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Life & Work with Aria Bucko

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aria Bucko.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I’ve always been very interested in the arts. Growing up, I took dance, theater, singing, and piano classes.

I loved being there and really threw myself into them. I thought that when I grew up I would be a teacher, civil engineer, or an architect and never even thought about doing a career in the arts. In elementary school, I would do a lemonade stand at my local park selling cupcakes and lemonade. I loved it and thought it was so much fun!

When I was 12 years old, I moved from Beaverton, Oregon to Poughkeepsie, New York. This was a very big change for me. My family and I stayed in a hotel for 3 months while my parents tried closing on a house. I stopped baking for a while even after moving into a house.

When I was 14 years old, my siblings and I moved into my grandparent’s house in Springfield, Oregon. My parents stayed to sell our house in New York. This is when I started my freshman year of high school. I didn’t bake much and stayed busy.

When I was 15 years old at the end of my freshman year, I moved back to our New York home. I decided I was bored of high school and wanted to drop out and start college. So, I did it! I interviewed with the Dean of Admissions at my local community college, they told me that they have a rule of being 16 years old and up in order to take classes but agreed that if I tested well, I could do it.

I took the tests and aced them which meant I started full-time classes that following semester. I enjoyed every bit of it and started thinking about what I wanted to major in.

When I was 16 years old, I moved to Homestead, Florida with my family. I transferred to college and started full-time work at Dairy Queen. After a few months there I learned how to make ice cream cakes and it turns out – I was pretty good at it! I became the cake manager a few months later. I loved it a lot and that’s where the passion actually began.

My parents divorced later that year and my life became much busier. We moved from a house in a gated community to a tiny apartment in a shady neighborhood known for shootings and prostitutes. It was definitely a change from what I grew up in. I turned 17, got my license, and immediately bought a car with my savings.

It was a huge win for me! Living with my mother and siblings, I became busy with full-time college courses, keeping up with church callings, bringing siblings to and from school, and supporting my mom while she went through a rigorous college course in Miami.

Working sometimes 60 hours a week as a shift lead and sometimes financially helped with my siblings, running errands, nannying for a family, writing letters to my missionary boyfriend (now husband), doing household chores, and helping my siblings with homework. I somehow managed to keep up with it all and handle the divorce, okay but it destroyed my mental health.

When I was 18, I packed up my car and drove across the country to Utah. I moved out there for my returned missionary boyfriend who was going to BYU at the time. I moved in with my soon-to-be stepfather and younger stepbrother in Bountiful, UT and my boyfriend proposed a few days later.

Later that year, I got to be a bridesmaid at my mother’s wedding in Homestead, Florida and a couple of months later, I got married to my wonderful husband in Payson, Utah. That year I gained seven siblings (step and in-law), step-parents and I love all of my family dearly.

My mental health was a major stumbling block for me. I had anxiety since early childhood and was never treated for it. My depression was worsening and I felt like I didn’t have control of it. Medications did nothing but give me even worse side effects. My desk job felt like a dead-end job for me and I didn’t have a ton of friends in Utah.

I started baking, slowly but surely. I started baking Keto-friendly food, then cakes, then some other desserts. I found that I loved it! It was something that kept my hands busy, I was on my feet, I could do whatever I wanted and my anxiety was lessened. So I turned it into a hobby and started collecting the materials for it over time. My husband became a taste tester and we ate a lot of cake. I started bringing cupcakes to work just for fun and doing family birthday cakes.

In June 2020 we bought our home. Shortly after, I got my first inquiry for a wedding cake. I was THRILLED! I had never done a multiple-tiered cake before, nor dealt with fondant or royal icing. I somehow pulled it off and it was so exciting. Shortly after, one of my best friends designed a logo for me and Bucko Bakery was born. (The first wedding cake and multi-tiered cake I ever made is the one where it’s white with black floral vines/flowers).

Six months later, I had received enough inquiries to specialize in wedding cakes and quit my 9-5 job. It was so exciting! During my first-weekend full time at Bucko Bakery, I delivered three wedding cakes in one day. This would not have been possible without my incredibly supportive husband, Jared. He is always there to help with deliveries and help take photos.

