Story | Women in Business

Rita Magalde: Bringing People Together Over Baklava

Jan. 27 2023

How does a woman born in New York end up with a Greek baklava bakery in Utah? Rita Magalde, the owner of Sheer Ambrosia Gourmet Desserts, is familiar with this question. The short answer is she learned how to make baklava from a Greek family she worked for in high school and college. The long answer is a story of single motherhood, passion, self-worth, and a desire to connect.

When Magalde and her husband/business partner divorced, they continued working together. In 2008, she decided it was time for something new and chose to be an entrepreneur again because of the schedule flexibility it gave her as she raised her two young children.

There was also a financial incentive for her to start a business. Studies show that women are notoriously paid less than their male counterparts, and women of color are paid even less. “I decided I wanted to be in control of my earning potential and let someone else determine how much I am worth,” Magalde said. 

She started a baklava bakery because it combined her passion for serving others and her love of connecting through food and making things beautiful. “I believe sharing food and conversation unites people in a way going to the movies or playing tennis together can’t,” she adds. “It’s a way of creating lasting friendships, and she loves playing a part in that.”

However, being a business owner isn’t all sugar, spice, and everything nice. Magalde describes it as a juggling act. Knowing how to multitask is key, and work-life balance is sometimes non-existent. She is always working on something with her business, which makes her happy.

Because the business consumes so much of her life, she has recommendations for women who are thinking about entrepreneurship. “First, be ready to work hard. Second, be passionate about whatever it is you’re doing,” Magalde said. 

After spending 12 years promoting her bakery, she saw an influx of customers in 2020 as people supported black-owned businesses in the wake of George Floyd’s death. At first, Magalde didn’t want patrons to come solely because she was a black businesswoman. Then she realized, “One order does not make a customer,” she added. “Your first order might be because you wanted to support me because I’m black, but the subsequent orders will be because I provide good service and I love my product.”

Her love of people and food and her grit and determination made Magalde and Sheer Ambrosia successful.

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