Pitch competitor Tennille Ortiz empowers youth through cake design

Tennille Ortiz, owner and designer of The Ellinnet Cake Collection

Second-place winner of the Latinas SmallBiz Pitch Competition, Tennille Ortiz, is the owner and designer of The Ellinnet Cake Collection, a luxury custom cakes and confections boutique which offers bespoke custom cake designs for special events.  In addition to the boutique, The Ellinnet Cake Collection also offers a cupcake decorating service for birthday parties and other events on their chic and mobile bakery called The Cupcake Carriage.

Passionate about empowering children and inspiring them to leadership, Tennille is utilizing her position to bring opportunities to children, especially those from underserved communities. Though creative cake decorating and baking workshops, Tennille hopes to inspire a passion and drive in the youth and inspire them to follow their goals and dreams in life. 

From hobby to craft

Tennille found her own passion for cake-design toward the end of a seventeen year career in healthcare management. Always having been a creative spirit growing up, Tennille was drawn to cake-design as a fun hobby to pass the time during her maternity leave. She began by taking a few introduction classes at a local bakery. Here she learned the basics and focused on making birthday cakes for friends and family. 

She never intended for her little hobby to become anything more, however soon Tennille found herself spending hours of time reading up on and studying different baking and decorating techniques while also practicing her own baking and decorating skills. As her skills grew, Tennille became more interested in the art of cake design and desired to expand her knowledge even further. 

This is when she made the bold decision to leave her career in healthcare administration and enroll in professional cake-design courses with top New York City designers. These courses helped her master some more difficult techniques such as sugar sculpting, blown sugar art, and 3D sculpting, but still the majority of her craft was self-taught. 

Tennille at work creating one of her custom designer cakes.

From craft to business

A few years later, in 2013, Tennille founded The Ellinnet Cake Collection. The business quickly grew and she was sought out for her clean and sophisticated designs. Her cakes were unique and trendy, inspired by the latest fashions, which attracted a high end following of loyal clients and event planners.

Still, starting her own business came with its own set of challenges. At the same time, learning to navigate these obstacles became incredibly rewarding for Tennille and taught her much about herself and her strengths as a business owner. 

“I’ve learned a great deal about entrepreneurship and have realized what it takes to build a business,” she says. “I think one of my biggest struggles was realizing that it’s very hard to build and scale a business while still working ‘in’ it.” 

Like many new business owners, Tennille wanted to do it all herself. This spread her very thin and affected her business’ growth and her own health. 

“I learned that as much as I love cake design if I wanted a real business I had to let the craft go and focus more on building my business,” says Tennille. 

She has since hired a team to help her with her business and she is working on making The Ellinnet Cake Collection and The Cupcake Carriage a brand everyone will know. 

Another common struggle Tennille has faced is growing her business with very little capital. She soon learned the importance of budgeting and having a solid business plan. 

“We can easily get caught up in fast cash flow and think this is our win,” says Tennille. “What’s important is that every startup saves and put the money back into the business so that your able to grow. The money will come, you have to be patient.” 

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Finding success in giving back 

For a long time, Tennille did not feel successful, even when she had conquered her obstacles and was generating a steady growing revenue. She believed her success would be determined by numbers and reaching specific financial goals. 

It was the launch of The Cupcake Carriage that eventually changed her perspective. After three years of hard work, The Cupcake Carriage was finally launched in June of  2019 as a service to provide instruction on cake design and to help empower and educate young girls and boys, with each workshop designed to deliver a message that sparks leadership ideas. 

Tennille posing with The Cupcake Carriage

Tennille has always had an interest in teaching and empowering our youth and so The Cupcake Carriage seemed like the perfect way to give back to the community. Growing up in the inner city, Tennille witnessed first hand the challenges children face growing up under certain circumstances such as poverty, lack of a good education and mentors, or the lack of resources and tools needed to succeed. She remembers old friends she grew up with who unfortunately were murdered, turned to drugs, or went down the wrong path. 

“I was one of the fortunate ones who didn’t take that path but it’s because of that experience that I have developed a passion to give back to my community,” says Tennille. “My goal is to one day create a program that empowers young adults by teaching leadership skills and opens them up to the world of entrepreneurship.” 

