When Diana Reyna received her financial aid letter last summer, her sophomore year at Texas A&M University hung in the balance. The Humble native turned to baking cheesecakes to pay the bills, but what began as a tuition fundraiser has exploded into a full-blown business.
Pastelitos Co., a Latinx student-owned and operated cheesecake shop, has been dubbed College Station’s best kept secret. But with a second location coming to Humble and deliveries expanding to major Texas cities this summer, the secret is finally out.
Last July, in addition to selling her clothes online and cleaning houses, Reyna began advertising her homemade cheesecakes on Twitter to scrape together enough money to afford another year at A&M. She didn’t have to hunt for customers for long—word spread like wildfire after just a couple retweets from her fellow Aggies. In the heat of the moment and her family’s modest kitchen oven, Pastelitos was born.
Reyna returned to A&M in August to meet her hungriest clientele and arguably the most effective marketing team today: stress-eating, plugged-in college students. Within weeks, Pastelitos was a campus sensation with order forms selling out in as little as 30 seconds. Later that same month, the business moved from Reyna’s kitchen to Renegade Bakery, a shared commercial kitchen space in Bryan. Fellow A&M students Maurscio Vargas, Danny Rodriguez, and Yazbel Rodriguez joined the team soon after, and Reyna says there hasn’t been a dull moment since.
“The atmosphere is like baking with your friends,” she says. “And we're always talking with the customers like they're our friends too. We might be tired, but we're still laughing or singing or dancing.”
Today, more than 200 cheesecakes a week emerge from the beloved student-run dessert shop. Coming up on her 20th birthday and first anniversary of Pastelitos, Reyna is bringing the business back to where it all began.
The bakery’s new location will open this June at PYG Connect, a church in northwest Humble. Because of Reyna’s membership with the church since childhood, PYG will allow Reyna to utilize its kitchen space for free and add extra appliances like ovens. With two locations operating year round, cheesecake lovers in Reyna’s hometown and college town alike will be able to get their hands on her now famous treats.
Reyna offers a wide range of cheesecakes —including strawberry, raspberry, lime, cajeta, coffee, and more—and they look as good as they taste. “People eat cheesecake with their eyes first,” she says. Her specialty designs are known and loved by the bakery’s thousands of followers, especially her unique floral patterns of fresh berries surrounded by wreaths of syrup and nuts.
Looking back on a whirlwind year and toward a promising future, Reyna credits A&M’s tight-knit community not only for getting Pastelitos off the ground, but also for reminding her to keep going. From speaking with other young women entrepreneurs to receiving inspired messages from other Latinx students, Reyna says lifting her fellow Aggies up is part of the job.
“For them to have someone who is their age, a woman, Latinx, first generation, all of these things that make it really tough to get in a position of leadership or authority—they have someone who represents them in their corner,” she says. “It felt really good to tell them it's not as hard as people will make it seem for you. I didn't even have a business plan when I started and even though I don’t know everything, I’m learning as I go … you just need to start.”
Follow @pastelitosco on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep updated on Pastelitos, and to access order forms when they drop Tuesday and Saturday afternoons. Houston-area customers can expect to find Pastelitos starting this June at 4401 Theiss Rd., Humble. You can also call 713-817-5336.