Fifteen years ago, Tonnie Rozier was working with teenagers, preparing them for life after foster care. At night, he'd bake for friends.
The, one day, he decided to quit his job and focus on baking, a move that's brought him loads of sweet success.
"I can recall holding that mixer in my grandmother's home in a green ceramic mixing bowl, and that was the beginning of it, the love for it," Rozier said.
Rozier was just 7 years old, growing up in Harlem at the Polo Grounds, a bright-eyed little boy who decades later put all of his grandmother's advice to good use.
"I just followed my heart and said I'm going to give it a shot," he said.
He calls his cupcake boutique, Tonnie's Minis, a sweet deal where customers can create their own cupcake. You have a choice of three different sizes: the super duper Hollywood, medium-sized California and bite-sized cake shot.
"People will walk in and say I want red velvet with strawberry icing or chocolate with lemon icing," he said.
Here's how it works.
First, you pick the cake. Red velvet is the most popular, followed closely behind by carrot, coconut and golden heart, which is yellow cake with a red velvet heart inside.
Next comes the icing.
Each cupcake gets a fresh coat on the spot, which Tonnie says one of the things that sets him apart from the competition.
Finally it's time for the topping.
Tonnie admits it's been a long road. In 2004, he quit his job with the Housing Authority to pursue his dream of baking. He recalls the not-so-glamorous hole in the wall space he rented to launch his business. Now in his own space in Harlem, Tonnie is busy coming up with new recipes. How about raspberry, amaretto or cappuccino icing? It is all thanks to that little boy who learned to dream big.
Tonnie's Minis is located at 264 Lenox Avenue, near 123rd Street, in Harlem.
For more information, visit TonniesMinis.com.