Local baker provides business opportunities for families with special needs

Posted at 3:40 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 09:41:39-04

A local baker left her job as a social worker to accomplish her dreams of running her own business. The sweet idea not only provides South Floridians with a popular dessert, it provides business opportunities for families with special needs.

"It’s really been a family affair," said Salinas.

With the help of her family, Mara Salinas started selling flan, a custard dessert layered with caramel sauce.

Flavors range from Mara’s grandmother’s original recipe to fun concoctions such as guava, coconut, pineapple and pina colada.

But Mara said it’s not just the love of making sweet treats that inspires her, it’s the workers that make the magic happen. Every Saturday at the Palmetto Bay Farmer’s Market, Mara invites teens and young adults with autism to learn how to run a business.

"They’re not given many chances because they feel they’re different. So when they’re working, they don’t feel so different. They feel they are part of something and working towards a goal," said Salinas.

"At the farmer’s market, I'm the cashier," said Lazo.

Mara’s daughter, Rachel Lazo, is on the autism spectrum. Rachel said she’s always had a passion for baking.

"I’ve always loved cooking. I always love helping my family and I love helping others," said Lazo.

Rachel said helping her mom and working at the farmer’s market has helped her gain independence.

"I’ve learned skills that I've never done before because I was never taught at a young age," said Lazo.

When Mara isn’t at the farmer’s market, she’s at restaurants like Picadiyo, spreading the word about her sweet treats and raising awareness about autism.

"When they get together with like my son, his girlfriend and my niece and nephew and I see them have lunch together and they’re socializing in a normal way, that to me means more than anything in the world," said Salinas.

Mara said they’re expanding and will have a second team attending the South Miami Farmer’s Market starting June 12th. Her ultimate goal is to open a storefront to hire more employees.