People to Know: Keila Montalvo-Sierra

MILFORD — Keila Montalvo-Sierra moved to Milford two years ago and now says she loves the community. She opened Petite Sweets downtown on Walnut Street with her husband Albert as a Project Pop-Up business with the help of Delaware’s Economic Development Office.

Now 33 years old, Ms. Montalvo-Sierra is active in the Milford community where her family is growing by leaps and bounds.

Where is your hometown?

“New Jersey. I know that’s not a town, that’s a state. So, let’s say Woodbridge. My parents moved around a lot because they were pastors. I was born in Orlanda, Fla. Then we were transferred to California for six years. When I was 11, we transferred back to Puerto Rico for three years, then Canada for a few months. Our final destination for almost 20 years was in New Jersey. I call that my home state. Now, we live in Milford.”

How did you find your way to Milford?

“When we were living in N.J., we wanted a change. The life over there is very different. We were in a beautiful three-bedroom, two bath apartment. I was already pregnant, but I wanted a change. I wanted them to have a backyard. I wanted them to have a life and to give them a different atmosphere. Jersey was just super expensive. Within that time, Levi was getting really sick. He had gotten RSV and he was hospitalized a few times. Mom was already living here for nine years, so we came down here to take care of Levi. We stayed here for a time and he started getting better. When we went back to N.J., he started getting sick again. Albert is the risk taker. We were down here around the time we opened Petite Sweets. He saw a sign for a rental and called immediately. I hold back, but we balance each other out in that. Now, we’ve been here for two years already.”

Educational background?

“I have my LPN. Then I went into culinary field. I was young, so I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought, well, that was fun. Now let me go do something else. I ended up in the culinary field which was my passion, and still is my passion. I’m a real estate agent now, too. I keep busy.”

Tell us about yourself?

“I love people. I love to interact with people on a day to day basis. I consider myself creative. I love creating new recipes and new things. If I had more space back there, I’d probably create a million more recipes. I love the community of people I’m surrounded with. I’m a people person.”

Tell us about your family? Husband?

“My husband — he is, I would say, our rock. He’s the crazy risk taker, entrepreneur. He’s amazing with marketing. He’s the director of marketing for the restaurant — Potatopia. He’s very talented. He’s very loving and very wise, even if he is younger. We’re definitely a team. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be where we are at today. I have to say — I respect him so much for raising Sofi as his own. He treats Sofi as if she was his own daughter. He’s definitely such a great father figure. He accepts them all equally and I am honestly so grateful for that.

“Sofi — she is definitely such a good kid. She is always very servant hearted. The one thing that I admire about her is she always stands up for what she believes in. I think that, as a kid, is so admirable. I love her love for science. She’s awesome in math, definitely not my forte. She’s an all around sweet kid and very helpful, and I always get that from her teachers.

“Levi — He is so loving. And he’s always affirming his love for me and his dad and his sisters. He’s a very smart cookie, too. He picks stuff up very quickly. He’s very task-oriented, too. You pull him off of a task, it will drive him nuts.

“Our crazy baby Benji — He’s the one who keeps us on our toes. He’s very loving. He’s very active. He’s an all-around rough, wrestling, throw him on the ground boy. When Levi’s more chill and laid back, Benji’s like what can I get away with. It’s third-child syndrome I think they call it.”

What are your hobbies?

“I lead worship at Anchor Church which I love. It’s one of those passions of mine. We do Women Propel; that’s fun, too. I enjoy that a lot because it’s empowering women in whatever stage of life. Enjoy who you are, accept who you are right now. I love to go to the beach. That’s like the one thing that relaxes me. It could be winter, but if I go to the beach with a cup of coffee and roll my windows down, I feel so relaxed.”

You co-own Petite Sweets? Tell us about the business?

“Before we opened, one of the things that we definitely wanted to be was very involved in the community — bring kids, leave with a smile on their faces. We wanted to transform, be a light in the community. And it’s always been our mission to support other businesses and support other people. I feel like we try to do this as much as we can. Last year, had a lot of consultants — Lularoe, etc. — we want to encourage people to continue growing in their businesses. We just want to encourage people to continue to grow. We want the owners to feel support from us.”

Why cake pops?

“When I was in the culinary school and we had to do a final with petit fours, a baker just came out with the cake pop concept. I was using my own recipes with the techniques and started developing the different flavors. I started selling it to my friends for baby showers and things, and they started buying it because it was different and easier. Cakes, on the other hand, is a really long process. It’s draining and tiring. It was just too much. So, we made the decision why don’t we do cake pops.”

Why did you decide you wanted to run a business?

“It was more just wanting to spread what I created and share it with others. That’s really what it was about. I love it. I love when people come and they actually enjoy our products.”

What is it like to run a business with a family?

“Sofi’s involved a lot in what we do here. She helps a lot on her days off. She loves doing the register; she upsells everybody. Our kid is seeing what it’s like to work. We enjoy it. They get excited. In Sofi’s school, I’m known as the cake pop lady. It’s fun. It’s not easy, but we’re grateful enough to have a great daycare provider and someone who helps us throughout the week. We do have employees, so the days when we have our kids, they can be there. They still get excited for cake pops. I don’t understand that.”

What makes you so successful?

“The Lord. It’s definitely God’s help and guidance because we put all our passion and effort as a team to create all these fun ideas and stuff. We do have people that support us and love us. We’re a team. Where my weaknesses are his strengths are; we balance each other out.”

What are your hopes for your business?

“Our hopes are to become a staple in the community and continue to bring love, joy, sweets, encouragement to others around us and potentially grow into a household name and a brand.”

What are your thoughts on Milford? Hopes for the town?

“My hopes for the town is that with the changes that are coming, my hopes are for everyone to embrace the changes. Although changes are sometimes hard, it’s good. And to just support local downtown businesses. The more we support, the more we grow. And if we grow together as a community, we could grow into something big and successful. I also want more restaurants.”

What would be your perfect day?

“My perfect day would be getting into the car and driving to the beach and enjoying my kids and having a good time with a cup of coffee in hand. Spend the day there and grab a pizza. I’m kind of bummed Davinci’s pizza in Lewes is closed. And Albert is driving. When we come home, all of us get into pajamas and watch a movie.”

Is there anything you’d love to tell your community?

“I would like to tell them that we would definitely love to see more of the community in our store. We’re coming up with more things that we’re going to be incorporating. We want this to be a place for them to come and hang out. That’s why we have this kids section and we’re going to be adding board games. We want to share our love with them, not only our sweets.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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