Over time, my skills have improved and my mental health is much better than where it was. It is a night and day difference. I may be constantly busy, but I love every second of it. Receiving thank you cards or gaining a repeat customer brings such joy to me and I’m extremely grateful for all of the customers I’ve had along the way.

It has been life-changing. I am still full-time self-employed, booking wedding cakes and special event cakes. I’ve done all kinds of orders like 400 cupcakes, four-tier cakes, an order of 500 mini cupcakes, etc. Wedding season is now my busiest time of year and I’ll be starting to offer classes soon!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has not been a completely smooth road by any means.

When starting out a business the starting costs are incredibly high sometimes. With baking, it’s a lot of ingredients, places to put those ingredients (fridges, freezers, bins, etc.), cake tools (turntables, spatulas, KitchenAids, etc.), cake pans, and plenty of other things. The first year of business was not nearly as good as where I’m at now because of all of the upfront costs it took.

Opening a business in the food industry during a pandemic was frustrating at times but taking the precautions such as masking and being fully vaccinated helped a lot along the way. Many of my cakes in 2021 were last-minute orders due to someone’s caker coming in contact with Covid and them having to cancel.

I think a big thing for us cakers is how our skillset is taken for granted. It’s really hard because when you give out quotes, many people question why the cost is so high and I’ve had to explain in detail all that goes into a cake. Some things that have to be considered:

Our time – it’s a huge thing. We don’t want to be paid minimum wage. We speak with you about the cake, send the invoice, bake a cake, make fillings and buttercreams, chill it, level it, crumb coat, decorate it all, deliver it, set it up, come back home and clean all of the mess, do the dishes, sweep, etc.

Our skillset – some cakers take tons of classes, some are self-taught (that is the route I have gone), and we take hours upon hours perfecting our skills. Not everyone can make a nice cake that tastes good and looks good. We have perfected our recipes time and time again and it is no easy feat.

Our tools – our tools have wear and tear and they are not cheap. Usually, you need quite a few tools to do a cake.
Ingredients – I use quality cocoa which is not cheap and have to pay for all that I use.

Social media has been a struggle to keep up with. I don’t go on social media too often but I have to keep up with my pages and keep my customers up to date. It’s something that you have to get used to.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Running Bucko Bakery out of my home has been wonderful! I specialize in weddings and am now doing a fair amount of birthdays as well. I’m known for my wedding cakes and love that!

I am extremely proud of winning 1st place in the taste division of the Sugar Artist of Utah show. I am known for the flavors that won me that title – my moist chocolate cake, tart raspberry filling, and smooth chocolate buttercream.

I am proud of all I have accomplished as a woman in business by myself. I have created a name for myself and my brand and consistently have customers refer me (which is so exciting to me!). I’m proud I’m self-taught and have managed fun, complicated cakes myself. I love to learn and try new things!

I think I’m set apart from others with my response time, my affordability, and my life experience. I’ve experienced a lot in my own life and can relate in a lot of different ways to my customers. This helps me give them the best experience possible. I’m also creative and love coming up with new ideas for my customers.

What do you think about luck?
Somehow the pandemic helped me get to this point. It drove down house prices when my husband and I were looking to buy and somehow the house we bought was on the market for over a year and had a large kitchen space which we hadn’t seen in any other house we had looked at.

As soon as we bought it, within a year our house was worth 150% more than we bought it for. We would not be able to afford a house in this market so it was extremely lucky we were ready for a house and could find one. If I didn’t own my home, I wouldn’t be able to run my business. I need the workspace, storage for tools, and the freedom to do what I want to the space.

Being in Orem, UT so close to Provo and many venues has helped me with being able to deliver cakes. Most houses in our price range were much farther north.

I think the major role luck has played for me is a supportive partner. We met in New York, our lives somehow lined up, our families get along with each other, we understand each other, and are best friends. Starting a business is hard financially at first, it was a rough year starting out.

Without my husband cheering me on, keeping a steady paycheck coming, helping with house projects, driving me to deliveries, and being there for me in the lows and highs – I don’t think I would’ve made it this far. The same goes for family. I’m lucky that I have a big group of family members constantly supporting me and being there.

It definitely makes a difference.

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