They’re just cheesecakes, but the purpose behind the business is so much bigger. Larry’s Cheesecake Co. produces hundreds of his signature mini pies a day; if you’ve been to a Pinchers restaurant, you might have ordered one off the dessert menu. But the success story behind his businesses starts with tragedy.
In November 2016, Lawrence and Shannon Barris’ newborn daughter Sariyah died due to necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects the intestines of premature babies. “It was devastating. It tore me up inside,” Lawrence Barris says. “I thought, ‘I have to do something about this.’ It was something no one should ever have to go through.” He started the business with the intention of raising money to donate to charities that seek a cure for necrotizing enterocolitis.
Barris started making cheesecakes on his own, based on a recipe from an old family friend. He wasn’t a baker or a businessman—he’s actually a software engineer by trade—but he felt he had a recipe (and the blessing from the friend to use it) that could really resonate with people. He started baking in his kitchen and giving the results away for free to friends, and dropping off a few dozen at local restaurants. He built the business more by selling at farmers markets. He developed the idea of a small, single-serving cheesecake he called a mini, and that proved popular at the markets. “Small and simple, that’s what people like,” he says.
Another vendor at the Lakes Park Farmers Market helped connect him to Pinchers, which is now his major client. Working in a commercial kitchen in Fort Myers, he can make 200 minis in six hours.
He has a near-term goal of starting a kitchen of his own and putting his product in grocery stores and other restaurants. It’s tough trying to start a business from scratch—but what drives him is the cause behind it. “This isn’t just about cheesecakes,” he says. “We have a tremendous purpose.”