The Cupcake Carriage is her first steps toward that goal. By engaging children in fun, creative activities, such as baking and decorating, Tennille hopes to plant the seeds of leadership in young children and show them that their dreams are possible. 

Since its launch, The Cupcake Carriage has been a success, generating a huge buzz of excitement which has it fully booked into March 2020. 

But Tennille did not recognize this success until a few months after the launch when she received an email notifying her that the largest package they offered had been purchased. 

Tennille aboard The Cupcake Carriage during empowering workshop

“I did a happy dance,” says Tennille. “I was so excited that everyone was receiving The Cupcake Carriage the way they were, that the concept was proven! But then I read the email.”

The email was from someone from Wagner Projects, with whom she had gone to school with and who was inspired by Tennille’s success. In the email her former classmate says:

“I have been waiting for The Cupcake Carriage to launch for 2 years now. I’m making a huge sacrifice in purchasing your largest package, not only because my daughter loves cake decorating but because I am excited to show her what a business owner from Wagner Projects looks like[…] I’m proud of you and your success. I can’t wait for my daughter to meet you.”

This message had an instant and profound affect on Tennille. She pulled over immediately and cried like a baby in her car. It was then that she realized she was truly successful. 

“Despite what people may think, success doesn’t come from money, it comes from serving, giving back, and living in your purpose,” says Tennille. “I met that little girl, and in her, I saw me–a little Latina full of dreams, able to see past her circumstances.”                                                                                                                                                                

New victories and successes  

Competing in this year’s Pitch Competition was the next step for the expansion of The Cupcake Carriage and The Ellinnet Cake Collection. Despite struggling with public speaking and presentations, Tennille decided to challenge herself for her business. And this challenge paid off, winning her second place in the competition. 

“I’m so happy I did!” she says. “Deciding to challenge myself helped me gain a great deal of exposure, a ticket to The Red Shoe Movement and a full scholarship to Rutgers Business Schools EPI Program for urban development! I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and proud that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.” 

Tennille plans to continue to grow her business and create a brand that not only brings smiles to every important milestone in people’s lives but will also empower children to dream big and be open to a world of possibilities of their own.

2019 Pitch Competition winner at the Latina SmallBiz Expo takes $2000 Cash

The 2019 Pitch Competition winner is Mariangelic Martinez, founder and owner of Martinez Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center. Located in Bloomfield NJ, the center primarily serves as a martial arts school offering classes to families and people of all ages, though it also provides a variety of other programs such as summer camps, day camps, and fitness programs for adults.

2019 Pitch Competition

(L to R) Joseph Camberato, National Business Capital & Services, Mariangelic Martinez, Winner 2019 Pitch Competition; Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc.

“Our 2019 Pitch Competition focus was on three Tracks: Wellness, Lifestyle and Technology. From the original list of 18 registered participants, 12 were selected but only 9 showed up to participate,” said Susana G Baumann, President and CEO, Latinas in Business Inc. “Participants were mainly Wellness and Lifestyle businesses with only one Well-Tech participant. That shows us that there is still a lot of work to do to attract Latinas into Technology and encourage them to participate in our Pitch Competition,” Baumann added.

The 2019 Pitch Competition winner has a passion born out of necessity

As the owner and founder of a martial arts studio, it is no surprise that Marieangelic loves karate, in fact it has been a life-long passion, starting at the age of three.

Born and raised in Newark, NJ, to Puerto Rican parents, Marieangelic’s journey into the world of martial arts began with a diagnosis: epilepsy. Her pediatrician suggested she be put in a sport. Unfortunately, there were not many options at the time for young girls. Searching for something, her mother looked to karate, where Marieangelic’s brother was already enrolled in a martial arts program. After speaking to the instructor, who would go on to become a great mentor to Marieangelic, she soon was enrolled in classes.

From then on karate became her life. She joined competitions, competing locally, regionally, and internationally earning nicknames such as “la salsera” and “yakuza.”

