When stay-at-home mom Marilou Berrios began selling her decadent brownies at the Lakewood Ranch Farmer's Market, she never thought they'd be in such high demand. One year ago, she began Lula's Brownies out of her home kitchen. Now she's moving her business to a commercial kitchen so she can sell her baked goods at local businesses.
Berrios, whose nickname is Lula, is originally from Puerto Rico. She has fond childhood memories of baking brownies from box mixes with her friends. Baking was closely tied to love and compassion in her home. So when she moved to Miami, and eventually Sarasota with her husband in 2013, she carried on the tradition. This time, with a delicious brownie recipe from scratch.
Her recipe has been fine-tuned over the years, and is beloved by her three teenage boys and their friends.
"Every time there's a birthday party or a friend's party, I make brownies," says Berrios. "The kids request and devour them."
A year ago, Berrios' middle son approached her with the idea of selling her brownies. At first, she thought it was a crazy idea.
"I am just a housewife," she says. "But then I remembered something my grandfather told me: nothing is written about cowards, only courageous people."
Her family helped her get to work right away. Berrios' niece created a logo and website so customers can order online. Her sons help her package brownies, which are baked fresh daily, to take to the Lakewood Ranch Farmer's Market, The Bazaar on Apricot and Lime, and to hand deliver to customers who order online. In a given week, Berrios bakes 90 bags of brownies and has two to three special event orders.
"People can't get enough of them when I go to the markets," says Berrios. She always has samples for customers to try, and their eyes light up when they take the first bite.
(Author note: I went to the farmer's market and tried Berrios' brownies for myself. You will never go back to boxed mix again. Each brownie has a crispy outer layer and a gooey, fudgy center, with just the right amount of sweetness. I took home a package of eight to share with friends.)
Berrios also makes orders for a local realtor every week, who gives out brownies to new clients. She recently made 150 brownies for a wedding and 500 for the Voice + Visibility Women's Summit in Sarasota, which she's hoping to attend again in 2022.
Eventually, Berrios would like to see her brownies in local rental properties and boutiques. The commercial kitchen is her next step.
"I never thought this business would happen, but I'm so glad it did," she says. "People seem to be really liking them."
Visit Lula's Brownies at the Lakewood Ranch Farmer's Market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., located at 8430 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. You can order a package of eight brownies for $8; 15 brownies for $15; or 25 brownies for $25. small brownie bites, Single full-size brownies are $5 each; brownie sticks are 4 for $5. Place your orders online here the day before pickup. Delivery fee is $5.