November 12, 2018
The struggle is real

Guacamole, pink cookies and why I provide extra paid maternity leave

Renee Diaz

The Struggle is Real

In 2017, Renee Diaz moved her upstart cupcake business The Queen's Cups from Millbury into a larger space in Worcester's Canal District. With a year of lessons learned, she now writes the monthly advice column The Struggle is Real to help entrepreneurs and business owners navigate their own trials and tribulations.

Read the other The Struggle is Real columns:

Entrepreneurship isn't wonderful all the time

A beauty queen and a BBQ king saved my soul

Being a baker is not my dream job

I am the proud owner of a small business, but it hasn't been so small since we moved from Millbury to Worcester last year. I've finally built a team with my go-to people. During a meeting this fall with Cornerstone Bank, the only bank to really believe in my vision, my loan officer Heather Dumais put this whole year into perspective. Now with my 27 employees, she told me we weren't in Kansas anymore.

I never thought I would have to contact a lawyer about setting up non-compete agreements. I did not know I had to adhere to certain laws based on how many employees I have. As a business owner, you often find out the hard way the things you don't know. When I first opened in 2012, I didn't even know you had to pay sales tax. I thought I was rolling in the dough until my accountant told me I had to pay that money. Thankfully, I hadn't spend it yet.

Owning a business can be scary when you have so many people relying on you. The scarier truth is when you hire people, you do not know what they are capable of. But, if I lived my life walking on eggshells as an employer, then I probably should go work for someone else. This job is fun. I am able to do so many amazing things for my employees.

This September, I was sitting upstairs in our lounge when my employees, Jessica Larsen, hesitantly approached me. She and her husband were expecting baby No. 2. I was over the moon for her. Yet, when I think back, I feel so sad Jessica was nervous to tell me about one of the greatest moments of her life.

A few weeks later, I read the book "Work Rules" by Laszlo Bock, who once ran human resources at Google, and he outlined everything offered to employees during that time. Google is amazing to its workers, and I found myself frivolously highlighting and writing down notes as if I was back in undergrad. When I got to the part about paid maternity leave, I knew this was something I could get behind. Google offers three months paid maternity leave plus an additional four weeks for mothers to adjust coming back to work full time, far above what is required by employment laws. The next day, I sat down with Jessica.

Much like I've heard from other mothers, Jessica said after having her first child, she lost a bit of herself and became just a mom. I think being a mom is the equivalent to a superhero, but being a strong female myself, I can imagine this is a difficult experience. Honestly, I didn't realize I would have such a hard time changing my last name from King to Diaz after I married the most wonderful guy ever, but it was the hardest break up I've ever been through!

My goal is to empower and mentor my employees. When I realized I had an opportunity to make Jessica feel like a valuable part of The Queen's Cups team with her own money, I offered her three months of paid maternity leave plus four weeks to come back to work to adjust. Jessica was taken aback with gratitude and had tears in her eyes. One of my life's proudest moments was when she told me she was never offered anything where she worked previously (a company much, much larger than mine).

By the end of that week, I had Jessica's baby shower planned. Last month, we threw her a gender-reveal party. Her husband came, and they broke open a cookie to find out they were having the first granddaughter on each side of the family. It was such a touching moment. I almost dropped her phone while I was holding the FaceTime call with her mom. I will always cherish moments like these. The only thing I want to end are the phantom pregnancy cravings I have just because Jessica is having them. You do not even want to know how much El Patron queso and guacamole has been ordered to The Queen's Cups.

I appreciate when my employees share their lives with me, whether it's good, bad, ugly or sad. I look forward to the future children of my current team possibly working with us one day. The lasting impact The Queen's Cups leaves for my employees means more to me than money ever will.

Renee Diaz is the owner of The Queen's Cups bakery in Worcester.


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