grateful to have, and am open to all that is to come.
Please tell us about CraveClean.
We are a protein bakery. All our items are Gluten-free, sugar-free (we use stevia) and made with whey protein. We use whey protein powder as our base instead of any flours and we use all good for you ingredients that your body not only recognizes but can digest easily as well. We strive to bridge the gap between fitness and foodies. To set a new standard for “healthy eating” and helping everyone hit their diet/fitness/health goals and stick to them.
We make cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, cheesecakes, brownies, bread puddings, cakes, cheesecake cupcakes, coffees, smoothies and even healthy doggie treats. I am most proud of my team, of the organic, natural growth we have had, of the fact that I tried to not only help my own diet needs but that we worked hard to help everyone. I am proud of what we stand for and how I run my business. I am proud to be a young 28-year-old entrepreneur, that had no idea what she was doing but has stayed humble to constantly learn and be open to feedback and bettering herself.
I am proud to be the only protein bakery to exist like ours. We are set apart because we are a group of young driven hard working women that day in and out show up to make out customers happy, provide them with the best and never take shortcuts. We are set apart because we work as a team, we have a strong faith in the bigger plan of CraveClean and whats to come.
I am proud to simply walk through the doors every day of something that started as nothing and be in awe of that every day. CraveClean isn’t for me, it’s for others. It’s for us to shed our light, love and guiltless sweets with everyone and hopefully make a difference in the baked goods.
I am proud of how we have never hired a marketing team, paid for any publicity, I handle out Instagram and social media and that our business has grown by word of mouth. It is incredible that we have had such growth just based on our guiltless sweets speaking for themselves. never stressing the marketing and paying for things that we didn’t find necessary. I always wanted this bakery to grow organically, for the word to spread on its own and for the growth to be a REAL growth stemming from customers loving our stuff so much they kept sending more people and new people. that makes me SO proud. when I see other people posting our bakes, commenting back and just feeling so blessed that people are understanding what we do and loving it. Feels so good.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I wouldn’t change a thing. As much as I would want to take back certain decisions like singing the grove lease, building out the space and then, having to close due to new owners wanting to demolish our strip and needing all of us tenants to leave, I learned just by having that store that CraveClean was greater than what I even thought possible. It’s easy to say, I wish we were further by now, wish we hadn’t don’t this, etc. but I couldn’t be where I am today had I not gone through it all. Had I not shed tears, felt like a failure, defeated, hurt, excited, happy, loved, you have to go through it all. Nothing is a mistake if you learned from it and the learning for me never stops.