Read more about Mariangelic Martinez here: Martial Arts Sensen Marieangelic Martinez defeats industry stigma and work-life balance


About the 2019 Pitch Competition participants

In second and third places were finalists Tenille Ortiz, founder and owner, The Cupcake Carriage and Brenda Green, founder and owner, Fit4aBetterMe.

Three finalists at the 2019 Pitch Competition in Jersey City (L to R) Joseph Camberato, Mariangelic Martinez, Susana G Baumann, Tenille Ortiz and Brenda Green.

Tenille Ortiz is the owner and designer at The Ellinnet Cake Collection. “I just launched a new service called The Cupcake Carriage, which is a mobile bakery designed for cupcake decorating birthday parties, corporate events and much more. The business launched in June and since then we have taken off. We are currently designing cakes for many celebrities and The Cupcake Carriage has been scheduled every weekend since our launch date in June,” Tenille explained.

Brenda Green, owner and founder of a Fit4aBetterMe, LLC is the creator of Virtually Better Fitness. “We help women who understand the impact of exercising on their overall health, but struggle to find the time, need motivational support or are frustrated with programs that only yield short term results,” Brenda explained.

Virtually Better Fitness is a  live-streaming fitness class that provides instruction from a certified trainer through a strength-based workout from the comfort and convenience of your home. The virtual group sessions leverage video and audio technology to create a community environment that builds confidence and extends motivation. Classes are three times a week for 30 mins, with no commute, minimal equipment, and access to nutritional coaching.

“We believe this is the formula that will support continued growth in your fitness and health for the rest of your life!” Brenda shared during the Pitch Competition.

Other participants to the Pitch were Maria Santiago-Valentin, Calm & Mindful LLC; Lisa Arias, Body Vanity; Laura Diaz Alberto, La-Di by Laura Diaz Alberto; Judy Justin, Judy Justin Photography, Stephanie Flor, Around the World Beauty, and Dailisha Rodriguez, Hey There Beautiful!

The 2019 Pitch Competition Prize Package and Jurors

This year, the $12,000 Package Prize included $2000 in Cash, sponsored by National Business Capital & Services (National), and a $10,000 package in business services that included:

1st Place:

  • An opportunity to participate in the Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (EPI) Training Program, Rutgers School of Business –Newark (Value $6000) – Qualifications apply for the EPI program (Scholarship for Registration $500)
  • Complimentary 1-on-1 business coaching session with National’s President & Co-Founder, Joseph Camberato
  • Complimentary cost savings audit on business services by National’s team of business growth advisors
  • 30 days of complimentary credit consulting and credit building
  • Promotional video, full feature article, social media campaign and professional photos with
  • A free ticket (Value of $139) to attend the Red Shoe Movement Signature event on November12, 2019 at MetLife (New York)

2nd and 3rd Places: 

  • Promotional video, full feature article, social media campaign and professional photos with
  • A free ticket (Value of $139) to attend the Red Shoe Movement Signature event on November 12, 2019 at MetLife (New York)

Package for all finalists of Pitch Competition

  • Promotional video, full feature article, social media campaign and professional photos with
2019 Pitch Competition

Jurors (L to R) Manny Fernandez, Fatima Pearn, Joseph Camberato, Any Oliva and Jasmine Cordero-West.

Jasmine Cordero-West, M.H.R.M, Associate Director at Rutgers Entrepreneurship, Rutgers Business School Newark & New Brunswick, and one of the Judges of the 2019 Pitch Competition said, “I enjoyed the pitch competition. There was a good group of finalists and I decided to give the $550 scholarship for participation in the Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (EPI) program to all 3 winners. I think they could benefit from our program.”

Other judges to the competition were Angel Investor and Crowdfunding Manager Manny Fernandez; Joseph Camberato, CEO National Business Capital & Services; Fatima Pearn, VP Business Development Officer at Valley Bank; and Any Oliva, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Negocios Hispanos USA.

“I invite our community to continue to support these Latinas in business that year after year come back because they see the value of our mission,” Baumann said. “Every year, we see more solid and focused Latina entrepreneurs taking advantage of this opportunity to promote their products and services. We wanted to thank our sponsors, supporters and the fantastic media and sponsors Jurors who judged the competition,” said Baumann concluded.