We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevika Rustagi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevika, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind our success has been people: our family, friends, and customers. Before starting The Secret Lab, I would call my family and bring up how much I was baking and how much joy it brought to my life. My mom and aunt are the ones who encouraged me to get started; I wouldn’t be selling baked goods today if they hadn’t pushed me to pursue something I love and supported me along the way. We have also met so many friends who are fellow vendors and small business owners. There is such a strong support system and community between business owners in Denton. Everyone is always lifting each other up; it amazes me when customers come by saying that another small business owner recommended our baked goods. We try to have a positive impact with all the people that we interact with, so we want our customers to walk away knowing how much we appreciate their support. It brings me so much joy to see people enjoying the snacks and desserts that I bake, but it is even more encouraging when people come back because they are excited to see us.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and started working in supply chain at a corporate office in Chicago. While I loved living in Chicago, I wanted to make a bigger impact than I was in my supply chain role. I moved to Texas to get my master’s degree in teaching. It is my third year teaching high school math, and I absolutely love helping students find enjoyment in math and realize their potential. While it is very rewarding, teaching is also incredibly taxing; after a year it felt like I wasn’t able to focus on what I enjoyed outside of work. At the start of quarantine, I was teaching from home and finally had spare time to bake. At one point I was baking something new every day, so my mom and aunt encouraged me to look into selling baked goods. After a lot of recipe testing, food certifications, and research, I started The Secret Lab. Although each week gets very busy after work, I’m so glad that I am able to bake every day and do something that I love. It’s very fulfilling to bake for other people and share something that I’m so passionate about.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We are based in Denton, so I’ll give you the options for a perfect Denton Weekend.
I’m vegetarian and most of my favorite spots have a lot of vegetarian options. I absolutely love everything from Pepitas – their entire menu is vegan and incredible, Guatelinda Cafe has the most delicious pupusas, and Green Zatar has the most adorable set up with endless options – everything on their menu is truly amazing. We love drinking beer and love being outside, so our favorite spots to hang out and bring games to are East Side, Armadillo Ale Works, and Denton County Brewing Company. In terms of snacks and sweets, we love Ten : One Artisan Cheese, Ravelin Bakery, and the pretzel sticks from The Loophole.
We enjoy taking a walk around the square and going to all the shops, you can always find something fun to look at or buy. The Dime Store has all types of handmade items and Patchouli Joe’s Books & Indulgences has a great book selection and a peaceful area to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a new book. If you want to try out bouldering or take a yoga class, Summit Climbing is the most fun gym to go to.
The Denton Community Market is the perfect Saturday morning activity – I might be biased, but it’s truly one of the best markets with the most talented vendors. O’Brien Brothers Baking has phenomenal bread, cookies, pizza, sandwiches, and more. Cookie Thief Cake Co has the most flakey hand pies you will ever eat. Les crépes de Cédric has crépes that I could eat for every meal – I’m partial to sweets, so my favorite one is the nutella and strawberry, but there are a lot of savory options too. 4 Acre Press has beautiful notebooks and Pineapple Creations, LLC has the softest scrunchies and cutest bags you will ever use.
My other favorite Saturday morning activity is heading over to True Leaf Studio. Propagation Coffee Co. has pop ups right in front of True Leaf – they make delicious syrups from scratch and delightful cups of coffee. You can drink coffee and stroll around looking for plants with the coziest vibes and talk to the friendliest people.
There is so much to do in Denton and you can always find a familiar face in any small business you go to.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate this Shoutout to my permanent lab partner, Isaac. Isaac and I met in college while we were both studying chemical engineering – we were immediately inseparable, decided to be lab partners for every class we took, and were constantly quoting The Emperor’s New Groove. When I first brought up the idea of a cottage bakery to Isaac, he could not have been more supportive and excited. We chose the name The Secret Lab, a reference to our lab days and, of course, the movie. He spent hours designing a logo with my favorite colors and we sat for days figuring out where to start. Isaac has dedicated so much time and energy to The Secret Lab, but will tell anyone who asks that I do all of the work. In reality, Isaac spends hours encouraging me, driving around town at all hours to set up for a market or look for a specific ingredient at the store, printing out and designing labels, editing and taking pictures for our Instagram, washing (a lot) of dishes, and so much more – in his words, “odds and ends.” I could not be more grateful to have someone so supportive in my life who has helped me bring something I love to other people.
Other: To place a custom order, you can email us at TheSecretLabDenton@gmail.com!