Pure Bliss Desserts

Owners Nick and Andi with their CBA Eric by the cake display

Entrepreneur bakes up million dollar enterprise with help of WWU's SBDC

As she was growing up, Andrea Vann loved the hours she spent with her mother in the kitchen. She was drawn to baking while her mother cooked meals, she said, and it was where she learned that feeding others can be wonderfully creative and life affirming. 

After high school she opted for college rather than culinary school because the hours of a professional chef seemed crushing and not compatible with family life. 

But water finds a way, and 20 years later she is the mother of two and owner of Pure Bliss Dessertsopen_in_new(opens in new window). The downtown bakery has become a Bellingham destination and she and her staff of 20 produce and serve more than 1,000 baked goods every day, including cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes and cookies. “I love baking,” she said, “it’s in my blood.” 

The hours can be crushing, Vann said, but with the help of Eric Grimstead, her Washington Small Business Development (SBDC) business advisor, she and her husband, Nick, are figuring out how to grow their business even with a growing family. 

Grimstead is a business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Western Washington University.  

According to Vann, Grimstead has helped her grow Pure Bliss Desserts from a one-woman catering service to a million dollar enterprise. With Grimstead’s help, she’s figured out financial statements, cash flow, loan applications and 101 other business challenges. More than that, Vann said, Grimstead has been a huge source of support, happy to give pep talks when the crush of responsibilities seem overwhelming.  
“That’s why my husband and I appreciate Eric so much, because he’s the whole package,” Vann said. “He understands the technical part, but he’s also really human.” Vann remembers one meeting where she mentioned she wanted to start a family, but there just wasn’t time. “He stopped me and said, ‘Andi, that’s not right. You need to align your business goals with your family goals,’” she said. "That's something I think about every day." 

Instead of culinary school, Vann ended up getting a psychology degree at WWU, and then worked as an organizational development have been a detour, but it was a fortuitous one. Now, she said, she works hard to create a happy and productive workplace.  

“If it wasn’t for my team there is no way I could do this,” she said. “I trust them to the moon.” 

In March 2018 Vann got a $1.8 million SBA loan that enabled her to buy the building where she had been leasing space. She’s in the middle of expanding her business from 2,200 square feet to about 5,000 square feet. She’s also become a landlord to three tenants who occupy adjacent storefronts. 

“I’m really looking forward to watching this beautiful thing that we’ve created continue to grow,” she said.  

"The SBDC has been pivotal to our success as a business. We value the tremendous amount of encouragement and comfort knowing our skilled advisor has our best interests at heart, understand our industry and can confidentially make market-specific recommendations. Our relationship with the SBDC has been paramount and I couldn’t imagine where our business would be without it."

Andi Vann

Owner, Pure Bliss Deesserts